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Books Arts in Special Collections: Bookplates

From the collection

Ex Libris Walt Disney (October 1940), GRA 115 William Augustus Brewer Bookplate Collection

What is a bookplate?

A bookplate is a label that uniquely identifies a past or present owner, affixed to the front pastepaper.  From heraldic designs to pop art, bookplates are considered works of art in their own right.

William Augustus Brewer bookplate collection

Manuscript Collection Number: GRA 115
Accessioned: Gift of Augusta LaMotte Brewer
Extent: approx. 13, 000 items.

Collection Finding aid  

Digital Collection

Reverend William Augustus Brewer was an avid bookplate collector. His wife, Augusta LaMotte Brewer, bequeathed his collection to the University of Delaware Library after her husband's death. The William Augustus Brewer Bookplate Collection comprises 12,680 printed bookplates dating mainly from the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

The designers of the bookplates include Thomas Bewick, Edward Burne-Jones, Kate Greenaway, William Hogarth, Howard Pyle, Rudolf Ruzicka, and James A. M. Whistler. Subjects illustrated in the bookplates are varied, including acrostics, birds, death's heads, medicine, music, rebuses, and science and portraits of historical and literary figures.

The collection has been left with the same organization (alphabetical by the name of the owner) and in the same housings used by Rev. Brewer. In 1957, the University of Delaware Library produced an index to the collection, which is included in this finding aid. The index is organized alphabetically by artists, owners, and subjects.

Suggested searches

To locate materials in the print collection including books, periodicals, and some printed ephemera, search DELCAT by location in the  Advanced Search option and limit your search to “Special Collections.”

To find print materials with examples of bookplates, use the Advanced Search option in DELCAT to do a "Keyword in notes" search of the phrase "bookplate." If trying to find the bookplate of a particular individual, you can also do a Boolean search of the "Keyword in notes" tab by entering "bookplate" into the first search box and then entering the person's name as "Keyword in notes" in the second serach box.

Use LC subject terms such as those below to search for material related to bookplates:

    • Bookplate designers
    • Bookplates
    • Bookplates--American
    • Bookplates--Bibliography
    • Bookplates--English
    • Bookplates--Periodicals

Select bibliographies

Listed here are bibliographies of resources in Special Collections pertaining to bookplates. Please note that the items listed in the bibliographies represent only a small portion of materials on bookplates held in Special Collections.

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