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Ex Libris and Bookplates

Updated on November 29, 2012

Collecting ex libris and bookplates

The collection of ex-libris (or bookplates) is becoming increasingly popular with an estimated 10,000 collectors world wide! There are almost 50 international associations of bookplate collectors as well as a vast number of magazines and books published on the subject.

Whilst many collectors have chosen bookplates as a means of studying the historical, artistic and even cultural changes of the last 500 years, there are also many collectors whose primary motivation is purely artistic - the collection of bookplates gives art lovers the chance to build their own collection of miniature, personalized art-prints.

Some people collect the work of a particular artist such as Rockwell Kent who produced specially commissioned, numbered and signed editions of bookplates which were never actually pasted into books.

This lens is an introduction to this fascinating subject.

A wonderful ex libris and bookplate slideshow

Example of a family crest or heraldic coat of arms - In a copy of Chambaud Louis - Dictionnaire - 1815

Example of heraldic coat of arms ex-libris
Example of heraldic coat of arms ex-libris

The same bookplate is pasted into each of the four volumes. It has an heraldic crest, family shield, or coat of arms, with the motto tenax in fide, which is, "Steadfast in [the] faith" and is the motto of the Smith family. The name 'Abel Smith' appears under the crest, and this may be Abel Smith of Woodhall Park, born 17th July 1788 and died 23rd February 1859; a theory strengthened by the words 'Woodhall Park' appearing on the bookplate.

Source: From Old Books

The creation of a bookplate

The development of a bookplate from blank paper, through sketches, the engraving of the wooden block and the final printed image.

An ex-libris exhibition

This book belongs to...Jack London

Jack London Ex Libris
Jack London Ex Libris

Jack London (January 12, 1876 - November 22, 1916) was an American author, journalist, and social activist. Best remembered today as the author of White Fang and Call of the Wild, set in the Klondike Gold Rush, it seems highly appropriate that his ex libris should feature a wolf's head.

Image © Bookplate of Jack London by Pratt Libraries, on Flickr

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    • DAnnieB LM profile image

      DAnnieB LM 

      4 years ago

      Very nice! I have two lenses on bookplates - they have been a lot in my life -- so nice to see I'm not the only one!!

    • hntrssthmpsn profile image


      5 years ago

      I had no idea people collected bookplates! I used them as a kid. We were a *serious* book family, with a small separate house on the property which we used as a library. Later, this became the beginning of my mom's bookstore. A few weeks ago, she was going through some old stock and found one of my favorite childhood reads, "Incident at Hawk's Hill." Inside was my old bookplate, with my name in my own childish scrawl. What a treat!

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I am an avid reader and a book collector.

      (over 2,700 at the last count...)

      Unfortunately no ex-libris in my collection...

      This lens for me could well be the beginning of a new career...

      (Already saw on this page something that I might grab on eBay!)

    • delia-delia profile image


      6 years ago

      Interesting lens, there is a collection for everything! ...I have some very old books that have unique plates.

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 

      6 years ago from Central Florida

      I only have a few bookplates that I was lucky enough to find in books bought at the library used bookstore. It intrigues me and would be a fairly easy collectible to store.

    • TeacherSerenia profile image


      6 years ago

      very nice lens, thank you.

    • chezchazz profile image


      6 years ago from New York

      We inherited some books from my late father-in-law and his personalized old-fashion bookplates make them really special.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I've never heard of bookplates before. I wonder what purpose they really had besides indicating that the book belonged to someone. Did people switch them out if they traded or sold a book?

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      This is the first I have heard of collecting bookplates. I had no notion of the wonderful art in these little masterpieces. I am seriously considering starting a small collection now! Blessed by your neighborhood Squid Angel.

    • Linda Pogue profile image

      Linda Pogue 

      8 years ago from Missouri

      I enjoyed collecting ex-libris when I was a child, but somewhere along the way, my collection disappeared. This makes me think I should start up again.

    • verymary profile image


      8 years ago from Chicago area

      very cool thing to collect! 5* and lensrolled to

    • tandemonimom lm profile image

      tandemonimom lm 

      9 years ago

      How cool - I had no idea folks collected stuff like this, though I guess it's not too surprising. Lensrolled to The Reader's Shop: T-shirts, Book Bags, Gifts for Book Lovers.

    • DAnnieB LM profile image

      DAnnieB LM 

      9 years ago

      Very good info .. I'll add it to my sites!

    • FanfrelucheHubs profile image

      Nathalie Roy 

      10 years ago from France (Canadian expat)

      I learned something! I have always wondered what was ex-libris but too lazy to finf out:)

    • japanetics profile image


      10 years ago

      You make cool and interesting lenses. I like your stuff!

    • sheywood profile image


      11 years ago

      Welcome to the Tremendous Collections group!


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