Monday, October 3, 2011

book plates or ex libris.

Beautiful hand-painted book plates by Bernard Maisner. "Glorious Bugs"

I am an only child, and, growing up, I was often a lonely child. Like so many other lonely children before me, I found companionship in books. I found that I did not enjoy the world set before me, so I instead read, falling into other worlds and other lives, losing myself to the present. Remembering a day in second or fourth grade (I remember the classroom, not the teacher): I was so engrossed in The Wizard of Oz, snatching a few more pages in between lessons when I shouldn't have, my teacher had to call out to me multiple times to get my attention. I reluctantly put away the book and was scolded accordingly.

Olivs Guess's bookplates I found at a garage sale.

So it follows that I would naturally love all things related to books: the art of writing and calligraphy, pens and nibs, blank journals, decorative papers, and white papers of all stock. I learned how to bind my own books. And, finally, shockingly, when I was at the end of my adolescence, I learned that such a thing existed as a book plate. (How did I ever make it so long, loving books as I do, without knowing what a book plate was?)

The book plate in my Etiquette book. (John R. Sealf)

The idea of a book plate complimented the ideas in my head I had about books. The sentiments behind book plates are simple-- to mark ownership and and the pride in owning the book.  Mark Severin, a Belgian bookplate engraver said, "A book without a plate is, to me, like a child waiting to be adopted. A man really loving a book wants to tighten his bonds with it, to honor it, and to treat it with respect. He wants to show that he has had it as a friend and to make it that much different from other copies of the same volume...."*

Book plate of Thomas G. Judd (I bought the book for the book plate.)

Having a book plate in my books also means that I would not have to admonish my friends to whom I loaned my books to give them back or to treat them well. Some book plates perform the task of admonition themselves with simple phrases like "Any one may borrow,/ But a gentleman returns" or "If through respect or love I lend/ This book unto my worthy friend,/ He must not soil, abuse, nor tear,/  But read with diligence and care;/ And when its contents you have learned,/ Remember, it must be RETURNED."* If only those words had been in some of my books I have loaned, then perhaps my cheap (but cherished) paperbacks wouldn't have returned to me with much-broken spines. (One incident happened many years ago, but I still remember how incensed I was at the book's mistreatment.)

So, if I leave you with your interest peaked, go here, to another blog by a book plate lover.

*Quotes taken from a book about book plates, given to me on my 17th birthday. The Art of the Bookplate is by James P. Keenan, published in 2003 by Barnes and Noble, Inc.


  1. That was me. I remember that incident clearly as well. Désolée, darling. I haven't cracked a book since.

  2. Was it really? I don't think it was, I think it was someone else. At least, that's who I blame in my memory. Not you, dear Gypsy Oracle.

  3. I think it was one of your Tamora Pierce paperbacks, freshman year...

    Not that I want the blame, lol

  4. Well, I was referring to something from sophomore year, with the Abhorson series, so. :P