n the early 50's of the last century, through the impulse and efforts of the great Italian collector – Ingº Gianni Mantero (1897-1985) [i] and of then the Chairman of B.N.E.L. - Bianco e Nero Ex Libris, the Italian Society of Bookplate Artists and Collectors, founded in 1946, took place the first International Ex Libris Congress [ii].
The aim of these events, which were to take place regularly, was to gather graphic artists, collectors and bookplate lovers enabling not only personal contacts, the exchange of bookplates and experiences and above all to develop a bond of friendship that pre-existed in some cases only through mail contacts [iii].
Uniting people with a common interest or passion – the Ex Libris -, helping to put aside or to shorten differences based on national frontiers and on cultural or geographical barriers and increasing cooperation and collaboration between National Associations and to enable a dialogue between the Graphic Artists that create and execute bookplates and those who commission and collect, were the objectives that presided over the organization of International Ex Libris Meetings which were then rather pompously called - Congresses.
Thus, the first International Ex Libris Congress took place in 1953, in Austria, at Kufstein, followed by the Lugano Congress in Switzerland in 1954, the one at Antwerp (Holland) in 1955, the Frankfurt Congress in 1956, Amsterdam in 1957, Barcelona in 1958, Vienna (Austria) in 1960, Leipzig in 1961, Paris in 1962, Krakow (Poland) in 1964 and Hamburg (1966).
he success experienced by these International Meetings and the rising number of attendants, arose in the minds of some well established and reputed bookplate collectors [iv] the idea of going one step further through the creation of an international organization which would bring together national Bookplate Societies, in order to better promote ex libris and obtaining support at a level that was difficult to obtain at a national level [v].
Thus, during the Hamburg Congress hold in 1966 was born the F.I.S.A.E. - International Federation of the Bookplate Amateurs and Associations with 15 founding European Bookplate Societies [vi], including the Associação Portuguesa de Ex-Líbris (APEL), from Porto, which had been in activity since 1956.
The elected Committee was formed by: President- Ing. Gianni Mantero (Italy) - paying tribute to his efforts in international relations and good-will, Vice-Presidents - Dr. G. Kreyenberg (Hamburg) and Dr.Tadeuz Przypkoski (Poland), secretary - Carlo Chiesa (Lugano, Switzerland) and treasurer - Evaristo Navarra, from Como, Italy.
The Congress that followed, at Como, Italy, in 1968, was already held under the auspices of FISAE presided by Ingº Gianni Mantero – a long time collector and a great enthusiast of the Congresses and FISAE.
On the occasion, the organizing committee published for the first time a large and well-illustrated volume called «Gli Artisti dell’Ex Libris = Bookplate Artists» which set the tune for the upcoming Congresses [vii].
The next FISAE Congresses took place at Budapest, Hungary in 1970, Helsingör - Denmark, 1972, Bled -, Slovenia, 1974, Lisboa - Portugal in 1976, Lugano – Switzerland in 1978, Linz - Austria in 1980, Oxford – United Kingdom in 1982, Weimar – Germany in 1984, Utrecht - The Netherlands in 1986, Frederikshavn - Denmark, 1988, Mönchengladbach – Germany in 1990,in Sapporo – Japan in 1992,Milano – Italy, in 1994, Chrudim - Czech Republic, in 1996, St. Petersburg - Russia, in 1998, at Boston - (USA) in 2000 [viii] and in Frederikshavn - Denmark in 2002 [ix].
Steadily, other Associations over the years submitted their application to become FISAE’s members: Slovenia, Great Britain, the USA, Finland and Canada, in the 1970’s; Japan, China, Russia, Luxemburg, Italy, and Israel, in the 1980’s; Estonia, Spain (ACE),Poland (KME), Lithuania, Ukraine and Yugoslavia in the 1990’s [x].
Entering the new Millennium, we saw the admission of the first Societies from the Middle East – Turkey, and from South America – Mexico and Argentina; one more from Asia – China (Taiwan) and the second, very recent Bookplate Society of Andaluzia [xi], from Spain. The latter were admitted in the last Congress, in 2002.
However, more than 37 years after the foundation of FISAE it is time to make an evaluation of what it has accomplished. Not much, I’m afraid to say, certainly because it was born without having the basic means to live as an autonomous body: no permanent organization and staff and no funds from its members or, from anywhere else, for that matter.
The more conscious of this problem went to the point of repeatedly proposing at FISAE’s General Assemblies meetings at successive Congresses, the creation of a permanent Secretariat [xii] but the proposals were either not voted or carried out or, else, met with general ambiguity from the various Delegations.
At the XVII Congress of Lugano in 1978 [xiii] though, and taking everybody by surprise [xiv], similar proposals were, after discussion, approved by the Delegates present. Following this, a motion was also approved appointing Mr. Klaus Rodel - the well-known collector and Publisher from Denmark [xv], as Permanent Secretary with the suggestion that the Magazine – Exlibristen – he edited would become the official publication of FISAE [xvi]. Mr. Rodel accepted the appointment with the condition that national Societies would help and cooperate in his assigned duties [xvii].
Nevertheless, lately, and for some years now, FISAE’s, now called, Executive Secretary has been the reputed collector and famed author - Professor William E. Butler.
On the other hand, to the credit of FISAE, we can point out the recent approval of a reviewed version of the Technical Symbols to be used by collectors and artists, at the XXIX Congress held in 2002, based on a draft document prepared by a Commission which had been earlier on duly appointed [xviii].
