From the Design Desk: Ex Libris

Money never goes out of style. However, style itself, like taste, changes.

The status symbols of today may be seen in elaborate getaways or fancy cars. However historically, before the invention of the printing press, books were once considered the ultimate status symbol because of their rarity.

This status was graphically represented by ex libris, the Latin expression meaning ‘from the books of,’ or more commonly in English called bookplates. This mark of prestige in society, emerged in Germany in the fifteenth century. Bookplates were custom made by artists for the library owner, commonly depicting crests, mottos or the owner’s family coat of arms.

Bookplates have been designed and owned by a distinguished lot. Artists and engravers such as Paul Revere, M.C. Escher and Rockwell Kent have all developed bookplates.

Paul Revere

On the other side, famous owners of bookplates include: Queen Victoria of Great Britain, George Washington, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Sigmund Freud, Walt Disney and Jack London.

Here at Chronicle Books, we never got the memo that an ample book collection no longer correlates to the ultimate status symbol. Who needs a Swiss vacation and a Rolls-Royce?

Instead, here are a collection of bookplates from our archives to inspire:

Carpe Diem Journal, by Mary Kate McDevitt

Let’s Bring Back, by Lesley M. M. Blume

Collected Quotations Journal, by Julia Rothman

One Good Deed a Day Journal

This Book Belongs To, by Grady McFerrin

Ahoy! Eco-Journal, by Julia Rothman

Daniel Triassi
Publishing Design Fellow

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