The ancient art of Ex Libris

Ex Libris (bookplates) has existed since approximately the invention of printing in the 15th century. In early books, handwritten marks of the owner can often be found. These often consisted of a handpainted coat of arms with or without the name of the bookowner.

In Southern Germany a printer developed the printed Ex Libris around 1480 which was the first form of an owners mark on a book. Well known artists like Albrecht Dürer and Lucas Cranach created the first Ex Libris as woodcuts.

Nearly every early Ex Libris marking was a coat of arms. Later there could also be written words, initials or the name of the bookowner and possibly even a motto or a curse against bookthieves. Gradually Ex Libris markings designs began to have more variety. The first portrait Ex Libris appeared in the 18th century. Ex Libris designs could also consist of images that reflect a description of the profession or interests of the bookowner without any heraldic decoration whatsoever.

Ex Libris collectors are spread all over the world and some have amassed very large collections. The Frederikshavn Kunstmuseum in Danmark www.frederikshavnkunstmuseum.dk holds the largest Ex Libris collection of Europe with approx. 400.000 pieces. From time to time the Frederikshavn Kunstmuseum will show thematic Ex Libris exhibitions.

The Exlibrisstudio has a small collection of historic, owl themed Ex Libris pieces. You can find them in our historic Ex Libris area.

    Copyright . Daniela Hartl-Heisan . The Owlstudio . The Exlibrisstudio