Designing your own bookplate 101
Designing your own bookplate can be incredibly satisfying! Below are some hints and tips on what to consider when making your own.
1. Finding inspiration
Some great places to find bookplate inspiration is on Pinterest or Flickr. The Pratt Institute Libraries Ex Libris collection contains over 1000 bookplates and is one of my favourite resources. There's also the Digital Ex Libris Museum which has more European bookplates and the New Australian Bookplate Society has an Instagram page posting bookplates too.
There's no hard and fast rule for size, I've seen bookplates go as large as A5 and others as small as a thumbnail. I try and design around 90 x 66mm rectangular since it's a good size for both paperback and hardbacks but you could experiment with different shapes like circles, hearts etc.
Bookplate for Dr. Rudolf Pribys -1980
3. Paper and printing
Usually bookplates are printed on matte or uncoated papers, between 90-150gsm in weight. Paper stock that is too thick won't sit flush inside a book. You also want to opt for good quality acid-free paper that won't deteriorate or turn yellow with time. Depending on ease of use you could choose from self-adhesive stock or non-adhesive.
Printing may be a matter of budget since there's so many ways to utilise modern or traditional printing techniques -- you could consider:
- standard inkjet printing straight onto self-adhesive paper
- specialist commercial printing with metallic inks or foiling
- carved rubber stamp
- lino, engraving and other print making techniques.
In any case, be sure to consider the longevity of each print.
If you're printing by yourself also consider sheet size -- how many bookplates can fit on the one printed sheet? Can you optimise the bookplate size so you can be more economical about how many you can fit on a sheet? Reducing paper waste may not be on everyone's mind but it's just something to consider!
A key part of any bookplate is adding your (or if you're designing for someone else - the owner's) name. While 'ex libris' (Latin for From the library of) is the most traditional there are a number of other ways to indicate ownership:
- Ex libris [owner's name]
- From the library of [owner's name]
- From the books of [owner's name]
- This book belongs to [owner's name]
- From the home library of [owner's name]
- This book is mine [owner's name]
- From among the books
- [owner's name] their/her/his book
A word of advice, if you're planning to put the text together digitally consider the look and feel of the font in relation to your imagery - the two should complement each other. If your artwork contains soft flowing lines try a font with a similar line weight. At times I'll find a font that looks perfect but against my illustration it could feel too stiff and perfect so I end up 'tracing' the font onto my design. As a result the font blends more with my illustrative style (below image).
Bookplates are highly personal objects that reflect the interests of their owner so definitely take some time to brainstorm what sort of imagery or symbols you'd like your bookplate to have! Some designs utilise a border to separate it more from the book's endpapers but like anything this is entirely up to you.
Bookplates can also play upon the owner's name. The below bookplate has a stork for Charles Albert Storke designed by Margaret Ely Webb.
I hope this was helpful! There's always space for more bookplates in the world.