Connecting with well-known authors

Printing bookplates has allowed me to feel a connection with some well-known authors, politicians and speakers. Okay, I don’t get to talk with them, but I have the fun of knowing that they will be signing bookplates we provide. Just last week we printed bookplates to be signed by one of the U.S. Supreme Court justices. I’m not allowed to say which one, and we never divulge customer information unless given permission, but they were to be placed in books given to attorneys at a conference.

Bookplate Tony Blair signed

Recently, Bookplate Ink printed bookplates that were to be signed by Tony Blair, former prime minister of  Great Britain. We were contacted by the Arab-U.S. Relations Council, which was hosting an event in Washington, D.C., at which Mr. Blair was speaking. The bookplates were a simple text-only design, but printed on our cream vellum paper they were quite elegant.

Many authors offer a signed bookplate to readers on their website. One successful author and speaker who does this is Dan Pink. We have printed bookplates for his bestselling book Drive several times, which he makes available at

You may have heard about President Obama’s summer reading list, which included Abraham Verghese’s best-selling book, Cutting for Stone. Verghese has ordered our design B252 and seems to be a wonderful, caring and intelligent man. ‎Cutting for Stone was chosen as the selection for NPR’s monthly Book Club in March.

Design B252

Every once in a while, I manage to obtain a signed copy of a book from a customer. The most notable of these was Alan Greenspan’s book The Age of Turbulence. This is a rare occurrence and usually a gift from a company holding an event at which an author is speaking.

Many years ago, we printed bookplates for the late and beloved Tim Russert. I was told Russert asked to have the bookplates brought to his hotel room along with copies of his book Big Russ and Me, where he would get down to the business of signing his name hundreds of times. His family doesn’t know me, but when I see his son Luke on TV reporting the news, I feel proud, as if I watched him grow up in my neighborhood.

Antioch Bookplate Designs

Bookplate Ink is fortunate to have inherited hundreds of bookplate designs that originated with the Antioch Company, originally the Antioch Bookplate Company. Many of these designs were out of print for years.

Originally, the Antioch Bookplate Company specialized in printing personalized bookplates for its customers, promising to keep the designs on file for future printing.


Design S200

As the company grew, they added designs, some handpicked by owner Earnest Morgan. An example is this Viennese “Scherenschnitte” design, S200.

Scherenschnitte is a papercutting art form which has been popular for many years. Arthur Morgan, president of Antioch College in the 1930s, brought this swan design home from a trip to Europe. His son, Earnest Morgan, a co-founder of the Antioch Bookplate Company, incorporated it as a bookplate.

As the company added new designs, older less popular bookplates were taken out of print. In the 1980s, Antioch expanded into the wholesale market, printing non-personalized bookplates to be sold in bookstores. At this time, Bookplate Ink took over the service of personalizing Antioch bookplates. Originally, we only printed the most popular designs. Over the years, however, it has become apparent that a wide range of the older designs have been important to people and we have made them available again.


Design E176

Many people who write Bookplate Ink have been using a particular Antioch design for years. One such person ordered design E176, a classic and popular design combining books on a shelf and a ship in the background. This design was created from a steel engraving originally done by Bank Gordon for the Etchcraft Company. It was introduced by the  Antioch Bookplate Company in the late 1950s. The customer ordering E176 wrote that that he had been using this bookplate since 1964 and is grateful we’re still printing it.

Another customer, ordering design B213, wrote,

Dear Karen,
I have been using this bookplate for decades, and was distraught when Antioch Bookplates Company vanished.  I’m very happy that you are continuing the tradition.  I will eagerly await my supply of your bookplates.

These types of notes make my day. It is so rewarding to know that we are providing a product that has been a part of peoples’ lives for so many years. And while people are thankful to receive their personalized bookplates, I’m thankful that I am able to carry on this wonderful tradition. I will be writing more about the history of Antioch bookplates in future blogs. You can also read more in the “About Us” section of our website,

A bookplate is what??

I am the owner of Bookplate Ink LLC, a company that prints both personalized and non-personalized bookplates. Most of you who are reading this blog will know what a bookplate is, but the majority of people I encounter in my everyday life have no idea what I’m talking about when they ask what I do.

Here’s how the conversation generally goes when I meet someone:

Them: “What do you do for a living?”

Me: “I own my own business.”

Them: “Really? What is it?”

Me: (Long pause as I gear up to explain what a bookplate is, while they are probably thinking from the look on my face that I’m about to tell them I do something illegal) “I print bookplates.”

Them: (Silence while they have a blank look on their face.)

Me: “Bookplates are decorative labels that are adhered to the inside covers of books to identify ownership.” You’ve probably seen them in Bibles or in a library, with text that says “This book donated in memory of such-and-such.”

Them: “Oh yeah! I’ve seen those. Hmmm, interesting.”

So why would I continue in a business that most people don’t understand? Because there are still many people throughout the world who love and cherish bookplates. Bookplates, or ex libris as they are often called, allow people to add a personal and lasting touch to their books. People become very attached to the bookplates they have used over the years. Bookplate lovers often ask to re-order designs they have used for 30 years or more. Or they are looking for a design they received as a child or found in their deceased parent’s library.

I feel privileged to be able to help people in this way. The gratitude that many customers have expressed is endearing and rewarding. With the exchange of e-mails and phone calls that often takes place with orders, some of Bookplate Ink’s customers feel like friends to me. Friends thoughout the world.

I hope to use this blog to tell about some of these people and their bookplate stories. And to tell about the history of bookplates, of Antioch bookplates in particular, and interesting tidbits from the business of printing customized bookplates.