How to make a bookplate -- tips and tricks

by tealmermaid

Tips on the design and creation of a custom bookplate for the books in your personal home library.

What is a bookplate? A bookplate is a stamp or printed label placed inside the front cover of the book to denote ownership. The name of the book's owner will normally be handwritten onto the bookplate. If you have ever peeked into a thrift store book to see a label reading "Ex Libris" (Latin, "from the library of"), you have found a bookplate.

Commission (or even buy) a bookplate

Back in the day, bookplates used to be designed and printed to order for a specific person. These would be printed from a woodcut or an engraved metal plate, generally monochromatic but occasionally hand-coloured.

Today custom bookplates can be ordered from an artist specializing in printing. Etsy has a wide selection of bookplate designs which can be special-ordered. If a basic design with your name written in is sufficient for your purposes, you might also buy a box of bookplates from Amazon.

Antiquarian Bookplates: 55 Bookplates to Personalize Your Library

These bookplates are styled for a more traditional design.

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Ivy Frames Bookplate Stickers

Simple, elegant bookplates featuring the traditional "Ex Libris" wording.

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Children's Bookplates and Labels

Cute, friendly bookplate designs intended for children's books.

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Presented in Honor of Bookplates (Pkg of 48)

Commemorative bookplates in honour of that book's donator. These are perfect for books donated in someone's memory.

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Make your own bookplate

Alternately, you can make your own bookplate right at home by one of two methods.

Use a rubber stamp to stamp a bookplate

Buy a rubber stamp with a book design. Then buy a box of tiny letter stamps to spell out "Ex Libris" or whatever you wish to use to denote that this is your book from your personal library. An ink pad filled with archival quality ink will be needed to mark the stamp design into your book. You might also choose to carve your own stamp design.

Create a bookplate design on your computer

If you are not reasonably skilled at carving, you can design your own bookplate with Adobe Photoshop, or even Paint. The design pictured here was created in a half-hour from an existing logo. This is not necessarily an economical method to create a bookplate as you will have to buy sheets of labels to print off your designs. 2" by 4" Avery labels are considered a standard size for bookplate labels if you create bookplates to print in that size.

A custom bookplate design
A custom bookplate design
Corel PaintShop Pro X9 Ultimate

Create a design to print on your home computer.

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Avery Ink Jet Clear Address Labels, 2" x 4", 250 per Pack (8663)

250 labels may not last long for a bibliophile, but it will get you started. These come in white as well if you prefer a coloured background.

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How to use a bookplate

Once you have created a suitable bookplate design, you are all set to start using it. A stamped design can be stamped into all the books in your personal library. If you have chosen the label route, peel labels off the backing to use as needed.

Labels are also helpful when acquiring secondhand books with a previous owner's name or bookplate inside the front cover. Simply place your label over any previous labels or names. Regardless of who had owned the book prior to you, it is yours now!

Collecting bookplates

Bookplates can be a fun and interesting part of the acquisition of secondhand books. Where are good places to acquire books? Try thrift stores, library sales, yard sales, books swaps with a local club or group, or through sites such as Bookcrossing (if you enjoy reading a book then passing it along) and Bookmooch. You might even ask older relatives if they have any books with bookplates that you can have.

Bookplate collector sites

Do you collect bookplates?

Updated: 03/06/2017, tealmermaid
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