Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Architecture in Ex Libris I

Architecture in Ex Libris


Cliff Parfit

Architecture is a prime subject for pictorial bookplates. They might include buildings of great note, such as Cathedrals, castles, and city halls, and it is a great pleasure to observe how a clever artist can suggest the scale of a large building within the restricted area of an ordinary ex libris. A delightful example which immediately comes to mind is the private and now tremendously rare bookplate of Antonio Gaudi, the brilliant Spanish or Catalan architect, whose world-famous Sagrada Familia Cathedral and many other superb domestic buildings, draw so many modern pilgrims each year to his beautiful city of Barcelona. His bookplate shows an image of some of his futuristic spires, and is redolent of the period.

However, the topic of architecture and ex libris is so vast, that on this occasion I plan to deal only with private homes of various sizes chosen by their proud owners to be the subject of private ex libris plates. On the whole, the houses we see pictured in ex libris are far larger than most private homes being built today. Now, we value comfort, convenience and ease of up-keep in our homes, while ‘building for show’ takes a definite second place, so that in Britain and in most places on the Continent of Europe, most very large private homes have found a new lease of life as corporate offices, schools, and so on. Moderately large houses have found millionaire occupants, and the large majority of city dwellers choose the convenience and comparative safety of sky living in convenient modern flats – not larger than can be easily maintained without or with minimal help. True, there has recently been a reverse trend in Britain toward the purchase of country homes; and some town dwellers, fed up with the noise and bad air of modern towns are finding refurbishing and enjoying life in ancient reconditioned barns, and other country buildings as well as the more usual but far more expensive picturesque cottages.

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