Ex Libris and Bookplates: The Art of This Century

Bookplate for Robert D. Powers
Bookplate for Robert D. Powers

My ex libris printmaking work has been included in James Keenan’s expanded edition Bookplates: The Art of This Century.  A free download of the e-book can be found here.


“This new e-book serves as an introduction to contemporary international bookplate art and is published by the American Society of Bookplate Collectors & Designers (ASBC&D, est. 1922). Included are works by 130 artists, representing 31 countries with over 300 bookplate images. Brief biographies, artists’ quotations along with opinions from collectors and artists regarding the future of this graphic art form.”

Anyone interested in commissioning a bookplate, please contact me via email or leave a comment.

Summa Veritas
Summa Veritas
Ad Maiora, etching, 2 plate print.
Ad Maiora, etching, 2 plate print.

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[http://www.bookplate.org/].  (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

Printmaking in Matera

I have always been interested in printmaking.  My introduction occurred while studying at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in the early 90s.  The process of etching is fascinating and so many great artists of the past practiced this medium.  There is something about the expressive quality of the etched line that has always attracted me.

Over the years I have continued to dabble with printmaking whenever I had access to a press.  So it certainly was a happy surprise to find a printmaking collaborative in Matera, Italy when I arrived several years ago.  The ‘Via Sette Dolori Grafica’ is a wonderful resource.  The printmakers Angelo Rizzeli and Vittorio Manno founded the studio in the Sassi(or historic center) area of Matera.   Apart from being masters of their craft, they are extremely generous teachers and artists.  Their speciality is Mezzotint, a non acid technique widely used in the 18th century.

Check out their blog here.  Warning: the majority of it is in Italian.

I have stuck to the more familiar techniques of copperplate etching, drypoint, and aquatint.  Here are a couple of examples:

After Self portrait of Velazquez

This a plate that i drew directly from the Velazquez self portrait in Valencia.  That is why his face is turned around.  The toned background is achieved with a different colored ink rolled onto the plate.


Profile of a Girl

Ad Maiora

This is a double plate print.  The internal plate was etched normally and charged with ink.  It is framed with another plate that I deeply etched to get the embossed effect.  Ad Maiora in Latin for ‘Best Wishes.’  The ancient greek word ‘Karis’ (pretty much the same meaning) is in the frame.  Currently, this print is in a show in Mestre that will eventually travel to Perugia.

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