Bookplates are a bibliophilic treasure and often a more intimate gift than books themselves. Small sheets of paper, adorned with decorative imagery and the name of the owner, offer people the opportunity to respectfully leave their aesthetic mark on their library of books. Bookplates are an expression of style and personality, transforming a book into a unique and personal prize. In addition to being beautiful and expressive, bookplates also help ensure that any lent out book makes its way home!
Endlessly diverse and appealing, bookplates (also called ex libris, Latin for "from the books of") are small decorative labels to be pasted inside a book's cover to express personal ownership. Originating in their modern printed form in 16th-century Germany, where books were highly valuable and treasured, bookplates became an art form practiced by artists across Europe and beyond. (1)
One of the most exciting things about bookplates is the variety; there is no limit to what one can include on an ex libris label. Many feature animals or family crests, some are contemporary and feature poems or geometric abstracted designs. There is a style for everyone on your list, most of which are customizable to include a printed name! We tend to prefer bookplates that feature the name of the owner as they feel established and formal, but those that leave space for handwritten name additions are charming in their own right. Although ex libris designs are available in stamp form, we find stamps are often inconsistent—and there is no worse feeling than attempting a stamp only to see the result and feel heart-wrenchingly like you've ruined something you love! So we stick to pasting sheets—much less room for error!
The first book plate we want to feature is the plate several members of our team use on their own books: the slightly foxed illustrative bookplate. Featuring a gorgeous contemporary fox leaping between three books that are set in a countryside landscape, the bookplate feels elegant and modern and just a tad whimsical. It's a lovely illustration by Clare Curtis and we are sentimentally reminded of Slightly Foxed, one of our favorite publications, every time we open a book with this plate.
Next we have an antiqued mountainscape design printed on rustic kraft coloured paper by Sunshine and Ravioli. The masculine landscape imagery is complemented effortlessly by a decorative vine frame that culminates with a rolling scalloped edge. Pasted inside our books, this bookplate offers an antiqued flare that makes our book collections feel like they arrive straight from a luxuriously dark wood-paneled library.
Also available on Etsy are these glorious thistle bookplates.