Literary art form revived with bookplates on show

Book art: Book plate commissioned by Mark Ferson.
Book art: Book plate commissioned by Mark Ferson.

KOGARAH Library has scored an unusual exhibition — a New Australian Bookplate Society exhibition entitled Bookplates Old and New. It's the society's first.

The exhibition, starting on July 24, will be opened by Australian contemporary and indigenous art patron Pat Corrigan, AM, a collector of Australian bookplates for more than 40 years.

And what is a bookplate, anyway?

Society president Mark Ferson says it's "a label made to be pasted inside the cover of the book to mark its ownership".

So, rather than scribbling their names on an inside page, book lovers commission an artist to draw up something nice, such as Dr Ferson's kingfisher designed for him by Brisbane artist Kathryn Lovejoy.

Dr Ferson said bookplates have been used since printing from moveable type was invented in Germany in the 15th century.

Bookplates were popular in Sydney between the two world wars, when it became the "done thing" to have a bookplate designed by one of the fashionable artists.

Adrian Feint, G D Perrottet, Eirene Mort, Ella Dwyer, Lionel and Norman Lindsay, G Gayfield Shaw and Pixie O'Harris each designed between 40 and 200 bookplates in those years.

"The advent of World War II largely killed off interest in bookplates but since the late 1980s interest has picked up again due to Pat Corrigan's efforts to commission Australian artists to execute bookplates for himself and members of his family," Dr Ferson said.

"The writings of other passionate collectors such as Robert Littlewood in Melbourne and Robert Holden in Sydney have also helped to rekindle the flame."

The New Australian Bookplate Society was formed in 2006 to raise awareness of bookplates, both historical and contemporary.

Members include a number of bookplate designers who have received commissions from fellow members and from other booklovers.

Some have hundreds of bookplates.

"The exhibition will feature an Albrecht Dürer woodcut bookplate which is more than 500 years old," Dr Ferson said.

The exhibition will open at 7pm on Wednesday, July 24, and can be seen until August 9.