January 10, 2011

Ex-Libris Bookplates and Poems

Bookplates, printed markings to indicate ownership, have their roots in the 15th century Germanic territories. Bookplates reached their popularity in the mid to late 1800s, when libraries both private and public needed to assure that books would be returned. Ex-Libris means "from the library of" and was frequently inscribed on bookplates.  Bookplates were printed on heavy paper and glued into books by the purchaser.

Bookplates normally included the name of the owner of the book as well as images that would remind the borrower who they borrowed a book from such as a family coat of arms or an image of the owner. They started out as individual works of art until the mid 1800s when they were mass produced, the printer only changing the name on the inscription.

Another tactic used in the 19th century to prompt a borrower to return a book was the use of book rhymes or sayings written in the front of the book.

Some popular sayings were:

"This book belongs to _____________________
Neither blemish this book nor the leaves double down,
Nor lend it to each idle friend in the town;
Return it when read; or, if lost, please supply
Another as good to the mind and the eye."

 "If thou art borrowed by a friend, 
Right welcome shall he be,
To read, to study, not to lend,
But to return to me.

Not that imparted knowledge doth
Diminish learning's store,
But books, I find, if often lent
Return to me no more." 

"If this book you steal away,
What will you say
On Judgment Day?"
"Everytown is my dwelling-place
America is my nation
______________ is my name
And Christ is my salvation."
Ex-Libris poems were more common in the 1700s and were later surpassed in popularity by bookplates which printers began to mass produce them cheaply.


  1. I like the new layout. when I first clicked on your blog I got scared that it didn't look like it should have. I'm glad to see you didn't delete the blog nad that its still up and running.

  2. I like your new blog-look. :) Also enjoyed this post as I find bookplates interesting.
    God bless

  3. Thanks for this insight into the history of Ex Libris! I've always loved it - we have several second-hand books with it, and I think it's much more interesting than simple signatures (that's what I use now). Apparently, here the practice remained long into the 20th century. I made a set of Ex Libris for my sister some time ago, when I attended art courses/art school. I'd like to make some for myself one day, too.

  4. Thanks, Rachel Beth. I really wasn't sure if people were going to like it.

  5. Hana, I think you should. Many of them are very pretty and add something special to books. It is also neat to see whose copy you have when you are looking at old books.

  6. Oh, I am *completely* making some of these!

  7. I know this if off topic but I'm looking into starting my own blog and was curious what all is needed to get setup? I'm assuming having a
    blog like yours would cost a pretty penny? I'm not very internet smart so I'm not 100% sure. Any tips or advice would be greatly appreciated. Kudos
    My web page - curious.astro.cornell.edu

    1. If you use a free host such as blogger or wordpress, a blog doesn't need to cost much at all. There are many free templates that you can use to format your blog and most of them are very easy to use. If you need any specific help, you can email me. Thanks for visiting.


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