Sunday, March 21, 2010
Armorial Ex Libris
Lars C. Stolt
Heraldry is closely related to ex libris as the great bibliophiles during 17th-19th centuries often were armigerous and of course wished to show their coats of arms instead of or combined with their full names or family names in their books. Consequently, many of the earlier ex libris are armorial, and also several ex libris of today depict the coat of arms of the owner. This means that bookplates are one of the best series of examples of personal coats of arms and a source for heraldic studies. An example of that is that many of the pictures of the family coats of arms in Arthur Charles Fox-Davies' well known directory Armorial Families, last edition 1929, displaying ex libris of just one of the family members.
The first ex libris were often hand painted coats of arms on the cover or the front fly-leaf of a book. If we limit ourselves to printed ex libris that are pasted into the book the earliest one may be an armorial wood cut from about 1470 with the coat of arms of Hildebrand Brandenburg, a monk from Biberach in Württemberg (ill. 1). It is kept in several copies in different collections and is so well known that it is reproduced on the tie of the Bookplate Society in Britain (ill. 2).
Not unexpectedly the majority of the armorial plates are British. A fine example of the great plates from the 18th century and a typical royal bookplate is one of the ex libris of the great bibliophile Prince Augustus Frederick, Duke of Sussex, (1773-1843). His library at Kensington Palace had more than 50,000 volumes and was sold at auction after his death. One of the volumes, a heraldic book in Latin printed in1606, was sold in Stockholm in 2004. The ex libris shows the royal arms as born 1801-37 with a label of three points and the ribbon and collar of the Most Noble Order of the Garter; above the ducal coronet the royal crest (ill. 5). The motto SI DEUS PRO NOBIS QUIS CONTRA NOS means "If God is for us, who can be against us". There is a blank oval for the shelf mark, common in these days. The plate is signed "Perkins and Heath Hardened Steel Plate", which means that it was engraved in steel by the American engineer and inventor Angier March Perkins, in England from 1827 specialized in banknote engraving.
The most famous British artist of armorial ex libris was Charles William Sherborn (1831-1912). His copper engravings are unsurpassed and a fine example is the plate he made for the Duke of Westminster, Hugh Lupus Grosvenor (ill. 6). The duke was born in 1825, succeeded his father in 1869 as 3rd Marquess of Westminster and was raised in 1874 to Duke of Westminster. He resided at the castle of Eaton Hall at Chester. The plate was engraved in copper in 1884 and shows his full coat of arms with the ducal coronet and the Garter ribbon and collar with "Great George". The motto VIRTUS NON STEMMA means "Virtue, not pedigree".
A later master of copper engraving is George William Eve (1855-1914). A fine plate by him was engraved in 1903 for Sir Francis Reginald Wingate, KCB, (ill. 7). It is typical example of the three-dimensional heraldic style in contrast to the flat style common today. The coat of arms contains a portcullis which combined with the crest-motto WIN refers to the family name. KCB means Knight Commander of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath, the ribbon of which with pendent badge encircles the shield. TRIA JUNCTA IN UNO (Three joined in one) is the motto of the order. A KCB is entitled to use the title Sir. Below the shield are four other orders or decorations.
On the European continent the armorial bookplates are not as restricted as in Britain therefore artists take greater liberties with designs. Ernst Krahl (1858-1926) was a heraldic artist to the Imperial and Royal court in Vienna and a very diligent ex libris artist. In 1895 he made a plate, printed in P1, for Baron Carlos de Vaux (ill. 8). The full coat of arms of the baron is surrounded by an elaborate frame of clinging plants. Above the crest the alliance shields of the baron and the baroness are shown. The inappropriate legend "Ex libris des...." (i.e. Bookplate of ...) is not unusual by Krahl.
The other plate by Krahl is printed in heliogravure and shows the arms and the villa of Dr. Hans and Helene Bretschneider von Rechttreu with an interior view from the villa (ill. 9) .
The German emperor and Prussian king Wilhelm II (1859-1941) had an ex libris by professor Emil Doepler (1855-1922) in Berlin (ill. 10). It is an etching created in 1896 and shows the
imperial arms in a nice design with books. The collar of the Prussian order of the Black Eagle surrounds the shield.
