I own many old books and lots of them have bookplates sitting on their fly-leaf, like the shadows of their former owners. In 1989, inspired by the idea of a medium that appealed to me as much as a bibliophile as an artist, I drew my first bookplate as a gift for a friend. Since then I have made many more, and can now count two professors and a Knight amongst the private commissions, a public one for a Holocaust memorial library, and the Library of University College, Oxford.
In all of these I have worked in the belief that a bookplate is a sort of threshold, blurring the boundary between life and art, the art being, in this case, literature. I think that it should, in some way, be both a biographical depiction and personal expression with relevant symbolism developed for each particular piece. The plates are thus created bespoke for each client, to not only enhance their reading experience, but also hopefully including the appreciation of the outside world. To a certain extent the personal symbolism may be lost on the casual observer, but I hope the plates still remain a vibrant work in their own right.
The pictorial language is a partly of my own invention, as well as a compound of many influences, some of which have been with me a long time. A boyhood interest in heraldry is still very much alive and well, as is a slightly later discovery of the Symbolist artists of the late nineteenth century.
The seeds for the ex libris image are planted from a dialogue with the client, with the resulting collection of ideas, motifs and themes growing into the final plate design. The style of the lettering for the text and its layout are also given equal consideration in this process.
My plate designs are drawn in ink by mixed pen and brush work. It gives me great satisfaction that bookplates offer me an avenue for the pursuit of pen and ink work, as places to use the medium are limited, and it is a medium I hold dear. The finished designs are scanned and printed digitally onto a ready-gummed quality paper. Using a computer allows some cleaning up of the image to make it reproduce as close to the original intention as possible, however the computer is not used to generate the design; they are all still hand-drawn images. I always provide the original (signed) hand-drawn artwork as part of the commission, further adding to its uniqueness.
As the digital print process improves even further, I have utilised another of my pursuits and now create bookplates with a trompe l’œil element.
The service I offer is for bespoke “Ex Libris” Bookplates designed, drawn and printed (ready gummed) to order. Using digital reproduction, I am aiming to cater for small to medium libraries (250 – low thousand books) that require something between the limited-edition, hand-pulled collector’s item and the commercially available, mass-produced “blank name” plates. It is still a unique and client specific artwork, but the plates are more utilitarian.
These bookplates are provided on a choice of papers:
- Archival-quality, acid-free gummed paper 70 gsm (this is the default choice, unless another paper is specifically requested);
- I can source quality ready-to-stick self-adhesive “peel-back” 100 gsm cartridge paper. The paper and ink are acid-free and the glue should be too. I have used this on my own plates since 1997 with no ill effects. However, if you are going to put plates in antiquarian books, please go for the first option;
- Any other paper sourced on request.
The original artwork is included in the price, as it is designed for you. The artwork will be a signed, original pen and ink drawing approximately one and a half times the size of the chosen plate.
Sets of between 250 (for smaller sizes) to 50 (for larger plates) bookplates are available, and extra sets can be provided at any later date. Please see my prices below.
As the bookplate is bespoke designed for your personal library, this becomes, in part, a consultative process, with a fair amount of dialogue and discussion being required for me to get to know what you want. Please do make a “scrapbook” of ideas to help things along.
If ordering as a present, please allow three weeks’ notice, especially when my printer is on holiday! It can be done quicker when everyone is available.
Please do e-mail me for full details and a sample.
Pen and Ink designs
A bookplate approximately 10 x 7cms, 7 x 7cms or 10 x 10cms, will cost £340 for 250 printed (monochrome) adhesive plates on acid-free paper, plus my original artwork.
For plate sizes 10 x 14 cms (approx. A6) you get 100x printed, gummed bookplates and the original drawing for £340.
For plate sizes 14 x 21 cms (approx. A5) you get 50x printed, gummed bookplates and the original drawing for £340.
Colour plates are an additional £45.
