Ex Libris: The Bookplates of 31 Famous Men

The map is set and the quest begins. Will you be a hero or dead?

The “antique book restoration companies” is a book that documents the 31 famous men who had their personal bookplates designed and created by the Ex Libris: The Bookplates of 31 Famous Men.

A bookplate by Theodore Teddy.

When we visit the Green Mountain State, I usually make a point of stopping by an antique bookshop in Montpelier. There are a couple books there that have given me some wonderful ideas for blog posts. I’ve come across books with elegant, ornamental labels splashed on the inner cover with “Ex Libris” and then some person’s name every now and then. Curious, I went online and looked up “Ex Libris,” and learned that those little markings are known as bookplates, and they were formerly very popular.

Bookplates were largely used by the wealthy, who could afford vast personal libraries. Books were treasured assets before the dawn of mass-produced paperbacks and technological gadgets. The bookplate was only a technique for book owners to identify their books and maybe promote their return when they were loaned out to friends and family. The earliest bookplates were employed by Christian monks in Germany in the 16th century, and the practice quickly spread across European nobles. The practice was brought to America in the 1600s, and several of America’s Founding Fathers, including George Washington and Paul Revere, had bookplates in their personal collections. Both Europeans and Americans used bookplates throughout the nineteenth century, but the tradition started to decline by the 1950s.

While bookplate designs were highly individualized in order to easily identify a book’s owner, common themes like as family crests and badges, as well as Latin or Greek mottoes that were particular to the tomes’ owner, were utilized. In the early twentieth century, you start to see increasingly individualized bookplate designs that go beyond family heraldry, which might be a reflection of society’s rising individuality.

Bookplate collecting is a surprisingly popular pastime with a devoted following. As a result, there are hundreds of bookplate examples available online. We’ve picked bookplates from renowned and prominent persons in history to give you a sense of the wide range of designs available. Perhaps they’ll inspire you to make your own.

I know they did for me; in fact, I had my own bookplate produced by the wonderful people at Eidolon House after I initially published this post:

A bookplate by Brett McKay.

31 Notable Men’s Bookplates

A bookplate by George Washington.

“The aims justify the means,” reads a Latin phrase on George Washington’s bookplate.

A bookplate by Paul Revere.

“I battle for the Fatherland,” says Revere’s bookplate in Latin.

A bookplate by Eli Whitney.

Eli Whitney is credited with inventing the cotton gin.

A bookplate by John Quincy Adams.

The bookplate of the sixth president, John Quincy Adams, with his family crest. “You will preserve liberty, friendship, and religion,” says the motto.

A bookplate by Lord Byron.

Lord Byron’s bookplate, a writer and playboy.

A bookplate by Charles Dickens.

A bookplate by Lewis Carroll.

The bookplate of author Lewis Carroll.

A bookplate by H G Wells.

H.G. Wells’ bookplate on the inside cover.

A bookplate by Rudyard Kipling.

A bookplate by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

The bookplate of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes.

A bookplate by John D Rockefeller.

I’m not sure whether this was truly oil magnate John D. Rockefeller’s bookplate, or if it was a piece of satire devised by a contemporaneous critic!

A bookplate by Theodore Teddy Roosevelt.

Theodore Roosevelt’s bookplate bears the crest and motto of his family. “He who plants preserves,” in other words. TR is said to have a tattoo of his family crest on his breast.


A bookplate by Andrew Carnegie.

Andrew Carnegie’s bookplate, a steel and railroad magnate.

A bookplate by King Gillette.

King Gillette’s bookplate – the guy who designed the safety razor. “A tremendous lot in a tiny place,” states the Latin inscription at the top.

A bookplate by Sigmund Freud.

Sigmund Freud’s bookplate, of course, would be full with meaning. It portrays the Sphinx’s riddle, as well as a Greek phrase from Oedipus the King, “He who comprehended that great mystery and was a powerful man.” Is the inference that Freud was able to answer the human psyche’s riddle? Maybe a bookplate is simply a bookplate at times.

A bookplate by Jack London.

The author of Call of the Wild and White Fang, Jack London, was known as the “Wolf,” therefore it’s only fitting that his bookplate portrays this fearsome canine.

A bookplate by Wb Yeats.

Irish poet W.B. Yeats’ bookplate. “All things are good to the good,” says the Latin motto.

A bookplate by Edgar Rice Burroughs.

Tarzan originator Edgar Rice Burroughs’ bookplate.

A bookplate by Calvin Coolidge.

President Calvin Coolidge’s bookplate depicts his boyhood home in Plymouth, Vermont. Every Fourth of July, they still throw a great party honoring Silent Cal.

A bookplate by Cecil B Demille.

The bookplate of Cecil B. DeMille, the legendary film director.

A bookplate by Charles Chaplin.

The bookplate of silent film actor Charlie Chaplin.

A bookplate by Jack Dempsey boxer.

Boxing champion Jack Dempsey.

A bookplate by Ernest Hemingway.

The bookplate of Papa.

A bookplate by Scott Fitzgerald.

Fitzgerald never used bookplates for his own collection, but a New Yorker artist developed a “suggested” bookplate for him based on the topic of dying young that occurs in his works. Fitzgerald was so taken with the artwork that he cut it and stuck it inside the cover of his scrapbook. More information on this bookplate may be found here.

A bookplate by Adolf Hitler.

Adolf Hitler’s bookplate.

A bookplate by Charles Degaulle.

Charles de Gaulle’s bookplate, which he used as the head of the Free French Forces during WWII. The Cross of Lorraine, the insignia of the Free French Forces, crushes the Nazi swastika on his bookplate.

A bookplate by Benito Mussolini.

Without a proper bookplate, I suppose you can’t be a fascist tyrant. Benito Mussolini’s is seen here.

A bookplate by Albert Einstein.

The bookplate of Albert Einstein.

A bookplate by Robert Frost.

The bookplate of poet Robert Frost.

A bookplate by Walt Disney.

The bookplate of Walt Disney.

A bookplate by Ian Lancaster Fleming.

James Bond was created by Ian Fleming. The Fleming clan’s Scottish motto, which dates back to the 1300s, is “Let the deed shaw.” On this page, read approximately halfway down to learn about the intriguing tale behind the slogan.

In your own books, do you utilize bookplates? Let us know what you think in the comments!



Watch This Video-

The “art of manliness library” is a collection of bookplates that were created by 31 famous men. They are all displayed in the art of manliness gallery.

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