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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

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Berks Co. bookplate
Nov 20, 9:00 AM EST
Berks Co. bookplate
by Horst Auctioneers
Est: $0- $0
$301 Bid
DEVANT, DAVID. MY MAGIC LIFE. LONDON: HUTCHINSON & CO., 193...
Oct 30, 10:00 AM CDT
DEVANT, DAVID. MY MAGIC LIFE. LONDON: HUTCHINSON & CO., 193...
by Potter & Potter Auctions Inc.
Est: $200- $400
$1001 Bid
[Ludlow, Captain William Andrew]. Bengal Troops on the Line of March..., 1835
Nov 10, 10:00 AM GMT
[Ludlow, Captain William Andrew]. Bengal Troops on the Line of March..., 1835
by Dominic Winter Auctions
Est: £500- £800
£5001 Bid
Pennsylvania watercolor fraktur bookplate
Oct 29, 9:00 AM EDT
Pennsylvania watercolor fraktur bookplate
by Pook & Pook, Inc.
Est: $40- $80
$201 Bid
Anatomy.- Collection of 10 folding engraved anatomical plates, no place, no printer, [c.1750].
Nov 04, 12:00 PM GMT
Anatomy.- Collection of 10 folding engraved anatomical plates, no place, no printer, [c.1750].
by Forum Auctions - UK
Est: £300- £400
£2801 Bid
Framed reproduction Fraktur bookplate of Catharina Ruth
Nov 19, 4:00 PM EST
Framed reproduction Fraktur bookplate of Catharina Ruth
by Horst Auctioneers
Est: $0- $0
$300 Bids
Rare 19thc German Costume Plates, 16thc Mountain Herders, Peasants
Nov 27, 2:00 PM EST
Rare 19thc German Costume Plates, 16thc Mountain Herders, Peasants
by Connoisseur Online
Est: $50- $100
$250 Bids
Rare 19thc Handcolored Costume Plates, Switzerland
Nov 27, 2:00 PM EST
Rare 19thc Handcolored Costume Plates, Switzerland
by Connoisseur Online
Est: $50- $100
$250 Bids
Rare 19thc German Handcolored Costume Plates
Nov 27, 2:00 PM EST
Rare 19thc German Handcolored Costume Plates
by Connoisseur Online
Est: $50- $100
$250 Bids
[AUSTEN, JANE (1775-1817)]. -- AUSTEN, GEORGE (1731-1805). ...
Nov 20, 10:00 AM CST
[AUSTEN, JANE (1775-1817)]. -- AUSTEN, GEORGE (1731-1805). ...
by Potter & Potter Auctions Inc.
Est: $150- $250
$800 Bids
[HUMOR]. FOUR ANTIQUARIAN ENGLISH VOLUMES ON HUMOR AND JEST...
Nov 20, 10:00 AM CST
[HUMOR]. FOUR ANTIQUARIAN ENGLISH VOLUMES ON HUMOR AND JEST...
by Potter & Potter Auctions Inc.
Est: $100- $200
$500 Bids
Rare 19thc German Costume Plates, 14thc Knights
Nov 13, 2:00 PM EST
Rare 19thc German Costume Plates, 14thc Knights
by Connoisseur Online
Est: $50- $100
$250 Bids
American School 19th century Fraktur Bookplate for Anna Freben Ternscieler, dated "1818"
Nov 10, 11:00 AM EST
American School 19th century Fraktur Bookplate for Anna Freben Ternscieler, dated "1818"
by Freeman's
Est: $1,500- $2,500
$7500 Bids
Hattatt - Brooches of Antiquity
Dec 03, 10:00 AM GMT
Hattatt - Brooches of Antiquity
by TimeLine Auctions
Est: £20- £30
£50 Bids
SNG - Danish National Museum - [8]
Dec 03, 10:00 AM GMT
SNG - Danish National Museum - [8]
by TimeLine Auctions
Est: £150- £200
£1300 Bids
Head - Historia Numorum
Dec 03, 10:00 AM GMT
Head - Historia Numorum
by TimeLine Auctions
Est: £20- £30
£50 Bids
Various - Greek Coins Titles [6]
Dec 03, 10:00 AM GMT
Various - Greek Coins Titles [6]
by TimeLine Auctions
Est: £30- £40
£50 Bids

Sellers Who Sell Book Plates


Hindman

Hindman

Connoisseur Online

Connoisseur Online

Forum Auctions - UK

Forum Auctions - UK

Dominic Winter Auctions

Dominic Winter Auctions