My fondness for heraldry and history is no secret, nor is my affinity for art and family tradition. I became familiar with the tradition of bookplates not all that long ago, and especially armorial bookplates. Combining my interests in literature, history, heraldry, and art, I became an immediate fan. Also known as Ex Libris (Latin for “From the library of…”) Most of the available examples of armorial bookplates are from the Victorian era – coinciding with the resurgence in interest in family histories and heraldry, and running parallel with the British interests in Scottish clans, tartans, and families. Because of this popular resurgence, while an existing bookplate from this era would be undoubtedly from the mid 19th century, it may be tricky to determine whether or not the person it was made for was truly a descendant of the original armiger and allowed to bear those arms themselves. Some others, however, are truly unique and combine differenced or quartered arms with a mother’s family or a grandparent, which even if not officially on the roll of arms, makes for a very interesting and personal armorial insignia.
Others, coming from members of the peerage, or well known famous persons, are harder to find, but easier to verify as being true heraldic achievements. There are also some beautiful armorials coming from the Georgian and Jacobean eras, as well as from the early 1900’s, before the tradition fell out of practice.
Armorial bookplates are quite a unique, interesting, and economical way to start a historical or artistic collection, and I myself have mad a few forays into the world of heraldic plates to appreciate the history, artwork, and tradition behind it, and to see where it might lead.
More info can be found here: Bookplates on Wikipedia
And here: at the Bookplate Society