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bookplate, label pasted in a book to indicate ownership, also called ex libris [Lat.,=from the books of]. The bookplate is usually of paper on which heraldic or other designs are engraved or printed. The earliest printed bookplates date from c.1480 in Germany. Dürer and Holbein designed and engraved a number of bookplates. A Stephen Daye bookplate of 1642 may have been among the first printed in North America; the John Cotton plate of 1674 certainly was. Paul Revere was well known for his bookplate engravings, as was Nathaniel Hurd. The practice of designing bookplates flourished throughout the 18th and 19th cent. Fine examples are still being produced mainly for collectors and connoisseurs by a number of graphic artists including Richard Horton and John DePol.


See J. B. L. Warren (Lord De Tabley), Guide to the Study of Bookplates (1880); W. Hamilton, Dated Book-Plates (1895); E. J. Kavanagh, ed., Bookplates (1966); C. D. Allen, American Bookplates (1895, repr. 1968).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2022, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(also ex libris), a label pasted inside a book’s binding or cover, bearing the name of the book’s owner. Bookplates have been quite common since the beginning of book printing. They have been popular in Russia since the early 18th century. Until the 19th century, the name of the book’s owner was customarily tooled on the binding or spine of the book, along with an ex libris; because such work was expensive to execute, when books were first published for the general public the paper bookplate became preferred.

The simplest bookplates bore only the owner’s name, sometimes accompanied by a motto. Later they were ornamented with the owner’s coat of arms (16th–18th centuries) or elaborate monograms. Pictorial bookplates, especially popular in the 20th century, depict landscapes, architectural motifs, and various emblems suggesting the owner’s tastes or profession.

Pictorial bookplates are engraved on copper, wood, or linoleum. Occasionally they are zincographed or lithographed. From the 16th to 18th centuries, many outstanding artists designed bookplates, including A. Dürer and H. Holbein the Younger.

Miniature compositions for bookplates, employing the effects of various graphic techniques, have been designed by many Soviet graphic artists, including A. I. Kravchenko, D. I. Mitrokhin, P. Ia. Pavlinov, and V. A. Favorskii.


Minaev, E., and S. Fortinskii. Ekslibris. Moscow, 1970.
Ivenskii, S. G. Mastera russkogo ekslibrisa. Leningrad, 1973.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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