Pictorial bookplates

From the 1700s to the early 1800s, pictorial bookplates often featured allegorical motifs, landscapes, library interiors and book-piles, such as the plate for the 3rd Earl of Dartmouth. From the mid-19th Century onwards, the genre gained popularity and the designs became more varied, reflecting new social and artistic movements and the increasing diversity of bookplate owners. Many pictorial plates offer a glimpse into the lives and interests of their owners.

The pictorial bookplates shown here stem mostly from the `golden age’ of bookplates and bookplate collecting, the 1890s - 1920s in Britain and the US and for a few decades around the 1920s - 1930s in Australia and New Zealand.

This high-point of interest saw the formation of bookplate organisations in numerous countries, including the Ex Libris Society in Britain in 1891, the Australian Ex Libris Society in 1923 and the New Zealand Ex Libris Society in 1930. The Auckland Ex Libris Society, originally formed in 1930 as a branch of the national organisation, remains active, as do such groups in many other countries.

Centered firmly in the leading literary and artistic circles, the early members of the local bookplate societies included book collectors and bookplate artists, such as Percy Watts Rule and Hilda Wiseman, a leader in the field. Other significant local artists who turned their hands to bookplate commissions include Leo Bensemann and E. Mervyn Taylor. Printer Ronald Holloway, who had a long association with the University, was also an accomplished bookplate designer.

Lee, B.N. (1979). British bookplates : A pictorial history. Newton Abbot : David & Charles.
Thwaites, I. (2002). In another dimension : Auckland bookplates 1920-1960. (2nd ed.) Auckland, NZ : Puriri Press.
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