I -The Origins
The close relationship between the Ex Libris, Books and Bibliophiles has been an established tradition over the centuries since the invention of the movable type in the XV century, by Guttenberg. Without books and bibliophiles who love them, there wouldn’t have been ex libris, at least till recently, as we will discuss later.
Indeed, Ex Libris – Latin expression meaning «from the books of…» -, or bookplates, as they are called in the English language, were born out of the need to identify the book’s ownership being thus a sign or mark of ownership of books that compose one’s library.
As a mark of possession, it begun to be a manuscript inscription with the owner’s name or his owner’s hand painted armorial. But after the invention of the printing press, ex libris became a small printed label, pasted into the volume’s back cover binding, bearing its owner’s name and a sign of personal identification, usually an armorial device artistically executed through wood cut or wood engraving process begun to be used. Alongside with the ex libris, printed on paper and pasted on the inside cover of the books, there were also the super libris, usually also with a heraldic motive, stamped on the cover binding of the book and serving the same purpose.
Apart from attesting the book’s ownership the ex libris also had the advantage of embellishing the book in whose back cover or on the inside of the binding was duly pasted.
Till the middle of the XVIII century, ex libris were as said, predominantly, of heraldic motif and later on, as our societies evolved, they became increasingly pictorial with symbolic or allegoric motifs.
The first ex libris were created and reproduced using the then flourishing engraving techniques of xylography (wood engraving or wood cut).
By the end of the XV century a new engraving technique was developed that of intaglio or incised printing, using a copper or steel plate engraved or etched with a burin, enabling more detail, being more resistant and allowing more prints to be made. This obviously helped the widespread of prints and of bookplates as well .
The intaglio with its various techniques – etching, aquatint, mezzotint, burin or dry-point – was followed in the XIX century by lithography and more recently with photo mechanical processes like line block or even more recently through digital computer design (CGD), generally always using paper as its printing support.
 On the subject cf. Manuscripts, Books, and Maps: The Printing Press and a Changing World (an excellent paper by Bruce Jones with massive information); and El Nacimiento de la Imprenta (in Spanish); a scholar discussion on «The Information Age and the Printing Press: Looking Backward to See Ahead» including the impact of the printing, by James A. Dewar.
 The word Ex Libris has acquired though with time a connotation of excellence having in many languages become a synonymous of «symbol» or «landmark» and it is frequent to hear expressions like «The Eiffel Tower is the ex libris of Paris…”
 See on the subject the excellent Introduction by Fridolf Johnson, A Treasury of Bookplates from the Renaissance to the Present, Dover Publications, New York, 1977.
II -The oldest ex libris
The first known bookplates printed in this fashion are believed to have appeared in Germany. Some authors stated with some doubts, that the oldest, dated circa 1450, was the simple woodcut made on behalf of Johannes Hans Knabensperg – nicknamed «Igler»- who was the chaplain to the Schönstett family, bearing the legend «Hans Igler, das ein Igel kuss» .
However, more certain as to its authenticity as a bookplate, following F. Warnecke, is the one that belonged to a Cistercian Monk named Hilpbrand of Biberach with the Coat of Arms of the Brandenburg Family, dated at 1470-80.
Amongst German painters who did not hesitate in drawing ex libris were H. Holbein and Albrecht Durer. The latter is known to have made at least five bookplates, among which those of Hieronimus Ebner (circa 1516) and of Bilibaldi Pirckheimer.
Notwithstanding, Gustav Amweg, in his study of the bookplates of the old bishopric of Bale, defends that the first ex libris in the modern sense of the word was the one used (as from 1464) by Guillame Grimaitre – a chaplain from Neuveville, Lausanne, then belonging to the bishopric of Bale, which in turn was then part of the Holy German Empire.
In the late 1970’s two more ex libris dated from the XV and early XVI centuries were found: those of the bishop Telamonius of Limberger (Switzerland) dated from 1498, and that of the Polish bishop Mathiedrevici Wladislaw, dated at 1516 .
Other European countries
In Italy bookplates appeared only one century later, around 1548, with the exlibris of Cesare dei Conti Gambara, bishop of Tortona, followed by that of Nicolò Pelli a woodcut made in 1559 .