One of the greatest ex libris engravers was the German-Danish artist Friedrich Britze (1870-1956). One of his plates of seal-type was engraved in copper in 1934 for count Reinhold Stenbock (1878-1946), one of the oldest Swedish noble families (ill. 11). During the German occupation of Denmark in the Second World War Friedrich Britze was thoughtless enough to make an ex libris for Werner Best, the German governor in Denmark, resulting on the loss of his position as an engraver to his Majesty the King.
Since heraldry is rich in color it is fairly obvious to have armorial ex libris printed in different colors as soon as it was technically possible. Five heraldic ex libris artists are presented here. Bruno B. Heim (1911-2003) was an archbishop in the Roman Catholic Church and a famous heraldist. The plate for His Excellency Hector Allard was devised by Heim in 1967 when Allard was Canadian Ambassador in Copenhagen where Heim was the Catholic nuncio (ill. 12). Of course the maple leaves refer to Canada; the bookplate is engraved in steel by the German master engraver Rudolf Niedballa (1914- ). The free shape of the lion is typical of Heim
The most famous Swedish heraldic artist Jan Raneke (1914- ) has made hundreds of ex libris. The plate for Folke Lindskog (1916-1999), a business man in Gothenburg, was drawn in 1980 and printed in P1/4 (ill.13). The linden leaves in the shield refer to his surname.
Dipl-Ing, Dr. Zdenko G. Alexy (1922- ) is a Slovakian heraldist who has made many ex libris in color. The plate for the German heraldist Johannes Krölls (1931- ) was made in 1981 and is printed in P1/7 (ill.14).
The Swedish heraldic artist Jacques de Wærn (1927- ) is represented here by an ex libris for me, president of the Swedish Ex libris Society (ill. 15). Below the shield are the two Royal medals of the Pro Patria Society and the Patriotic Society. And for the first (?) time in an ex libris the medal ribbons of the owner are shown.
The Dutch heraldic artist Daniel de Bruin (1950- ) is unconventional in his art. The coat of arms designed by him has challenged many heraldists, being often three-dimensional with shades and palmy figures far from the orthodox flat style. Another peculiarity is that he has many personal bookplates with heraldic connection but none with his own coat of arms and none drawn by him. The plate for David Robert Wooten is typical for de Bruin, was made in 2003 and printed in offset in four colors (ill.16).
Two bookplates with heraldic objects in a milieu deserve to be shown. The German heraldist Lothar Müller Westphal (1941- ) has made a nice ex libris for himself relaxed and naked sitting, reading and smoking with his right arm resting on the shield and with the helmet on his left knee (ill.17). The legend "Us mingem Böcherschaaf" is in Niederrheinisch and the printing method is offset. The other ex libris is a wood engraving by Frank-Ivo van Damme (1932- ) from Belgium who is not a heraldist (ill.18). It was engraved in 1988 and shows in an unorthodox way the coat of arms of Etienne De Ryck and the municipal hall of Lier.
The Czech heraldist Václav Filip (Wenceslai Wocc), now living in Italy, has an unorthodox approach to the subject of heraldry - sometimes with erotoheraldic motifs. He is represented by a not so erotic alliance ex libris for him and his wife Maria Graziæ, printed in offset. He himself is the naked supporter of the arms (ill.19). With his right hand he is holding his own shield and with his left hand his wife's shield and the helmet is put on his head.
Lastly a heraldic ex libris; in this study we see a bookplate for the well known ex librist and diplomat Benoît Junod, Switzerland. It is strictly a bookplate with the arms of Junod (ill. 20). The shield is surrounded by the collar of Knight of the Sovereign Order of Malta and the small shields are Geneva and Neuchâtel, the cantons of origin of Junod. It is a copper engraving from 1986 by the Swiss artist Paul Aeby.
The fact that the common ex libris of today is the paper ex libris to be pasted into the book does not mean that the super ex libris or supralibros are not used nowadays. A modern super ex libris is seen in illustration 21. It belongs to me and shows the shield of his arms and behind those two batons in saltire of the heraldists of the Order of Carpenters and the Order of Par Bricole respectively. It is designed in 2001 by the young Swedish heraldic artist Magnus Bäckmark (1974- ) and is impressed in gold on the outside of the front cover of a book.
Today the armorial ex libris is experiencing something of a revival, the future looks fine for heraldry with several people commissioning armigerous ex libris. There are now many young heraldic artists offering fresh design interpretations.