Bookplates, also refered to as ex-libris [Latin for "from the books of..."], are small decorative labels which indicate the owner of a book. They generally appear inside the font cover and often feature a motto, crest, or motif representing the owner. Their usage can be traced back as far as the 14th century however their modern evolution stems from the use of simple inscriptions found inside books of the European Middle Ages which coincided with the advent of “librarianship”. Their use became gradually more widespread from the 17th to the 19th century whilst initial interest in them as collectibles and objects of study in themselves can be traced to the 1860′s. Many bookplates are now of greater interest than the books in which they are affixed and there are collectors of bookplates and societies dedicated to their study all over the world. The examples I have for you today are taken from a publication which is indicative of the level of interest in “ex libris” at the time (late 19th century). The publication in question dates from 1898 / 9 and is a special edition of the popular design periodical The Studio entitled Modern Bookplates and Their Designers. The designers are indicated.
P J Billinghurst
J J Waugh
A K Womrath (left), Henry Ospovat (right)
R Anning Bell (left) H Nelson (right)
All of these amazing images are in the public domain which got me to thinking they could be the basis for excellent designs for any purpose you wanted. I’m sure they could be adapted and would look great on a t-shirt, bag or other merch. If you have a Cafepress store and are looking for new designs, this type of thing would be perfect.
This is just one example of how you can easily use / adapt public domain materials for your own use / profit. To demonstrate how easy it is, I had a go at photoshopping an old bookplate to make a logo for my eBay business & blog (bear in mind, my photoshop skills are virtually non-existant!).
Heres the original:
And my photoshop effort!
I’m sure you get the idea! All that needs to be done is to edit out the name of the book owner and insert your own apt phrase or whatever.
Until next time
P.S. This week I’m giving away a free pdf of the 1898 edition of the Studio from which most of these bookplates are taken to my subscribers. If you would like to receive freebies such as this in the future enter your name and e-mail in the subscription sign up box at the top of this page.