In France, according to Georges Saffroy (L’Intermédiaire des chercheurs et curieux, N° 1479. Vol. LXXVII. Col. 311, 1918) the «seven oldest ex-libris were those of:
- Cardinal de Tournon, né en 1489.
- Jean Bertrand (ou Bertaud) de La Tour-Blanche, né en 1502.
- Nicolas de Lescut, jurisconsulte, né à Nancy, vers 1500.
- Wolfrart, dit Conrad de Lycosthènes, de Schelestadt (Alsace) ; né en 1518.
- Désiré Buffet, dijonnais. Daté 1558.
- Ch. d’Alboise, d’Autun. Pièce typographiée datée 1574.
- Cardinal de La Rochefoucault, abbé de Tournus, né en 1558. »
However, according to Jean-Paul Fontaine there were other old «ex libris» although, that of Jean Bertrand de La Tour-Blanche might be considered as the oldest stricto sensu ex libris (cf. Histoire de la Bibliophilie).
In Scotland the oldest bookplate seems to be that of James Riddell of Kinglas, dated 1639, but presumably from after the 1660’s, according to Sir Illay Campbell of Succoth Bt. in his scholar paper – Scottish Heraldic Bookplates.
In Slovakia of rich traditions dating from the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Ľ. Jankovič has dedicated a study to Heraldic bookplates and superlibros .
In Portugal, there are still doubts over a wood engraving bearing the Coat of Arms of the Bishop of Coimbra, Dom Afonso de Castelo Branco(1522-1615), as ever having been used as a bookplate .
If not, the oldest known Portuguese ex libris dates only from 1622. It is the one made by Jan Schorkens, a Flemish artist who worked in Madrid from 1618-1630 and accompanied King Philip III when he visited Lisbon, on behalf of the II Marquis of Castelo Rodrigo, Manuel de Moura Corte-Real . Also from the XVII century, we have, amongst others, the ex libris of Manuel Severim de Faria (1583-1655) cannon from the See of Évora – a writer and bibliophile – a copper engraving executed by A. Paulus.
Next comes the bookplate of Francisco de Melo e Torres (1620-1667), I Count da Ponte (1661) and I Marquis de Sande (cr. 1662) , probably made in France where the marquis was sent as Envoy and Ambassador of the King of Portugal and the bookplate of D. Francisco de Mascarenhas, I Count of Conculim (1662-1685), was engraved by João Gomes, circa 1680 .
And finally, the ex libris engraved by Clemente Bellinque, circa 1695, on behalf of Luís José de Vasconcelos e Azevedo (1671-1713), in three formats .
According to Cliff Parfit, the modern western scholar of Japanese Bookplates, quoting Shozo Saito writing in 1946, the oldest Japanese bookplate was made about 1470 for the Daigoji Temple. Western style ex libris were only introduced in the Meiji era under western influence .
 Friedrich Warnecke, Die deutschen Bücherzeichen (Ex-libris) von ihrem Ursprunge bis zur Gegenwart, J. U. Stargardt, Berlin, 1890; Schreiber, Manuel de l’amateur de gravure sur bois, Berlin, 1892, dates it rather from 1470-80.
 Gustave Amweg, Les ex-libris de l’Ancien Evêché de Bâle, Neuchâtel, 1932, quoted by Gastone Cambin, in Ex Libris Araldici nella Svizzera Italiana, «Guida Araldica Svizzera», Fascº VI, Società Svizzera di Araldica, Lugano, 1978, p. 13.
 Achille Bertarelli & D. H. Prior, Gli Ex-libris Italiani, Hoepli, Milano, 1902; Gianni Mantero, in Catalogo della Mostra dell’Exlibris Ligure, Banco di Chiavari e della Riviera Ligure, Genova, 1975, p. 12.
 Castle Egerton, English Bookplates, G. Bell & Sons, London, 1892; Peter Summers, FSA, FHS, «Bookplates», in A New Dictionary of Heraldry, (edited by Stephen Friar), Alphabooks, London, 1987, p. 64-68.
 Ľ. Jankovič, Armorial Exlibrises and Superexlibrises in Slovakia, in Heraldika Na Slovensku / Heraldry In Slovakia, Martin, SGHS 1997tin, SGHS 1997.
