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Book Plates

Bookplates, or "ex libris," have been in existence since the 16th century. Bookplates are used to mark the ownership of a book. Many famous people had their books marked with a bookplate. Bookplates have been created in woodcuts, engraved metal, silkscreen, etching, or ink, and many fine examples were designed by master artists and engravers such as Durer, Chagall, and Escher.

Family crests and mottoes were popular motifs until bookplates became more personalized. Some of the most unique bookplates were created for well-known figures including Ernest Hemingway, Benito Mussolini, Albert Einstein, and Adolf Hitler. A bookplate belonging to silent film actor Charlie Chaplin shows an innocent-looking boy on a journey with a dog, resembling "The Fool" of the major arcana in a tarot card deck, while one of Mussolini’s bookplates features an eerie scene of the head of an axe cutting through rope.

Collectors of bookplates may be rare, but they are intent on their purpose. They often use a bookplate much like a trading card. The bookplate collector may choose to pursue a particular theme, and will trade with other collectors to add to his stock. Occasionally, the lucky collector may find a bookplate in a volume or hidden away on a shelf at a rare book dealer's shop.


Quick Facts

  • A 1921 Michel Fingesten ex libris sold for $1,635 at Ketterer Kunst in 2009
  • A 1927 album of bookplates by Dora Carrington sold for $3,277 at a Christie’s auction in 2015
  • The 21-volume bookplate collection of the late Arthur W. Dorling containing a total of some 6,000 plates sold for $15,228 at Bonhams in 2012

Recommended Items at Auction

See all items

[DIDEROT, Denis (1713-1784), association]. BENARD, Robert, ...
Mar 07, 10:00 AM CST
[DIDEROT, Denis (1713-1784), association]. BENARD, Robert, ...
by Potter & Potter Auctions Inc.
Est: $80- $100
$401 Bid
Cooke (Edward William) Sixty Five Plates of Shipping and Craft, 1829.
Feb 29, 12:00 PM GMT
Cooke (Edward William) Sixty Five Plates of Shipping and Craft, 1829.
by Forum Auctions - UK
Est: £200- £300
£1501 Bid
Rare 19thc German Handcolored Costume Plates, 17thc Nobility
Mar 02, 2:00 PM EST
Rare 19thc German Handcolored Costume Plates, 17thc Nobility
by Connoisseur Online
Est: $75- $150
$350 Bids
Rare 19thc Handcolored Costume Plates, Bavaria
Mar 02, 2:00 PM EST
Rare 19thc Handcolored Costume Plates, Bavaria
by Connoisseur Online
Est: $75- $150
$350 Bids
Exlibris. – Sammlung,
Feb 27, 8:00 PM CET
Exlibris. – Sammlung,
by Schneider-Henn
Est: €500- €750
€5000 Bids
Exlibris, Sammlung orig. Entwürfe,
Feb 27, 8:00 PM CET
Exlibris, Sammlung orig. Entwürfe,
by Schneider-Henn
Est: €900- €1,500
€9000 Bids
Exlibris, Sammlung,
Feb 27, 8:00 PM CET
Exlibris, Sammlung,
by Schneider-Henn
Est: €300- €450
€3000 Bids
Exlibris, prominente Eigner. – Sammlung,
Feb 27, 8:00 PM CET
Exlibris, prominente Eigner. – Sammlung,
by Schneider-Henn
Est: €400- €600
€4000 Bids
Exlibris, Motivsammlung: Das Einhorn.
Feb 27, 8:00 PM CET
Exlibris, Motivsammlung: Das Einhorn.
by Schneider-Henn
Est: €50- €100
€500 Bids
Exlibris, Motivsammlung: Säen und ernten.
Feb 27, 8:00 PM CET
Exlibris, Motivsammlung: Säen und ernten.
by Schneider-Henn
Est: €100- €150
€1000 Bids
Exlibris nauticis.
Feb 27, 8:00 PM CET
Exlibris nauticis.
by Schneider-Henn
Est: €50- €100
€500 Bids
Exlibris. – Franz v. Bayros.
Feb 27, 8:00 PM CET
Exlibris. – Franz v. Bayros.
by Schneider-Henn
Est: €350- €500
€3300 Bids
Exlibris. – Bedenk,
Feb 27, 8:00 PM CET
Exlibris. – Bedenk,
by Schneider-Henn
Est: €200- €300
€2000 Bids
Exlibris. – Paul Bürck.
Feb 27, 8:00 PM CET
Exlibris. – Paul Bürck.
by Schneider-Henn
Est: €150- €250
€1500 Bids
Exlibris. – Michel Fingesten.
Feb 27, 8:00 PM CET
Exlibris. – Michel Fingesten.
by Schneider-Henn
Est: €200- €300
€2000 Bids
Exlibris. – Michel Fingesten.
Feb 27, 8:00 PM CET
Exlibris. – Michel Fingesten.
by Schneider-Henn
Est: €100- €150
€1000 Bids
Exlibris. – Hermann Huffert.
Feb 27, 8:00 PM CET
Exlibris. – Hermann Huffert.
by Schneider-Henn
Est: €250- €400
€2400 Bids
Exlibris. – Max Klinger.
Feb 27, 8:00 PM CET
Exlibris. – Max Klinger.
by Schneider-Henn
Est: €150- €250
€1500 Bids
Exlibris. – Emil Kotrba.
Feb 27, 8:00 PM CET
Exlibris. – Emil Kotrba.
by Schneider-Henn
Est: €200- €300
€2000 Bids
Exlibris. – Johann Naha.
Feb 27, 8:00 PM CET
Exlibris. – Johann Naha.
by Schneider-Henn
Est: €150- €250
€1500 Bids
Exlibris. – Botho Schmidt.
Feb 27, 8:00 PM CET
Exlibris. – Botho Schmidt.
by Schneider-Henn
Est: €100- €200
€1000 Bids
Exlibris. – Botho Schmidt.
Feb 27, 8:00 PM CET
Exlibris. – Botho Schmidt.
by Schneider-Henn
Est: €250- €400
€2400 Bids
Exlibris. – Ferdinand Steiniger.
Feb 27, 8:00 PM CET
Exlibris. – Ferdinand Steiniger.
by Schneider-Henn
Est: €100- €150
€1000 Bids

Sellers Who Sell Book Plates


Schneider-Henn

Schneider-Henn

Connoisseur Online

Connoisseur Online

Potter & Potter Auctions Inc.

Potter & Potter Auctions Inc.

STAIR

STAIR