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state library of queensland
Australian Library of Art

Bookplates or Ex Libris?

By Anne Scheu | 20 July 2012

In Little Treasures: bookplates (2008) published by the National Library of Australia (State Library of Queensland Call number: RBHMON NAT) bookplates are described as…"the little slips of paper are much more than just a mark of book ownership. For bibliophiles who attach them to their beloved books, bookplates are indicators of the owner's personality, profession or artistic taste."

Also called Ex Libris (from the Latin, literally meaning "from the books"), bookplates were first used in 15th century Germany and were created for the upper classes and featured their family crests. These armorial bookplates were gradually replaced in the twentieth century by pictorial bookplates that reflected the interests and profession of the owner.

Of the more than 2,000 bookplates in the Australian Library of Art, a significant number were donated by Gold Coast and Sydney businessman, art collector and arts patron Mr Patrick Corrigan AM, who commissioned Australian artists to create personal bookplates for himself and the members of his family – wife, Barbara and children Kylie, Joel, Ryan and David.

The State Library's collection includes many original works of art created as the basis of bookplate designs as well as the bookplates themselves. The Australian Library of Art Showcase on Level 4 is currently displaying four of the Pat Corrigan bookplates alongside the original works of art from which they were made by artists Joel Elenberg, Brett Whiteley, James Willebrandt and John Coburn.

Other Australian artists commissioned to design personal bookplates for the Corrigan family include Pixie O'Harris, Peter Hickey, Alun Leach-Jones, David Van Nunen, Irena Sibley, Rubery Bennett, Lloyd Rees, Blake Twigden, David Preston, Peter Chapman, Peter Kingston, Earle Backen and Brian Dunlop.

Proudly supported by The Siganto Foundation, the ALA Showcase is open for viewing daily from 10:00am to 5:00pm. The display of artists' bookplates complements monographs from the History and Art of the Book Collection and Art Research collection of the James Hardie Library of Australian Fine Arts and artists' books. The bookplates will remain in the Showcase until September.

More information about bookplates is available through the documentation of Ex Libris, an exhibition of bookplates from the State Library collection held in 2007-2008.

The links provide information on the early development of bookplates, two significant Australian bookplate artists:

  • Adrian Feint (1894-1971)
  • George David Perrottet (1890-1971)

...and information about bookplate printing techniques; clubs and societies and suggestions for further reading on the subject.


The Australian Library of Art recently received a special copy of the New Australian Bookplate Society directory of members 2011. Members were asked to contribute examples of their original bookplates to be added to the special edition of the Directory. Fourteen members responded - the Australian Library of Art contributing the James Hardie Library bookplate, designed by Peter Chapman and the University of Queensland Library - the Archdeacon Hayes Collection bookplate.

Related content

Anne-Marie van de Ven, curator of the Corrigan Bookplate collection at the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney referred to that bookplate collection as being "of special significance…as many of the artists invited to create the plates were not associated with bookplates or commissioned works."  2009

For more information on the Powerhouse Museum collection and images relating to the commissioned bookplate designs, see Objects from the collection of the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney.


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