Saturday 2 July 2011

Book Review - Ex Libris: The Art of Bookplates

ISBN 978-0-300-17163-1
Needless to say, anytime I succeed in getting someone else interested in Canadian bookplates I consider it a personal victory.  Not only does it open up a potential source of new ex libris for me, it also expands my group of friends interested in Canadian book culture and art.  Still, there are those who continue to ask me 'what's a bookplate?', and whenever this happens I am very careful not to nerd out on them like some U.S. Civil War re-enactor.

Recently I bought a smart little book that saves me a lot of the trouble of going into lengthy dorky explanations of my hobby.  Authored by Martin Hopkinson, formerly Curator of Prints at the Hunterian Art Gallery, University of Glasgow, Ex Libris: The Art of Bookplates, is a delightfully simple and very readable little introduction into our fascinating world.

Originally published by the British Museum Press earlier this year (and with a slightly different cover design), the edition illustrated here is from the Yale University Press.  At 111 pages including notes and index, its concise history survey is followed by one hundred full colour images of bookplates, each of which is accompanied by details of both the owner and the designer.  Necessarily selective, Hopkinson has nevertheless delivered a very attractive and fascinating precis of the history and evolution of ex libris.  I strongly recommend this book to both novices and veterans of this subject, not only for its attractiveness as a reference, but also for its utility in introducing others to the field. 

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