Also coming up as a resolution approved at the 2002 Congress in Denmark, the F.I.S.A.E. 1st International CGD Ex-libris Competition 2004 (see results) was achieved and the II International CGD Ex-Libris Competition - 2006 has been set up, paying tribute to the new technologies. In a typical rather conservative world this resolution deserves but a stunning applause.
And last, but not the least, FISAE has finally entered the WWW Age with its own web site after having had a page at the Ankara Ex Libris Society web site which is a promising start in this fith year of the New Millennium. Apparently, this is due to the efforts of M. Benoit Junod whom we wish to warmly congratulate.
[i] Anyone who had the privilege of having met Ingº Gianni Mantero was immediately attracted by his great sympathy, generosity and culture, always ready to help others with a word of stimulus. See, amongst others, Aulo-Gélio Godinho, Gianni Mantero – In memoriam, in «A Arte do Ex-Líbris», vol. XIV, nº 107, Porto, 1986, pp. 117-126, Mota Miranda’s tribute to Gianni Mantero, in Ex-libris enciclopédia bio-bibliográfica da arte do ex-libris contemporâneo, Vol. 3, Porto, 1985; and Carlo Chiesa & Ernesto Guffanti, In Memoriam», 1985.
[ii] Dott. Ing. Gianni Mantero, in the early 1950’s wrote an article in an Austrian magazine advocating the organization of periodical meetings of bookplate lovers from all countries, in order to promote personal acquaintance and the exchange of ex libris, thus helping to drop national barriers.
[iii] Cf. Mantero, Gianni, Les Congrés Internationaux d'Ex Libris, 1953-1966, ed. FISAE, Jedrzejow, 1967.
[iv] Special mention should be made to some of the most enthusiasts of the idea: Ingº Gianni Mantero (Italy), Albert Collart (Belgium), Prince Tadeuz Przypkoski (Poland), Mme. Germaine Meyer-Noirel (France), Carlo Chiesa (Ticino, Switzerland) and Prof. Josef Liesler (Czechoslovakia) whose efforts made possible the creation of FISAE.
[v] Mantero, Gianni, Catalogo della Mostra dell'Exlibris Ligure, Banco di Chiavari e della Riviera Ligure, Genova, 1975
[vii] Under the auspices of FISAE, 7 Volumes were published till 1984. Volumes III-VII were edited by the Portuguese collector and bookplate lover Artur Mário da Mota Miranda, to whose tireless activity and good-will, the ex libris movement is much in debt. Mota Miranda was also for many years the Chairman of the Portuguese Bookplate Association and the editor of its prestigious quarterly Bulletin the «The Art of the Ex Libris», published from 1956-1990. In the various volumes published many international graphic artists of the bookplate, mainly from Eastern Europe were made known to a large number of ex libris lovers world-wide and most of the more relevant activists in the field from all over gave their collaboration writing in the Bulletin. From 1984 onwards the exquisite volume edited in the name of FISAE was not published anymore even when Congresses took place in countries where ex libris activity is highly developed!
[viii] The U.S.A. after many years of perseverance and goodwill from a couple of enthusiasts finally achieved the organization of the first FISAE Congress ever to take place in the Americas. Thanks to the efforts of a Committee presided by Mr. James Keenan, from Cambridge, Massachusetts, the XVIII Congress was a stunning success and did much to promote ex libris image in the United States.
[ix] For a short and interesting report on the last Congress, please see the article published by Giancarlo Nicoli from Italy at his excellent website http://www.artifexlibris.com/blocknotesengarchive20020924.htm. One of the negative aspects of the 2002 Congress in Denmark was the fact that the only languages adopted were German and Danish, in a clear violation of FISAE Statutes, which adopts the principle of three languages, including English.
[xi] This Society has recently launched an excellent website with an English version – URL at http://www.geocities.com/andaluzadexlibristas/index.htm, having as Webmaster Mr. Josep Manzano from Barcelona.
[xii] Namely, at the G.A. of the XVI FISAE Congress which took place in Lisbon in 1976.
[xiii] The author attended this memorable Congress and was present at the Meeting of FISAE’s G. A. as a member of the Portuguese Delegation.
[xiv] After the Lisbon Congress where the matter had been discussed, it seemed obvious that the issue would be dropped forever from the Agenda of future Congresses.
[xv] To Mr. Klaus Rodel all bookplate amateurs are grateful for his relevant contribution to Ex Libris Bibliography both as an editor, publisher and author. At present, Mr. Klaus Rodel is the Chairman of the Danish Ex Libris Society and was the President of FISAE in 2000-2002 and the organizer of the XXIX Congress held at Frederikshavn.
[xvi] In 1976, Mota Miranda reported (in «A Arte do Ex-Líbris», vol. X, # 74, p. 60) that a new quarterly magazine had recently appeared in Denmark – Exlibris-Revue – under the direction of Mr. Klaus Rodel and being an unofficial Bulletin of FISAE, with two numbers published.
[xvii] Reported by Aulo-Gélio S. Godinho, O XVII Congresso Internacional de Ex-Líbris, in «A Arte do Ex-Líbris», A.P.E.L., vol. XI, nº 84, Porto, 1978, p. 146. We ignore to what extent this request was fulfilled in subsequent years!
[xviii] The Commission was formed by: M. Benoit Junod, from Geneva, Switzerland, a great collector and enthusiast from whom much is expected still