As books were once an expensive commodity and literacy was quite low, the earliest book plates are typically coat-of-arms or heraldry for ruling families. As the centuries passed, book plates developed a more personal touch, incorporating the owner’s favourite objects, a signature or his personal motto. Some engravers and printmakers still specialise in producing these plates as handmade gifts, but it truly is a dying art form. I half expect they will make a comeback in the not-to-distant future, when electronic publishing becomes the norm and the humble printed book becomes a rare and collectible piece of art.
I have had a crack at a modern version of a book plate which incorporates decorative elements most commonly associated with the Art Nouveau style. The concept behind my book plate is that I always seem to over complicate things, particularly when it come to producing illustrations. I take the long and interesting road rather than the most straightforward one. The book plate was sketched very lightly and loosely in grey lead and then rendered in Photoshop using a Wacom tablet. I wanted it to have a hand drawn look so the lines are intentionally wonky. The work time was about five hours. I have included some examples of book plates beneath, including the plate I nicked my old-time colour scheme from.