The origins of the European exlibris or bookplate lie in the woodblock prints of fifteenth-century Germany, while the first known British bookplate records the gift of books by Sir Nicholas Bacon to Cambridge University Library in 1574. The Library’s collections contain many thousands of diverse examples, intended as a record of ownership but ideally also a sign of the personality and tastes of the user and the artistic abilities of the designer and printer. Sadly a very small proportion of the Library’s holdings are recorded on Newton and a few thousand only on a card index kept in the Rare Books Room.
A recent addition to the Library is a volume depicting bookplates made by the Benedictine monk Father Oriol Maria Diví, who is regarded as a Catalan master in the art of woodblock printing. Only 200 copies of this volume were produced. (F201.a.8.1)
When I was a child, Esplugues, my home town, was agricultural. The seasons of the year displayed themselves in all magnificence. The fields, vineyards, olive trees, wheat, poppies … The robins and swallows … The trees stripped bare and then dressed themselves again. Everything made my heart pounce … my bookplate prints remind me of all this.
Father Oriol entered the Benedictine community as a novice on July 3rd 1956, and given his great aptitude for drawing, he was enrolled at the Conservatorio de las Artes del Libro, where he learnt the art of engraving under Antoni Ollé Pinell. He travelled extensively in Europe in 1969 and 1970, and during this period established many contacts with artists and collectors of bookplates.
This volume gathers together and reproduces chronologically some 572 bookplates made by Father Oriol between 1960 and 2011, 499 of them being woodcuts from boxwood. 25 bookplates printed from the original wooden blocks are also inserted. In addition there are three short introductory essays – one on Father Oriol, another on the art of the bookplate and a third on xylography – in Catalan with translations in Spanish, English, German and Italian.
Brian Jenkins and David Lowe