Loaning a favorite book takes guts. You are trusting someone else with your treasure and all the memories associated with reading it.
The borrower might spill coffee or wine on it, get it wet in the bathtub or leave it on the subway. He or she may offer to replace it, but the replacement won't feel like your book. The pages and covers are new. The pages lack your marginalia. The magic, gone.
For years, readers have staked their ownership on books in their personal library with bookplates. The earliest known bookplate dates back to the 1470s, according to Brandeis Special Collections.
Usually bookplates merely say, "From the Library of," or "Ex Libris," with a blank for the owner to sign his name. The best feature beautiful graphics and are themselves a work of art. Custom bookplates may reveal personality, political leanings or something more ominous. Some owners skip the niceties and opt for a bookplate that threatens the borrower with hanging or some other peril if the book is not returned (see below). Here is a selection, including a few bookplates of famous authors. (Click on the photo to see a larger version.)
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