Thursday, March 2, 2017

The Oldest Known Printed Bookplate

I very recently ran across an item entitled "The First Known Printed Bookplate," and wouldn't you know it? The oldest bookplate is armorial!

It's a woodcut print dated to 1480, and the owner was the scholarly priest Hilprand Brandenburg of Biberach. He placed these hand-colored, printed bookplates in over 450 books he donated to the Carthusian monastery in Buxheim (near Memmingen), Germany. The one pictured above (and below) appears in Jacobus de Voragine's Sermones quadragesimales (Bopfingen, Württemberg, 1408).

Bookplates have a long and hallowed use for identifying the owners of books. (Indeed, I have and use several different designs of armorial bookplates myself.) And they have over the centuries taken on a number of different forms. See, for example, these (also armorial) bookplates for authors Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Edgar Rice Burroughs.

But how interesting is it that the oldest known printed bookplate also happens to contain heraldry?

You can read more about "The First Known Printed Bookplate", with examples of others - both armorial and not - on-line at


  1. Nice to know. Some of our best examples of heraldic art are the bookplates drawn by one Albrecht Durer.

  2. Conan Doyle's books were unadorned. Do not be misled by the spurious armorial bearing his name which was created at the instigation of his son Adrian for the purpose of enhancing the value of books.