Ex Libris: the timelessness of a personal book collection

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I love this Tolkien-esque plate by Hubert Dupond, ca. 1925. (p. 95 in “Ex Libris”)

I have always been fascinated by old fashioned bookplates, which are typically custom designed labels made to be pasted into books to indicate ownership. You may have come across one inside a used book from a yard sale or old book shop (by the way, one of my favorite places to find myself). This evening I happily stumbled upon this book by Martin Hopkinson called Ex Libris: the Art of Bookplates at my local library. It features beautiful plates from the 15th century onwards. The latin term “ex libris” translates as “from the books of.” Bookplates included original artwork, poetry, Latin phrases, coats of arms, and of course the owner’s name(s). These days with Kindles and such, bookplates may seem obsolete. But I disagree entirely. There is something so timeless about owning one’s favorite books in their full physical glory. Like your own personal library that sums you up in ways no friend or e-reader really can. Like little nods or winks to others who share a common favored genre or author. With which you can loan out bits and pieces of yourself and rest assured that they will return home safely, with your one-of-a-kind bookplate proudly displayed inside. This may be the “Kindle generation,” but we can still be nostalgic, romantic, whatever you might call it. As the legendary Perry Farrell of Jane’s Addiction sang,

“they may say those were the days, well anyway, you know, for us these are the days.”

It’s possible (and encouraged) to take what enchants us from the past and make it part of our present. That’s what I admire so much about Tasha Tudor. In what was the the 1990’s to the rest of us, Tasha chose the life of an 1800’s farmer; self-sufficient, simple, and untouched by anything she didn’t absolutely love or believe in. I for one have always wanted my own unique bookplate to mark my books. Perhaps I have found the inspiration to create one. I think I’d include my motto, “the most happy” (yes, that happened to be Queen Anne Boleyn’s as well), and an image of a wolf, a beloved animal. So if you’d ever come across a book with my name and motto inside, you’d know where it came from, and where to return it…What would your bookplate look like?

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