Bookplates and Ex Libris

Ad Maiora, etching, 2 plate print.

I began this blog a little over a year ago with an entry on printmaking.  It seems only appropriate that I address this theme again.   Even though I have a small press, my printmaking activity has been limited recently to the time I spend in Matera and have access to the facilities at the Grafica Sette Dolori.  Apart from being a wonderful place to work, the two Maestros: Vittorio Manno and Angelo Rizzelli are generous with their expertise.  Visit their blog here.

Within the printmaking world exists the very interesting subculture of the ‘Ex Libris.’  It is latin for “from the books of..” and is essentially a small print that was placed within a book to denote its ownership.  You can find a more complete description and history here.

I was introduced to ex libris via James P Keenan, the director of the American Society of Bookplate Collectors and Designers[].  (Bookplate is another term for ex libris)  He is the author of The Art of the Bookplate, 2003, Barnes and Noble.  Keenan’s enthusiasm is contagious.  Although I was aware of bookplates before, I never gave them much notice.  It is interesting how a new point of view can completely transform one’s idea about something.  The potential of Ex Libris to combine image, typography, and ownership is fascinating, especially for book lovers.  Everyone from kings and scientists to actors and historical figures commissioned bookplates for their libraries.  Keenan’s book includes examples from George III, Einstein, Paul Revere and Joan Crawford to name just a few.  Each print reflects not only the vision of the engraver but the personality of the individual for whom it was commissioned.  Keenan has a blog as well: The Ex Libris Chronicle: The International Collector is the ASBCD’s blog.  You can find it here.

Via Facebook, James saw my work and inquired if I ever considered doing a bookplate.  The one I designed for him is shown below:

It is inspired by Oscar Wilde’s Solome.

Bookplate for James P. Keenan

The above print is a mix of etching, aquatint, burin, and drypoint.

Here are several more of my designs:

Bookplate for James Edward Collins
Bookplate for Robert D. Powers
Bookplate for Collins - Hietter


Summa Veritas

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