 Fausto Moreira Rato, Manual de Ex-Librística, subsídios para a história e arte dos ex-líbris, Imprensa Nacional-Casa da Moeda, Lisboa, 1976, p. 30-31; cf. «A ARTE DO EX-LIBRIS», vol. XV. # 157; Sérgio Avelar Duarte, Ex-Líbris Portugueses Heráldicos, Vol. 1, Liv. Civilização Editora, Porto, 1990;
 Moreira Rato, ibidem, pp. 32; Avelar Duarte, ibidem, p. 360.
 Moreira Rato, ibidem, pp. 32-36; Avelar Duarte, ibidem, p. 159.
 Avelar Duarte, ibidem, p. 158, # 449; João Gomes also engraved the bookplates of Dom João de Melo (1624-1704), bishop of Coimbra and Manuel Pereira de Melo (?-1675), Dean of St. Paul’s College at Coimbra University (cf. Moreira Rato, ibidem, p. 36.
 Moreira Rato, ibidem, pp. 34; Avelar Duarte, ibidem, p. 326-328, # 916- 918.
 Cliff Parfit, Ex Libris Japan. An Introductory Handbook to the Bookplates of Japan, Tokyo, Nippon Ex Libris Association, 1982, p. 9; see also, the Bookplate for the Zojoji Temple (Shiba), also from Shozo Saito’s pioneer book.
III – The birth of the bookplate collector and Bookplate Societies
Ex Libris, though, evolved as society did. The XIX century and its ideas of egalitarianism and freedom gave rise to a society where the “bourgeoisie” enriched by merchant ventures, the newly-born industries and sometimes by speculation, increasingly started having interest and also access to the possession of books. Book ownership as many other riches ceased to be a monopole of a minority, usually identified with the aristocracy.
An ever growing number of people with respectable professions – physicians, lawyers, solicitors, librarians, architects, etc. – also became interested in collecting books and had the means to buy them. The revolution in the graphic arts – namely, the rising of lithography, and the discovery of zincography and other mechanical printing methods – making it cheaper and quicker to print images or drawings on paper, also contributed to the widespread of ex libris.
With it arose the interest in collecting the little pieces of paper – where symbols, a coat of arms or a nice drawing, alluding to its owner – were printed. Collecting things of all sorts has always been a passion for many people. In it there is a mixture of various human instincts, particularly those of the hunter, to find and get the hidden coveted piece.
So, in the last quarter of the XIX century, a prominent character was born: the collector of ex libris. One of the most famous collectors was Sir Augustus W. Franks whose considerable huge collection is now at the British Museum.
The spread of collectors in turn, led to the necessity of uniting efforts through the creation of Societies. The first, were created in Great Britain, Germany and France by the 1890’s followed shortly by the Austrian-Hungarian Empire and Spain.
There followed others, throughout the XX century, in most European countries and in the U.S.A., Canada, Brazil, Australia, China and Japan, joining up bookplate collectors, artists and ex libris amateurs in general. They all aimed at gathering people with the same passion, enabling exchanges and publishing Bulletins in whose pages the theme is studied and discussed, making artists known, and at organizing conferences, talks and exhibitions .
Unfortunately, most of the earlier Societies were short-lived because of the two World Wars and the Great Depression and also owing to the lack of renewal of members of younger generations. And this seems to be cyclical in the life of the majority of Bookplate Societies – half a century of existence and activity is really exceptional.
Indeed, bookplate collecting owed much to exchanges by mail between ex libris amateurs, and those were obviously interrupted during the WWII. But after the war, Europe rose slowly from ashes and curiously enough, the countries where ex libris creation and artistic creativity rapidly developed were the Eastern European and Balkan countries. There, namely in, Russia, the Baltic Republics, Belarus, Ukraine, Hungary, the now autonomous Czech and Slovak Republics, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria and former Eastern Germany – the traditional graphic arts and engraving were practiced and much developed due to the interest of many graphic artists and enthusiast collectors.
