Ex Libris

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Not all the books we buy are new, and when we acquire antiquarian copies we can sometimes see from the bookplate who previously owned the book. This was the case with four volumes which recently crossed my desk in quick succession, all with beautiful and interesting bookplates:

The first one is the bookplate of Alexander Ostrowski (1893-1986). He was born in Kiev, studied in Germany and was then Professor of Mathematics at Basel – this fits with the provenance of the book containing this bookplate which was bought from a second-hand bookseller in Basel.  Using dividers to represent a mathematician had been done before – see William Blake’s print of Newton, inspiration for Paolozzi’s sculpture at the British Library. I don’t know who the artist of the bookplate was but I particularly like the way the worm is depicted descending from the dividers and eating its way through the volumes at the bottom. Continue reading

A Benedictine bookplate designer

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. Continue reading