Witchy Bookplate, 2001
This 2001 bookplate is signed by a Russian artist V. Zhitnikov, about whom I know nothing. It depicts a naked witch, on a broom, who is holding a devil by the tail. The devil seems to be fleeing with the witch’s clothes, which she is trying to get back. The caption is “Ex Eroticis”
A bookplate is a small print or decorative label made for a book collector, which is pasted onto the inside front cover of a book, to indicate its owner. Since some books are valued for the people who have owned it, or more highly valued if they have had famous owners, collectors have long been interested in bookplates as indicators of provenience.
But decorative bookplates have also long been been collected, in their own right, for their artwork. After all, many famous artists have created images for bookplates. Since it is easier to have—and to display—a collection of bookplates rather than a collection of books with the bookplate still inside them, many collectors have removed the bookplates from books and just kept the bookplates.
Eventually, bookplate collectors—collectors of ex libris (meaning “from books”)—simply started commissioning and collecting ex libris that had never been pasted into books. In fact, these days, most ex libris are not, strictly speaking, ex libris at all, since they have not, and never will be, from books. Rather, they are small format and small print-run original artwork, with the name of the artist and the name of the commissioning collector.
Ex libris are commissioned, purchased, sold or traded by collectors and dealers at regular fairs and meetings. The commissioning collector may choose the composition, but artists also create designs and hawk them to collectors at fairs and online. Since there is no collector’s name in this case it is likely that V. Zhitnikov is entirely responsible for the composition. In some of my other witchy ex libris the collector is named and so they were probably commissioned.
There are scores of books on the subject of ex libris that have been published by societies and collectors, including catalogues of the work of individual artists or of different themes (especially erotic ex libris, such as this one). These catalogues and books are also often printed in quite short print runs, like the ex libris themselves. Consequently, the whole damn area of collecting is quite exclusive and expensive and I don’t claim to know anything much about it. There may be a book on the subject of erotic witchy ex libris; but if there is, I don’t know about it! I just buy what I like: and I liked this one. I hope you do too.