Ex-Libris Bookplate

This Ex-Libris Bookplate signifies the owner of a book. In this case the owner seems to be Irma Harris. 

Aside from the magnificent, vibrant, and beautiful cover that binds the book and gives the book its sense of appeal, the second most notable physical feature of the book is the paper marbling on the endpaper. This design is featured on both the front and back endpapers of the book and displays a vibrant red color with swirls of paint in different hues and shades of red.

Water marbling is an artistic technique that initially arose from East Asia and spread to the Turkish and Islamic World before finding its way to Europe. As this technique progressed through time and place, the materials that were used also changed giving rise to another level of quality of the artwork that was produced. The inking materials were initially made with flour pastes mixed with different oils and natural ingredients to dye the paste with to make different colors. Eventually, by the time paper marbling spread to Europe, the ink was made from carrageenan and new techniques in design such as stencils and marbling tools were developed to advance marbling techniques (Easton). This raised the value and quality of paper marbling and became known as a symbol for the wealthy.

What began as traditional and religious artwork in China, turned into art that was only available to the rich and wealthy to display in their homes in Europe. Books were already a symbol of power, wealth, and status in European society so for exotic artwork such as marbled paper to make its way into books, meant that not only the monetary value of books went up but also the societal and social value did as well. Water marbling even ended up on furniture (Wolfe). Because marbled paper was expensive to make and own, marbling of endpaper on books and other prized possessions were limited to only the finest works or the works belonging to royalty. This particular copy of Aphrodite is very obviously owned by a person with wealth and status given the way it is bound with its elaborate, engraved cover as well as the water marbled endpaper. The designs often reflect a less obvious feature of the book or the text itself such as the metaphorical meanings of the text.

In the case of Aphrodite, the marbled endpaper has a vibrant red color with swirls of designs of different shades of red. Red symbolizes passion, heat, and love similar to what Aphrodite symbolizes in Greek poetry. The swirled design almost looks like hair and gives a feminine-like feature of the book as well as the story, especially if one knows that the book contains collections of romantic poetry. This genre of literature most likely targeted rich, educated females in Europe. 

Paper Marbled Endpapers

One of the water marbled endpapers in the beginning of the book.

On the topic of targeted audience and ownership, this copy of Aphrodite has a notable Ex Libris bookplate on the back of the cover binding on top of the paper marbled endpaper. An Ex Libris bookplate was placed on books as a sign of ownership and often featured illustrations and the names of the book owners since book ownership was a privilege mostly available to the educated or wealthy (Hopkinson).

The Ex Libris label has the name of the owner written on it, denoted as “Irma L. Harris” with large block like letters. An illustration of a gateway is shown with the gate leading to a scenic garden and the gate containing shelves of books. Underneath that gate are two dogs that look like statues as part of the entryway.

Immediately the name of the owner indicates that the owner of the book was female and the illustration of the Ex Libris label reveals that the owner may have been of a high financial and social status. The gateway into the garden with the bookshelves seems to imply that the books lead to a beautiful world that allows one to escape from reality.