I print on 70 gsm gummed (“lick and stick”) archival-quality paper. This is the recommended paper for bookplates, especially with antiquarian or very valuable books. Self-adhesive plates (peel-off backing, 100gsm acid-free cartridge paper) can be supplied on request.
For straightforward Armorial plates, where I am re-drawing an existing design (i.e. there is no significant design time) then please take off £40.
Extra sets can be provided at a later date for £60, quantity dependent on size:
- 250 smaller bookplates @ 10 x 7cms or 7 x 7cms;
- 160 @ 10 x 10 cms;
- 100 @ 10 x 14 cms (approx. A6);
- 50 @ 14 x 21 cms (approx. A5).
All orders are inclusive of post and packing within the UK. Overseas delivery prices to be costed as applicable.
Fot UK a deposit of £100 is required to start, for overseas £105 to cover bank fees.
Samples posted on request.
Letterpressed printing and painted designs (e.g. grisaille or trompe l’œil) will be priced on application.
Bookplates make the perfect gift for special occasions like: graduation, milestone birthdays and events, etc., but not forgetting that person who already has every thing (including lots of books).
It takes about 3 weeks from commission to delivery (depending on work load) which could limit this choice, so why not give the commission as the gift? I can provide a gift certificate and selection of examples in a pack which you can then give. This allows the recipient to get involved in the design process, something many of my customers find as much fun as the actual plates themselves.
Please contact me for details. the costs will be the same as directly commissioning me.
Re “J F” Personal Bookplate (not illustrated)
Emma 5th December 2018 @ 09:24
I was an absolute pleasure working with Gordon on the design of my bookplate. Gordon was willing to prepare several drafts of the plate to bring my ideas to life, and also made many wonderful suggestions to enhance the final design. His skill and imagination as an artist were a joy to behold, too! I couldn’t be happier with the results.
Re “Colquhoun” Personal Plates Page #1
R Colquhoun 27th December 2018 @ 17:44
I was delighted by the bookplates commissioned as a Christmas present for my husband. Gordon’s beautiful design captured all the elements I had asked for, and he was very quick to respond to the few questions I had along the way. He was able to get them to me in plenty of time to wrap for Christmas. They have been a huge hit. Thank you, Gordon!
Re “Lord Barker of Battle” Armorial
George P 6th January 2019 @ 09:51
We could not have been more happy with the bookplate that Gordon produced at very short notice. Gordon was very communicative and managed to turn it around in a matter of weeks. I could not recommend his work more highly.
Re “Letterpressed Plate” Personal Plates Page #2
Eric Kolb 8th November 2019 @ 13:18
Working with Gordon on this bookplate was a wonderful experience. He did a great job of making sure I understood all the technical production terms as we moved through the decision making process, communicated clearly all the complexities of working with a third party (for the letter-pressing), and his follow-through at all stages of production was quite thorough. He made the creative process a breeze as well. We had a productive dialog about what I was looking for and an exchange of reference images and photos before he ever laid pencil to paper. As a result, the first draft was ultimately what you see here without significant changes. If I ever find myself in the market for another bookplate (or speaking with someone who is), I will absolutely direct them towards Gordon!
Re “Wedding Arch” Personal Plates Page #2Briana Bergstrom 28th October 2020, via Facebook.
We love our bookplate so much! We will cherish it! Thank you!Re “David Blunt” Personal Plates Page #2Anna Greentime, on 17th September 2020, via Facebook.
Thank-you Gordon for such an amazing experience designing and producing this bookplate – David Blunt is so pleased with the finished artwork and so enjoyed the process. Indeed, I would recommend Gordon to everyone and anyone!
RE: ‘An Indian-inspired Bookplate’
Rosie LJ on 6th December 2020, via email:
I am extremely pleased with Gordon’s design reflecting my life-long interest in India. We exchanged ideas and he interpreted them quickly with great skill and charm. Delighted with the result and would highly recommend him. Rosie LJ