Deutsche und Österreichische Exlibris 1500‐1599 im Britischen Museum

W.A. Kelly (Scottish Centre for the Book, Napier University, Edinburgh)

Library Review

ISSN: 0024-2535

Article publication date: 1 September 2004




Kelly, W.A. (2004), "Deutsche und Österreichische Exlibris 1500‐1599 im Britischen Museum", Library Review, Vol. 53 No. 7, pp. 380-381.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

The British Museum is to be congratulated on its courageous decision to publish this scholarly monograph in German, for I cannot imagine any commercial publisher in this country even considering such a venture. Even the British Library, which was part of the BM for most of its history, would not do so, as it insisted that a Festschrift presented to a former member of its staff, a distinguished Germanist and bibliographer, had to be published entirely in English, an absurd decision that put my co‐editor and me to extra, needless, effort. The BM's courage is backed fully by the designers and printers, who have produced an attractive volume which sets off O'Dell's scholarship superbly.

It is typical of the high regard in which the BM's Department of Prints and Drawings has been held by private collectors that its pre‐eminence as a repository of bookplates is due to the bequests of three such distinguished individuals, Sir A.W. Franks in 1897, the widow of Max Rosenheim in 1932 and G.H. Viner in 1950. Equally fitting is the fact that the work on this catalogue, the result of ten years' labour by O'Dell, an expert in bookplates, should have been done on a voluntary basis.

One of the first features I look at, of a work such as this, is the bibliography, in order to find a mention of any primary or secondary sources previously unknown to me. I am happy to say that my knowledge of the literature on bookplates in German‐speaking Europe is now much better than it was.

The catalogue, which lists just under 500 bookplates, are arranged alphabetically by the surname of the owner, if personal, or by the full name, if corporate. Of these a mere handful cannot be identified. After the owner's name, with some biographical details, are given a brief heraldic description of the bookplate, the motto, the artist (if known), the measurements, the location in the BM and a note of any literature on the bookplate. The numerous illustrations of bookplates, which occupy more than a half of the volume, have a practical value in assisting the identification of additional or variant copies of the bookplates in other collections particularly by those unfamiliar with this genre, as well as adding considerably to the visual appeal of the volume. The volume is provided with an index of names and heraldic and other features of individual bookplates that are mentioned in the catalogue entries. My only quibble with such a wonderful piece of scholarship is in the list of abbreviations. In a volume clearly intended for a readership fluent in German, if not familiar with bookplates, it is otiose to explain such terms as “hrsg”.

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