The oldest ex libris

Germany


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he first known bookplates printed in this fashion are believed to have appeared in Germany. Some authors, stated, with some doubts, that the oldest, dated circa 1450, was the simple woodcut made on behalf of Johannes Hans Knabensperg - nicknamed «Igler»- who was the chaplain to the Schönstett family, bearing the legend «Hans Igler, das ein Igel kuss» [1].

However, more certain as to its authenticity as a bookplate, following F. Warnecke, is the one that belonged to a Cistercian Monk named Hilpbrand of Biberach with the Coat of Arms of the Brandenburg Family, dated at 1470-80. Amongst German painters who did not hesitate in drawing ex libris were H. Holbein and Albrecht Durer. The latter is known to have made at least five bookplates, among which those of Hieronimus Ebner (circa 1516) and of Bilibaldi Pirckheimer.

Notwithstanding, Gustav Amweg, in his study of the bookplates of the old bishopric of Bale, defends that the first ex libris in the modern sense of the word was the one used (as from 1464) by Guillame Grimaitre - a chaplain from Neuveville, Lausanne, then belonging to the bishopric of Bale, which in turn was then part of the Holy German Empire.

Recent discoveries


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n the late 1970's two more ex libris dated from the XVth and early XVIth centuries were found: those of the bishop Telamonius of Limberger (Switzerland) dated from 1498 and that of the Polish bishop Mathiedrevici Wladislaw, dated at 1516 [2].

Other European countries


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n Italy bookplates appeared only one century later, around 1548, with the exlibris of Cesare dei Conti Gambara, bishop of Tortona, followed by that of Nicolò Pelli a woodcut made in 1559 [3].

In Spain, the oldest bookplate is generally considered to be the woodcut made for Francisco de Tarafa, in 1553.

In France, the oldest bookplate is the one made in 1529 for Jean Bertaud de La Tourblanche representing the Apostle St. John, followed by that of the bishop of Autun, Charles d'Alboise , dated at 1574.

In England, the earliest bookplates date also from the XVIth century, the oldest being the gift plate of Sir Nicholas Bacon to the Cambridge University Library [4].

In Scotland the oldest bookplate seems to be that of James Riddell of Kinglas, dated 1639, but presumably from after the 1660's, according to Sir Illay Campbell of Succoth Bt. in his scholar paper - Scottish Heraldic Bookplates.

In Slovakia of rich traditions dating from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Ľ. Jankovič has dedicated a study to Heraldic bookplates and superlibros [5].

Portugal


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n Portugal, there are still doubts over a wood engraving bearing the Coat of Arms of the Bishop of Coimbra, Dom Afonso de Castelo Branco(1522-1615), as ever having been used as a bookplate [6].

If not, the oldest known Portuguese ex libris dates only from 1622. It is the one made by Jan Schorkens, a Flemish artist who worked in Madrid from 1618-1630 and accompanied King Philip III when he visited Lisbon, on behalf of the II Marquis of Castelo Rodrigo, Manuel de Moura Corte-Real [7].

Also from the XVIIth century, we have, amongst others, the ex libris of Manuel Severim de Faria (1583-1655) a cannon from the See of Évora - a writer and bibliophile - a copper engraving executed by A. Paulus.

Next comes the bookplate of Francisco de Melo e Torres (1620-1667), I Count da Ponte (1661) and I Marquis de Sande (cr. 1662) [8], probably made in France where the marquis was sent as Envoy and Ambassador of the King of Portugal and the bookplate of D. Francisco de Mascarenhas, I Count of Conculim (1662-1685), was engraved by João Gomes, circa 1680 [9].

And finally, the ex libris engraved by Clemente Bellinque, circa 1695, on behalf of Luís José de Vasconcelos e Azevedo (1671-1713), in three formats[10].


[1] Friedrich Warnecke, Die deutschen Bücherzeichen (Ex-libris) von ihrem Ursprunge bis zur Gegenwart, J. U. Stargardt, Berlin, 1890; Schreiber, Manuel de l'amateur de gravure sur bois, Berlin, 1892, dates it rather from 1470-80.
[2] Gustave Amweg, Les ex-libris de l'Ancien Evêché de Bâle, Neuchâtel, 1932, quoted by Gastone Cambin, in Ex Libris Araldici nella Svizzera Italiana, «Guida Araldica Svizzera», Fascº VI, Società Svizzera di Araldica, Lugano, 1978, p. 13;
[3] Achille Bertarelli& D. H. Prior, Gli Ex-libris Italiani, Hoepli, Milano, 1902; Gianni Mantero, in Catalogo della Mostra dell'Exlibris Ligure, Banco di Chiavari e della Riviera Ligure, Genova, 1975, p. 12;
[4] Castle Egerton, English Bookplates, G. Bell & Sons, London, 1892; Peter Summers, FSA, FHS, «Bookplates», in A New Dictionary of Heraldry, (edited by Stephen Friar), Alphabooks, London, 1987, p. 64-68;
[5] Ľ. Jankovič, Armorial Exlibrises and Superexlibrises in Slovakia, in Heraldika Na Slovensku / Heraldry In Slovakia, Martin, SGHS 1997tin, SGHS 1997
[6] Fausto Moreira Rato, Manual de Ex-Librística, subsídios para a história e arte dos ex-líbris, Imprensa Nacional-Casa da Moeda, Lisboa, 1976, p. 30-31; cf. «A ARTE DO EX-LIBRIS», vol. XV. # 157; Sérgio Avelar Duarte, Ex-Líbris Portugueses Heráldicos, Liv. Civilização Editora, Porto, 1990;
[7] Moreira Rato, ibidem, pp. 32; Avelar Duarte, ibidem, p. 360;
[8] Moreira Rato, ibidem, pp. 32-36; Avelar Duarte, ibidem, p. 159;
[9] Avelar Duarte, ibidem, p. 158, # 449; João Gomes also engraved the bookplates of Dom João de Melo (1624-1704), bishop of Coimbra and Manuel Pereira de Melo (?-1675), Dean of St. Paul's College at Coimbra University (cf. Moreira Rato, ibidem, p. 36;
[10] Moreira Rato, ibidem, pp. 34; Avelar Duarte, ibidem, p. 326-328, # 916- 918;

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