A bookplate, also known as ex-libris, is a small printed label pasted into a book to indicate ownership. Bookplates typically bear a name, motto, crest, or another motif that relates to the owner of the book.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". If the design is not specifically commissioned the artist leaves a blank space for an owner to write or stamp their name.
Many different techniques and mediums have been used historically. Some include the woodcut, etching, screen print and letterpress. The method of printing, along with the fact that the work is all done in small scale, plays an important part in the execution of these works.
I used my Chandler & Price platen press to create this bookplate set. The press was manufactured circa 1910 and is manually powered. The method is quirky, flawed, and beautiful. As with all Samaritan Press releases, the inherent wabi-sabi is what sets it apart from a mass produced digital printing method.
In the video I’ve adhered my Ex Libris in a 1919 edition of the seminal yogic text “The Serpent Power” by Arthur Avalon (pseudonym of Sir John Woodroffe, an early British esotericist). I purchased the book in a lovely creaky old shop in Chicago called The Occult Bookstore, which happened to open in 1918, just one year before the book’s publish date!
Although I’d like to imagine the tome living on the shelves of The Occult Bookstore since publication, much of its provenance can actually be pieced together by studying the interior pages. An old (and partially removed) book plate from Albert _ (a Cancer apparently), name stamp (C. Patten), a label (Macoy Pub & M.S. Co. 45 John St, NYC), and various penciled notes (one seemingly from 1950 and others more recent).The book’s markings and notations of 100 years please me to no end and I am happy to add my personal Ex Libris for future readers to discover.
How to apply your bookplate:
- Write or sign your name clearly.
- Choose a spot to adhere the plate. The inside cover or flyleaf are the usual spots. Center the plate approximately 1/3rd of the way down from top edge.
- Using an acid free gluestick or archival PVA glue, coat the back side. Some people prefer to apply adhesive on top edge only which would keep the plate in place while allowing for an easier removal if a future owner should so desire. Alternatively, to preserve a book's pristine condition, heavy duty collectors sometimes simply place the bookplate inside with no adhesive.
- Use a clean barrier to smooth out air pockets. A bone folder, ruler, or simply your clean hand will do. Some time with the book closed and weighted will also help it flatten.
- Be sure there is no glue residue before closing the book.
Video soundtrack: 6 Organs of Admittance, Attar (Used with permission from Ben Chasny)