During the Middle Ages and the early modern era, owning a book was a rare and precious thing.
Reserved only for the very wealthy, books were expensive, prestigious, and showed a certain status in society. If you were rich enough to own books, you wanted to make sure that anyone seeing them knew the books were yours.
Enter the ex libris (Latin for “from the books of…”), or bookplate. The earliest known examples come from Germany around the 15th century and were designed by famous artists of the time. They were pasted inside the front cover and often incorporated a name, motto, or coat of arms to better identify the book’s owner.
The library’s Bookplate Collection contains over 1,300 bookplates and includes a wide variety of graphic and illustrative styles, both color and black & white, ranging from the formal to the whimsical.
If you would like to learn more about ex libris, we invite you to visit Central Library on Sunday, April 22 at 1:30 p.m. for a presentation on bookplates from around the world by writer and bookplate collector Ruben Angaladian.