Copley Library’s Special Collections Japanese Bookplates

Artist: Takeo Takei, 1968

Artist: Takeo Takei, 1968

Copley Library’s Archives and Special Collections Department is pleased to announce the addition of the library’s Japanese bookplate collection to the University’s institutional repository. This collection is just a small portion of a much larger collection of over 4,000 bookplates donated by Christine Price to the San Diego College for Women. These brightly colored and masterful works of woodblock printing can now be viewed online.

The collection of 78 bookplates represents the work of 42 different artists, mostly working in the early 1960s.  The bookplates were largely commissioned works, paid for by the book owner and collected by the Nippon Exlibris Association, a group founded in 1957.

Although a very simple range of colors was used to create the woodblock prints, they are bright and colorful, employing both representational and abstract imagery.  Animals, flowers, and landscapes are most often depicted utilizing only three to five colors.  Each color represents a different woodblock.  The various woodblocks are pressed onto the same piece of handmade paper to create the finished product.  The paper bookplates are then pasted into books by the individual that commissioned their unique design, which often includes their name.  However, these paper bookplates were never as popular in Japan as copper seals, pressed in monochrome ink as the preferred method to express book ownership.  The humid weather of Japan often caused the paper bookplates to become unglued and lost.  This and their expense, make them a rare and special find.

Takeo Takei, 1965

Takeo Takei, 1965


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