Loading Spinner

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

§ JOAN MIRO (SPANISH 1893-1983)
Jul 25, 11:00 AM BST
§ JOAN MIRO (SPANISH 1893-1983)
by Chiswick Auctions
Est: £200- £300
£1601 Bid
151 BUREAU OF AMERICAN ETHNOLOGY PLATES
Jul 25, 11:00 AM EDT
151 BUREAU OF AMERICAN ETHNOLOGY PLATES
by Cordier Auctions & Appraisals
Est: $200- $300
$1000 Bids
Lot of 3 English book plate etchings of soldiers
Jul 20, 10:00 AM EDT
Lot of 3 English book plate etchings of soldiers
by King Galleries
Est: $450- $600
$3000 Bids
A large collection of bookplates,
Jul 30, 10:00 AM BST
A large collection of bookplates,
by Sworders
Est: £350- £450
£2800 Bids
The Keepsake for 1831, Edited by Frederic Mansel Reynolds for the Proprietor
Jul 28, 10:00 AM PDT
The Keepsake for 1831, Edited by Frederic Mansel Reynolds for the Proprietor
by Global Auctions Company
Est: $80- $100
$600 Bids
Rare 19thc German Handcolored Costume Plates, 17thc Nobility
Jul 20, 2:00 PM EDT
Rare 19thc German Handcolored Costume Plates, 17thc Nobility
by Connoisseur Online
Est: $75- $150
$350 Bids
Vintage Menaboni Bird Picture – Robin ( Black/White )
Jul 20, 2:00 PM EDT
Vintage Menaboni Bird Picture – Robin ( Black/White )
by Connoisseur Online
Est: $40- $80
$200 Bids
[COPPER ENGRAVINGS]. “Eclectic Engravings,” a Collection of...
Jul 25, 10:00 AM CDT
[COPPER ENGRAVINGS]. “Eclectic Engravings,” a Collection of...
by Potter & Potter Auctions Inc.
Est: $200- $400
$1000 Bids
AA, Pieter van der (1659-1733). La Galerie agreable du monde...la zeelande. Leida: Pieter van der Aa, [1729].
Jul 17, 2:15 PM CEST
AA, Pieter van der (1659-1733). La Galerie agreable du monde...la zeelande. Leida: Pieter van der Aa, [1729].
by Wannenes Art Auctions
Est: €2,000- €3,000
€2,0000 Bids
MANETTI, Saverio (1723-1785). Lot of 19 plates from "Storia Naturale degli Uccelli". Florence: Vanni, 1767-1776.
Jul 17, 2:15 PM CEST
MANETTI, Saverio (1723-1785). Lot of 19 plates from "Storia Naturale degli Uccelli". Florence: Vanni, 1767-1776.
by Wannenes Art Auctions
Est: €800- €1,200
€8000 Bids
Souvenir of Armorial Bookplates
Jul 22, 6:00 PM AEST
Souvenir of Armorial Bookplates
by Davidson Auctions
Est: AUD120- AUD200
AUD1100 Bids
ART NOUVEAU EX LIBRIS PRINT BY AUBREY BEARDSLEY
Jul 27, 10:00 AM EDT
ART NOUVEAU EX LIBRIS PRINT BY AUBREY BEARDSLEY
by Antique Arena Inc
Est: $100- $150
$100 Bids
COOK, James (1728-1779). [Collection of plates]. Naples: s.e, late 18th century
Jul 17, 2:15 PM CEST
COOK, James (1728-1779). [Collection of plates]. Naples: s.e, late 18th century
by Wannenes Art Auctions
Est: €150- €250
€1500 Bids
SIX BOWEN AUDUBON OCTAVO COLORED PLATES
Jul 30, 9:00 AM CDT
SIX BOWEN AUDUBON OCTAVO COLORED PLATES
by Jackson's International
Est: $200- $400
$1600 Bids
Admiral Nelson. Young (John), Vice Admiral Lord Viscount Nelson..., Novr. 2nd 1801
Jul 24, 10:00 AM BST
Admiral Nelson. Young (John), Vice Admiral Lord Viscount Nelson..., Novr. 2nd 1801
by Dominic Winter Auctions
Est: £150- £200
£1500 Bids
[JAMESON, John W. (1882-1939), artist and engraver]. A Coll...
Jul 25, 10:00 AM CDT
[JAMESON, John W. (1882-1939), artist and engraver]. A Coll...
by Potter & Potter Auctions Inc.
Est: $600- $1,000
$3000 Bids

Sellers Who Sell Book Plates


Wannenes Art Auctions

Wannenes Art Auctions

Lawsons

Lawsons

Potter & Potter Auctions Inc.

Potter & Potter Auctions Inc.

Connoisseur Online

Connoisseur Online