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Article: What is an ex-libris?

¿Qué es un ex-libris? - Les Tampons de Roser

What is an ex-libris?

An ex libris (Latin locution meaning "from among the books") is an ownership mark that is added to books to know to whom they belong. The ex libris is born from the need to know who the owner is in case of loss, forgetfulness or loan of the book. Although its essence is to be a distinctive sign of ownership and the right to use the book. An ex libris is much more than a mark of possession, it is a symbolic interpretation for the love of books, literature, reading and culture. Henri Bouchot in his treatise Les ex libris et les marques de possession du livre, wrote that the "ex-libris is the oldest mark of the sincere love of men for their literary possessions." And the fact is that ex-libris owners are usually great lovers of books and culture.

Ex-libris formats

Normally when we talk about exlibris we refer to the stamping of a seal on the first pages of a book. But the word ex libris encompasses any personal mark made on a book. Surely more than one has created his own ex libris and has not realized it. An ex-libris can be the handwritten inscription we make on the first pages of a book with the name of its owner or his signature. For example, the first ex-libris in history is considered to be a plate made of ceramic, which accompanied the papyri of the pharaoh Amenophis II (1408-1372 B.C.) and which is kept in the British Museum in London.

The basic elements of an ex-libris

Ex libris have two basic elements: the visual element and the textual element.

In the visual element we find a drawing, allegory or graphic representation that represents the owner of the book. This visual element can be very rich or very poor depending on its owner. For example, if it is a library exlibris, surely the visual element will only frame the textual element with the library information and it will be a geometric shape such as a circle or rectangle. On the other hand, if it is an individual person this can be very rich, the stamp can show an allegory with different elements that define the holder of the book collection.

The textual element that always appears is the name of the owner, this can be accompanied by the word ex libris or an equivalent such as "this book belongs to" but it is not mandatory. You can also find currencies or slogans that complement the visual element with the intention of showing the character of the owner.

What is a ex-libris?

How to make an ex-libris

Throughout history, ex-libris have been made from a wide variety of materials, from ceramic or wood to precious metals. Today, an ex-libris usually consists of a rubber stamp made of rubber, and a wooden or plastic handle that allows you to grip it to seal the book.

To make an ex-libris, first, you must decide what you want to appear in the stamp design. Once you have the idea. You can do a pencil sketch, use a graphic design program or tell us what you want.

Then contact me. I will create or adapt your design to transfer it to a rubber base and create your stamp. On this page you can order your personalized ex-libris.

How to use an ex-libris

There is no definitive way to use an ex-libris and there is no consensus on where to use it. It all depends on one's preferences.

The ex-libris is created to mark the ownership of books, so it makes sense to put them on books. But some people use them to mark other things that are their property, such as letters or records.

Some people stamp the ex-libris on the flyleaf of the book. Others stamp the ex-libris on the book's cover, others on the book's inside, and others mark the book on different pages.

There is also no definitive practice or custom as to when to mark. You can mark your book at the time of purchase or when you finish reading it, as a ritual, as a milestone. This is usually the case for the most avid readers. 

Now that you know all about ex-libris, maybe you will consider buying one. Visit my store and choose yours, or make your own personalized stamp.

Learn more about ex-libris

Origen de la palabra ex-libris - Les Tampons de Roser

Where does the word ex-libris come from?

Why are ex-libris called ex-libris? There are other words to talk about ex-libris. If you want to know more about this object loved by bibliophiles read this article.  

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