In Memoriam medical bookplates

Bookplate Ink's design D62

One of the popular uses of bookplates throughout the years has been to designate a book as being donated to a library, school, church, synagogue, university, or other organization, in memory of a loved one.  We received just such an order from the sister and brother-in-law of Dr. Robert Leffert, a physician who made a significant contribution to orthopeadic medicine. An article I found online in the Harvard University Gazette states that Dr. Leffert “became a major force in Rehabilitation Medicine and also in the management of upper extremity disorders” while at Massachusetts General Hospital. He was “adored by his patients and his students.”


The design Dr. Leffert’s sister and brother-in-law wanted to use was Bookplate Ink’s D62, which shows two surgeons at work. This design was created by woodcut artist Harry Roth, who escaped from Germany just prior to World War II. The Antioch Bookplate Company began offering it in the 1940s. Harry Roth created two other bookplates for Antioch that weren’t quite as popular, D-9 and D-10. He seemed to have a penchant for medicine.


The D62 design that we usually print has the text “ex libris” included, which means “from the library of.” Dr. Leffert’s sister and brother-in-law asked that this text be changed to “In Memoriam” for this order. As a side note, I appreciate when customers call with questions about changes that can be made to our designs. Even though this can be time-consuming, I’d rather have people ask. We aren’t able to show all the options that are possible with our bookplate designs, and we specialize in personalization.

Dr. Leffert's bookplates

After the bookplates were shipped, I received a very sweet note from Dr. Leffert’s sister:

I’m writing to thank you for the help and beautiful work on the surgeon’s bookplate in memory of my brother, who was a wonderful surgeon.

We’ve begun pasting these into his books (a very simple job), which will become part of a library for doctors from Partners in Health, who bring their expertise to Haiti.

I think my brother would have loved these plates – and they have made me smile!

We don’t have bookplate designs that are strictly for “In Memoriam” bookplates. Most of our customers find artwork that is appropriate for their use, whether it be a border design or something more elaborate, and request the text of their choosing. This gives the customer more flexibility and more customization.


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.