In Portugal, where three periodicals were published since the beginning of the XX century and after a decline in the 1930’s in ex libris activity (the «I International Ex Libris Exhibition» took place in Lisbon, in 1927, with a great success and vast participation), we saw the appearance in 1951 of a periodical called «Ex-Libris – Portugal» directed by the long-time and famous collector Mário Vinhas which was regularly published till the early 1990’s. And also two Bookplate Societies were founded – the Academia Portuguesa de Ex-Libris, in Lisbon and the then called Associação Portuense de Ex-Líbris, from Porto. Both started publishing regular Bulletins, the former in 1955, and the latter in 1956, under the name – “A Arte do Ex-Líbris”, under the editorship of Artur M. Mota Miranda, till the 1990’s. The A.P.E.L. was exclusively dedicated to bookplates having from the start established bridges with the resurgent international movement that was taking place at the time to the point of being a founding member of FISAE.
In Spain, whose first Association dates from 1902 and the second from 1918, a new Society was founded in 1951 – Asociación d’Exlibristas de Barcelona which ceased activity by the 1980’s. But happily, was soon followed by the present Associació Catalana d’Ex-Libristes (ACE) and by the recently formed Asociación Andaluza de Ex-Libristas, from Seville. Both were the product of a bunch of enthusiasts who courageously hold up the flag for the next decades.
Most of the newly formed or renewed Societies, or Associations, as they are called in Continental Europe and in the USA, publish periodical magazines or newsletters spreading useful information on bookplate artists, articles on ex libris matters, lists of collectors willing to exchange ex libris, news on ex libris competitions, and review of books published.
Some – the more active to be exact – also organize meetings, congresses, competitions and exhibitions on a more or less regular basis. The number of members does vary considerable from country to country and in some countries there have been ups and downs in ex libris activity.
England with its traditional outlook traced her own path, having a very rich tradition of graphic arts applied to bookplate creation by also an ever growing number of free-lance artists, and by the 1970’s was born TheBookplate Society, increasing its activity, both in the British Isles and abroad, ending the somewhat traditional English splendid isolation.
In the Americas, both in North and Latin America, there is also a rich tradition of bookplate production and collection.
Particularly, in the U.S.A., the period from 1890 to 1925 was considered by several authors including Francis W. Allen, as the golden age of American bookplate design, with fine artists like Sidney Lawton Smith, Edwin Davis French, J. Winfred Spenceley, William Fowler Hopson, E. B. Bird, Edmund Garrett, J. W. Jameson and Arthur N. MacDonald producing little masterpieces of the Art of engraving .
In South America, namely in Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Colombia and Argentina , there were also fine collectors and very active ex libris circles following the European and North American trends.
In Australia, under the impulse of P. Neville Barnett, took place in 1911 an ex libris exhibition at the University of Sydney and in 1923 the Australian Ex Libris Society was formed publishing a Journal and Yearbooks. New Zealand saw the appearance of an Ex Libris Society, in Wellington in the early 1930’s with a very active branch in Auckland, where Hilda Wiseman predominated .
Japan, with a very rich and ancient tradition in the art of woodcut and wood engraving, soon developed an interest for bookplates and collecting, having one of the oldest Bookplate Societies in activity, publishing a very interesting bulletin. Following, Naoto Hida, a reputed Japanese artist and bookplate lover, the first modern Japanese ex libris dates from 1875, and was made for the Tokyo Public Library. .
A special reference must now be made on two rising stars in the world of ex libris outside Europe, accompanying in this field the global changes the World has been experiencing in recent decades: China and Turkey.
In China where paper was made and used for writing centuries before the printing press was invented by Guttenberg and where the art of calligraphy reached high peaks, ex libris in the European style are relatively recent dating from the 1930’s under the impulse of a group of woodcut artists according to Prof Zhang Zhi You .
But it was in the 1980’s that ex libris resurgence took place in China, namely with the foundation of the Chinese Ex Libris Association in 1984, in Peking, established to gather collectors and artists and promoting ex-libris art.
In that year Chinese artists’ works were presented for the first time at the FISAE Congress exhibition in Germany and from then on their participation in International Competitions and Exhibitions grew in numbers and the peak was reached at the FISAE Congress in Boston in 2000.
