The popularity of personalized bookplates grew from the development of printing and the need to identify each book with the owner’s name. With the bookplate securely pasted inside, one could be assured that even if the book did go missing, the bookplate would insure its return. Early bookplates in Germany and France were primarily based on heraldry, insignia and family emblems. By the late 18th century and into the 19th and 20th centuries, pictorial bookplates became extremely popular, not only as identifiers but also as works of art. Portraits of the book’s owner, both symbolic and representational, often depicted the owner within a private library, garden or country home, engaged in a favourite activity. Although Canadian artists such as A.H. Howard, Alexander Scott Carter and Thoreau MacDonald designed bookplates to meet the increasing demand, for the purposes of this exhibition, the following examples are by artist J.E.H. MacDonald with one example by Frederick Varley.

 Institutional bookplates

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Institutional bookplates often represented organizations as a complex and distinct structure, imposing as well as humanistic.

 Individual bookplates

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Individual portraits provide a crystallized representation of one’s personality.

Bookplates used in this virtual exhibition were reproduced from the book, Designs For Bookplates. Thornhill: Woodchuck Press, 1966, written by Thoreau MacDonald on his father’s designs.