More generically though, it means “From the library of” and refers to any book that’s part of a library – including one’s personal collection. Historically, private libraries were one of the most cherished pieces of a household. Inside each book you could a bookplate, many inscribed with ex libris and the name of the owner. It was the only acceptable form of personalization one could make to a book – anything more was considered defacement.
When well done, custom bookplates are elegant little graphic statements about their owner – instantly identifying the library from which it originates. Whether a drawing of a simple ribbon with room for a signature… or the clever representation of the etymology of the owner’s name, bookmarks are an elegant way to mark ownership of a book. Occasionally, they transcend their purpose to become a tiny work of art.
In my limited experience, no artist has made bookplates that approach those of Rockwell Kent (1882-1971). Whether in woodcuts or pen and ink, Kent applied his signature art deco style to craft wondrous compositions – every bit as beautiful as anything contained in the books they marked.