The Friday Fillip

Chances are you got one for Christmas, if you’re into exchanging gifts at this time of year. And chances are pretty good that, if you did, you cracked it today if only for a look and a fondle. I’m talking about a book, of course, the favourite object of those of us in law who work the internet.

Now, some of you may want to mark the book as yours, if there isn’t already an inscriptions saying “to Hortense from Uncle Toby on the occasion of Christmas 2008,” or some such, on the flyleaf ((which, I’m only slightly surprised to learn, is now the name of a rock band: o tempora, o mores.)). You could sign your name in it. Or you could use a bookplate.

Bookplates are out of fashion now. One way you can tell this is because there are collections of bookplates in museums and other dusty places. This fillip is prompted by one such collection in a not-very-dusty place: Stanford University Library. Their online Bookplates Exhibit boasts upwards of a hundred of these “ex libris” stickers, ranging from the mundane to the marvelous, enough, certainly, to get you thinking about maybe designing your own bookplate.

If the Stanford collection isn’t enough to inspire you, have a look at Confessions of a Bookplate Junkie, a blog that delivers images that are lovely to look at and bound to get you designing. Who would have suspected Thomas Mann of having such a lighthearted bookplate? And I particularly like the one featuring an early computer and a skeleton.

The building of a library may be a dying practice, but that needn’t mean that bookplates have to perish. It occurs to me that, particularly in this age of icons and graphics and gravatars, each of us could use a visual tag — a “chop,” as it were — to identify our postings and our emails. Much more enjoyable than some crummy signature line or lame piece of ASCII art. What would your webchop be?


  1. Many lawyers I know also happen to be notaries. Some of them personalize their books with their notary seals. If the book is a paperback, you can imprint the cover; if a hardback, you can imprint the title page.