Book library stamp inside a book with vintage elements surrounding it.

On book provenance and bookplates

Jessica Le

There's something I haven't talked much about here that's pretty integral to the use of bookplates and that's book provenance. Provenance is a record of ownership and in this case it can extend to how a book has changed ownership or evidence of how readers have interacted with a book through history. It allows us insight into their lives through inscriptions, marginalia, annotations and their ownership through bookplates or stamps and signatures.  

Courtney ( posted this gorgeous picture and in her caption said how she was using her stamp to stamp books that were going to free little libraries. I thought this was a great take on using bookplates by purposely putting books out there with your name for people to see and ponder about the previous owner. Book provenance usually deals with historic collections of famous owners/libraries -- but to me it's still interesting to see who the previous owner of a book is, even if it isn't anyone of great importance. 

In this scenario, a question I haven't dared ask is do bookplates deface a book? A book purist would say so but to me, adding a bookplate gives a book character and a sense of history. My books are for my own benefit so I don't consider anything I do to them to be diminishing their value -- as a matter of fact it enhances their value to me. The act of adding a bookplate is a statement declaring such a book is coveted enough and has so much weight in my life that it 'deserves' a bookplate -- and if someone down the line gets a hold of my book that's their own good luck to have my bookplate. 

Anyways I could ramble on about this for ages but let me know what you think about marginalia/inscriptions/bookplates in books!



Jessica Le is the founder of Fleur & Fable. She writes about bookplates and is a member of The New Australian Bookplate Society.

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