Saturday, 13 November 2010

A Bookplate by C. W. Sherbourn

This is one of the finest bookplates that I own. It is a large (154 x 91mm) plate engraved on copper by Charles William Sherbourn, undoubtedly the greatest engraver of his time. It is dated 1893 in the plate and signed by the artist in pencil.

It was engraved for the Burlington Fine Arts Library and it truly magnificent. Not only is it staggering to behold in its entirety, it also repays close attention through a lens. Here is a detail. Click on the image to enlarge it.

I have a small number of bookplates engraved by Sherbourn. He produced about 350 of them, mainly between 1881 and 1912, and they are regarded as being his finest achievement. He was also a regular exhibitor at the Royal Academy and was a founder member of the Society of Painter-Etchers.

Here is a smaller plate for Constance Penn of Taverham Hall, Norwich, dating from 1900. The detail is quite remarkable, especially the tiny musical score. The lettering on the scroll in the design is also very fine.

Monday, 18 February 2008

My Own Bookplate (1)

I have two bookplates. The one that I normally used was commissioned from Simon Brett by my wife for my fiftieth birthday.

Simon is a great engraver and anyone who has seen the books about his ex-libris will know that he has produced some exceptional plates, several of which I have in my collection. Here is my plate:
I thought that I would describe and explain the significance of the different elements of the design. Most obviously, the block, sandbag and gravers refer to my work as a wood engraver. The gravers are particularly pleasing, almost like a small school of fish swimming through the composition. The sandbag is solid and sculptured by the stippled marks.

In the right foreground is an ammonite. Fossils were a passionate childhood interest and my first degree was in Geology.

Music has always been, and remains, an important part of my life. My instrument is the mandolin and, again, Simon has captured the difficult shape extremely well.

Finally, the skull. This might seem a strange element but it has its significance to me. I love memento mori, often included in paintings and carved onto gravestones. The engraving is superb. The skull as a symbol has often appeared in association with The Grateful Dead and I have enjoyed their mixture of country, blues and improvisation for well over thirty years now.

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Welcome - My First Bookplate

Welcome to my exlibris/bookplate blog.

At the moment, much of my life seems to revolve around bookplates, often known as "ex libris". Not only do I have a modest collection of them but I also earn a living by creating them. This blog will explore both collection and my own work.

I remember acquiring my first bookplate very clearly. I used to visit a second-hand bookseller most weekends to look over the stock. One Saturday, she told me that she had acquired several books from the library of Ernest Shackleton, the explorer, and that they contained his bookplate. They were not expensive and so I purchased one "An Outline Sketch Of American Literature" by Henry A Beers, published by the Chautauqua Press of New York in 1887, so this copy was probably second hand when Shackleton acquired it.

The bookplate itself is actually no more than a printed book label and it seemed fitting to me that an explorer who endured hardships would have something simple and straightforward to paste into his books. I like to think that this small volume accompanied the great man on his travels but this is rather unlikely.

Here then is my first bookplate: