Bookplate, woodcut by Miro Parizek, Czechoslovakia, 1937, 91mm x 90mm, owner unknown. From the collection of Frederikshavn Digital Exlibris Museum Project.

Frederikshavn Digital Exlibris Museum Project: bookplate, woodcut by Miro Parizek, Czechoslovakia, 1937, 91mm x 90mm, owner unknown.

The “Digital Exlibris Museum Project” came to life in 2010 at the initiative of the Frederikshavn Kunstmuseum & Exlibrissamling, the only Scandinavian museum –and one of the few in Europe– dedicated to the art of bookplates or ex libris. The project aims at making one of the largest collection of its kind in the world –about 450.000 items– available to a larger audience (read more). The digitization of the collection is an ongoing process. It currently hosts almost 25,000 items, all viewable online in large format reproductions, along with detailed references. The website itself is being updated on a regular basis.

The bookplate displayed above is part of a larger collection of erotic bookplates, all classified under the category “Ex Erotica”.

The American Society of Bookplate Collectors & Designers has a rich collection of links to additional online resources pertaining to the art of ex libris. The site doesn’t list the significant John Starr Stewart Collection at the University of Illinois (1612 items), of which BibliOdyssey offers a curated selection. Finally, Confessions Bookplate Junkie is an ongoing blog by Lew Jaffe, who has been collecting bookplates “for well over thirty years”: it is well worth browsing through when looking for ex libris art.

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Should the word “ex libris” be written with a hyphen or not, or in a single word? In Latin, it is used as a phrase and, as such, it is clearly written in two words, without hyphenation (Wiktionary). In English, I have seen arguments for both two separated words, or for hyphenation (never it seems for the conflation into a single word “exlibris”, although this form is also commonly used). The Grammarly handbook states:

When using Latin terminology, a hyphen isn’t necessary. In cases such as this, ex also means out of.

It provides the following example:

You can tell it’s Prof. MacKendrick’s book because it has the ex libris bookplate inside the front cover.

The Oxford English Dictionary uses the hyphenated version. In the list of examples it refers to is the title of a journal from the 19 century: The Journal of the Ex-Libris Society. However, this journal’s title is actually written without a hyphen, as anyone can verify on Google Books: Journal of the Ex Libris Society, Volume 1. The entry at Oxford Dictionaries doesn’t use the hyphen.

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