Another landmark was the First Chinese Ex Libris Art Exhibition which took place in 1986 followed by others organized by the Chinese Ex Libris Association and recognising this activity the Chinese Association was accepted as member of FISAE in 1988. Crowning its efforts and previous requests, China was given the task of organising the XXXII FISAE Ex Libris Congress, in Beijing, in 2008.
Turkey with an extremely rich cultural tradition dating from the times of the Ottoman Empire is a remarkable case of success outside Europe in the expansion of ex libris activity, in the last two decades of the XX century.
According to Prof. Hasip Pektas  – a pillar of the ex libris movement in Turkey – the interest for ex libris creation started in the 1980’s within the circles of graphic artists who started to attend International Ex Libris Competitions. By the late 90’s Turkish artists won prizes in International Ex Libris Competitions held in Italy and from then on they have been a constant presence in the International scene. Following this increasing interest the Ankara Ex Libris Society was founded in 1997, organising exhibitions and promoting talks.
With an uncommon dynamism it organised in 2003 an International Ex Libris Competition in collaboration with the Hacettepe University which was a success and has launched a Second International Competition for 2007.
Through Prof. Hasip Pektas it also collaborated in the organising of FISAE’s I & II International CGD Ex-libris Competitions in 2003 and 2006. Crowning this prolific activity the Ankara Ex Libris Society was given the organization of the XXXIII FISAE Congress in 2010.
 Fridolf Johnson, ibidem, p. V-VII; for the situation in Britain cf. P. C. Beddingham, English Bookplates – the Current Scene, in «Artisti dell’Exlibris», Vol. IV, FISAE, ed. by APEL, Oporto, 1978, p. 233;
 Francis W. Allen, The Golden Age of American Bookplate Design (1890-1925), paper addressed to the XVI International Exlibris Congress of FISAE, in Lisbon, 1976, in «A ARTE DO EX-LÍBRIS», # 79, Braga, 1976; for a concise account on the history of the Bookplate Societies in the USA, see Fridolf Johnson, ibidem, p. VI: the first American Society founded in Washington, D.C. was active from 1896-97; then came the California Bookplate Society, directed by Sheldon Cheney, which published a Bulletin from 1906-11. The American Bookplate Society issued its first Yearbook, in 1915. In 1922, appeared the American Society of Bookplate Collectors and Designers, re-activated in the 1970’s under Mrs. Audrey Arellanes of Pasadena, publishing a quarterly newsletter – «Bookplate in the News».
 For a brief account on Ex Libris in Argentina see, Eva Farji’s study¡La marca de ese libro es mía!– Apuntes para el estudio del ex libris en la Argentina de entre siglos (1880-1930) (in Spanish)
 P. Neville Barnett wrote in the 1930’s three books on Bookplates in Australia: The Bookplates in Australia, Tyrrel’s Galerie, Sidney, 1930; Armorial Bookplates, The Beacon Press, Sidney, 1932 and Woodcut Bookplates, Sidney, 1934; see also, Mark Ferson, Australian Literature on Bookplates. A Bibliography (1899-1988), Sydney, Book Collector’s Society of Australia, 1988 and Mark Ferson (ed.), P. Neville Barnett. Australian Genius with books,Sydney, Book Collectors’ Society of Australia, 2003; and Andrew Guy Peake, Australian personal bookplates, Dulwich, S. Aust., Tudor Australia Press, 2000.
 Naoto Hida, El Primer Ex-Libris Modern Japonès, in Els primers Ex-libris moderns, in «EX-LIBRIS, Quaderns d’Investigació Exlibrística», Barcelona, 1989, pp. 15-17; for an excellent scholar account of the Ex Libris in Japan it is essential reading Cliff Parfits’ book «Ex Libris Japan. An Introduction Handbook to the Bookplates of Japan», Nippon Ex Libris Association, Tokyo, 1982
 For a detailed account on Ex Libris activity in China see, the article Ex-libris art in China, by Prof Zhang Zhi You, from where the following notes were taken, at http://fisae.org/Zhang.html
 Secretary General of the Chinese Exlibris Association
 Artist and President of Ankara Ex-libris Society and Dean of Faculty of Fine Arts, Hacettepe University
IV – The foundation of FISAE
V – Trends in the New Millenium
(to be continued)