Attendees at the Eirene Mort bookplate collection event

Unveiling the Eirene Mort Bookplate Collection

Jessica Le

 On the 24th August, bookplate aficionados gathered in the reading room of the new Library at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. The occasion? The much-anticipated launch of the digitised Eirene Mort Bookplate Collection, a treasure trove of exquisitely designed bookplates showcasing the rich history of Australian and international bookplate collecting. This event was highlighted by guest speakers who shed light on the history of bookplate collecting in Australia and the remarkable life and work of Eirene Mort, the collector behind the 1000+ bookplates.

The History of Bookplate Collecting in Australia

Mark Ferson, President of the New Australian Bookplate Society, traced the fascinating history of this niche hobby in Australia. Bookplate collecting involves the acquisition and appreciation of bookplates – personalised labels placed inside books to identify their owner. This event coincided with the centenary of the Ex Libris Society in Australia, first founded in 1923 with Eirene Mort as treasurer.  

A Personal Connection: Bronwyn Vost's Family Ties

Bronwyn Vost, a member of the current New Australian Bookplate Society had a relative who was an original member of the Ex Libris society. She presented original documents and anecdotes that offered a glimpse into how bookplate enthusiasts would exchange bookplates - offering a signed bookplate for another, or two etchings for one bookplate, almost like a stock exchange of bookplates.

Unveiling Eirene Mort's Legacy

Pamela Lane has researched Eirene Mort extensively and did a short presentation on Eirene's remarkable life and work through her various dwellings in London and NSW, friendships and work as a "new woman" in the start of the 20th century. 

Digitising the Collection: Jessica Le's Insights

In today's digital age, accessibility is key, and Jessica Le shed light on the digitisation process of the Eirene Mort Bookplate Collection. She explained how the collection was painstakingly digitised to ensure that bookplate enthusiasts worldwide could access and appreciate these exquisite works of art online. Her presentation also highlighted the ease with which the collection could be explored using Flickr, making it a valuable resource for scholars, researchers, and art lovers alike.

A Tactile Experience: Nibbles and Original Binders

The evening wasn't just about presentations; attendees were treated to nibbles and a unique opportunity to explore the original bookplate binders. The original collection was housed loosely in boxes before the society had it conserved in binders - this allows for it to be flicked through and also allows for the opportunity to display it in exhibitions in the future. 

If you'd like to browse the digitised collection see here.

Above pic: Mark Ferson (standing) Clockwise: Jessica Le, Bronwyn Vost, Lea Simpson, Jurgen. From left downwards: Pamela Lane, Emma Ngu, Ronald Cardwell.


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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