Ex Libris – Australian Bookplate Design Award, 2016

The Best Australian Bookplate Design 2015_Geoffrey RicardoOn the 10th March in the Gallery on Sturt in Ballarat, Victoria, the 5th Biennial Australian Bookplate Design Award and Exhibition will be launched and everyone will be busy judging a book by what appears on its inside cover; the bookplate.

250 bookplates entered in the competition have been donated to The Geoffrey Blainey Research Centre at Federation University Australia in Ballarat in regional Victoria, with a 2nd set of 250 bookplates on display and available to purchase at the gallery. This intriguing exhibition of little ‘gems’ will run in conjunction with the Ballarat Antique & Vintage Fair 12-14 March.

Established by the Keith Wingrove Memorial Trust in celebration of the time-honoured art form of creating personalised bookplates, the award is the richest of its kind in Australia attracting both national and international interest with a $15,000 prize pool..

A range of categories includes Best Australian, Best International, Best Etched, and Best Relief and to encourage students, awards are offered at Primary, Secondary and Tertiary levels. Hard not be captivated or have your curiosity aroused by the winning Kangaroo design by Geoffrey Ricardo in 2015.


Best Australian Primary Student Design 2015, Jeremy Thorpe

Cute is only the half of it!

Recording our ownership of books and documents has been a fashionable pastime since ancient Egypt. What you may very well say, but it has.

It seems we have always liked to make our mark on the world in many different forms, in the hopes that someone may in the far off future find it and discover something about the original owner’s humanity.

First known in Germany during the 15th century alongside the advent of more widespread printing, a bookplate impressed with an image to represent its owner, in the first instance Brother Hildebrand Brandenburg.

His was marked with a shield of arms supported by an angel. From that time onward modern men of status and means sought to mark ownership of their books, which cost a great deal of money.

Ex Libris means from the collection or library of.

Over the centuries as everyone began to realise ‘knowledge is power’ and we began collecting great libraries of books, bookplates became an essential in an effort to have books that were lent by an owner, returned.

They also became a mark of distinction, with family crests and badges, commonly used followed by Greek and Latin Motto’s and in time, amusing caricatures.

Durer Bookplate

Albrecht Dürer: Bookplate for Willibald Pirckheimer c1502, courtesy National Gallery of Victoria, Felton Bequest 1956

When artists also became involved, and the ‘art of the bookplate’ was born.

During the first decade of the sixteenth century German painter and engraver Albrecht Durer (1471-1528) gained the reputation of being the artist of ‘everyman’ and he engraved at least six bookplates 1503-1516, along with fellow artists Hans Holbein, and Lucas Cranach in the same era.

During the eighteenth century with the advent of even bigger libraries than ever before, bookplates gained a huge following.

Well-known craftsmen in England such as master cabinetmaker Thomas Chippendale engraved a couple of examples, with potter Thomas Wedgwood, neo classical architect Robert Adam and other designers becoming involved.

During the 19th century competition rose up to see who would produce the best designs. In England, Europe and America and bookplate societies sprang up all over the place.

In England Aubrey Vincent Beardsley became a darling of society, for a brief period, shocking society with drawings made at night by candlelight.

He produced some great bookplates highly sought after today by collectors.

Today some 50 ‘national’ bookplate societies still exist, organising world wide get togethers every two years.

The Best Tertiary Bookplate Design 2015_Janie Frith

Best Tertiary Bookplate Design 2015, Janie Firth

In Australia bookplates became hugely popular during the 1920’s and 30’s.

Norman Lindsay for Keith Wingrove_1

Norman Lindsay for Keith Wingrove

Artists such as Sydney Long, Lionel Lindsay and Pixie O’Harris became involved, producing pictorial plates of great charm.

The Australian Bookplate Society wasn’t formed until 1923.

By this time collecting was becoming a huge hobby, with people buying books just for their bookplates.

Certainly during the 1950’s there was a renewed interest in collecting bookplates in Australia when I was growing up and they were quite the thing.

Must say I couldn’t wait to have my own, which I did when my library contained over 7000 books, being lent out to students and many of which I had to disperse recently.

Often wonder who has them now… they certainly should know who the book once belonged to!

The Australian Bookplate Design Award Exhibition promises to be a welcome addition to the ‘golden’ Ballarat scene in a busy week for art and antiques, which will be set against a stunning heritage backdrop.

Now can I justify a few days out in the country?

Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2016


Lionel Lindsay for Prime Minister Sir Robert Menzies

The Australian Bookplate Design Award

Thursday 10 March – 7 April, 2016
Gallery on Sturt
Ballarat, Victoria

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