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In the Library: Marks of Ownership

January 9 – April 20, 2012
East Building, Study Center Library

Unkown artist, Bookplate of C. J. Peacock in Charles Kelsall, Classical excursion from Rome to Arpino, Geneva, 1820, Gift of the Circle of the National Gallery of Art

This exhibition is no longer on view at the National Gallery.

Overview: Once the introduction of movable type allowed the printing of exact copies, book owners needed a way to identify the works in their possession. Stamps, handwritten notes, and special bindings with embossed coats of arms were all used, but it was the bookplate, introduced around the time of Gutenberg's press, that became the most popular means of marking ownership. Early styles of bookplates, or Ex Libris (From the Library) emblems, ranged from simple initials to ornamented heraldic plates; from designs reflecting an owner's personal interests to warnings against theft or damage; and from pastoral scenes to stacks of books. This selection from the National Gallery of Art Library's rare book collection showcased how collectors over the centuries marked their books, with an emphasis on highly artistic examples of bookplates from the 19th and 20th centuries.