Vintage Bookplates Featuring the Grim Reaper
On each bookplate, you will notice the words Ex Libris. A bookplate, also known as ex-librīs [Latin, “from the books of…”], is usually a small print or decorative label pasted into a book, often on the inside front cover, to indicate its owner.
Bookplates typically bear a name, motto, device, coat-of-arms, crest, badge, or any motif that relates to the owner of the book, or is requested by him from the artist or designer. The name of the owner usually follows an inscription such as “from the books of…” or “from the library of…”, or in Latin, ex libris….
Bookplates are important evidence for the provenance of books. In the United States, bookplates replaced book rhymes after the 19th century. The earliest known marks of ownership of books or documents date from the reign of Amenophis III in Egypt (1391–1353 BC).
However, in their modern form, they evolved from simple inscriptions in books which were common in Europe in the Middle Ages, when various other forms of “librarianship” became widespread (such as the use of class-marks, call-numbers, or shelfmarks). The earliest known examples of printed bookplates are German, and date from the 15th century.
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