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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.

4 comments:

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

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  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.

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

    Not that I want the blame, lol

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

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