Martin Hopkinson’s Ex Libris: The Art of Bookplates opens with a Timothy Cole bookplate from 1913. Designed for Herman Theodore Radin, it depicts a room overflowing with books—books on shelves and books on tables. Books propped up against a skull and sitting on a chair. Additionally, the bookplate includes a quote (credited to Dr. S. Weir Mitchell, a physician who was also an author): “Show me the books he loves and I shall know / The man far better than through mortal friends”.
In the debates, discussions, conversations, and quarrels I have had with friends about the various merits of print books and e-books, this same point keeps coming around. Readers love to ponder and peruse other readers’ bookshelves. And this is just something that can’t be replicated with a Kindle or Nook. Books—real, print, physical books—say something about their owners and so, as the book Ex Libris makes clear, do bookplates.