History of the Ex Libris Collection of the National Library

Drafted by: (Online store ex libris)

The History of the collection of Ex Libris of the National Library starts at the beginning of the acquisition in 1968 and 1969 of the collections formed by their owners Mr. Porter and Concepción Montsalvatje of Barcelona and Sáenz Fernández Casariego of Madrid and in 1977 that of Concepció Careaga together with a small representation of ex libris already existing, and that with them was formed the important collection integrated in the background of the Service of Drawings and Prints.

Between all of them they form a set exceptional by Ex Libris for the quality and quantity of his works, some of Spanish artists but most, of foreign engravers who dedicated themselves to this field of art.

This is why in this Ex libris collection, there are works by excellent engravers from the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. It is also important to highlight the diversity of the stamping procedures used in them and the variety of topics dealt with.

In 1989, the Catalog of Ex Libris of Libraries Spanish in the National Library among which there are excellent works 19th and early 20th century engravers.

Main topics of the Ex Libris

Among the main topics discussed in the ex libris of Spanish libraries are the Cervantes, being of special relevance those representing scenes from Quixote, animals, heraldic, humorous, children, macabre, medical and religious. The latter being divided between Marian themes and saints.

Colección de Ex Libris
Ex Libris engraving allegory Don Quixote

From the collection of ex libris of the National Library stand out for their interest historical those belonging to the Royal House of Spain.

From the monarchy to the people

At first, the libraries being the most abundant those of the nobles and during the predominance of the monarchies, the most common ex libris is the heraldic. With the passage of time and the development of the art of printmaking and printing, artistic designs will be used that show the tastes and tendencies of its owners or of the artists who, under a certain idea, are in charge of its elaboration. On the other hand, the development of the technique, the advance of the printing procedures and the invention of new systems bring as a consequence a wide development of the arts. Wood engraving, which will be the beginning of the illustrations, will be predominantly engraved in metal, copper or steel, and from there to lithography and other techniques that follow each other.

ex libris
Wood engraving

Definition according to the Dictionary of the Royal Academy of the Language

The Dictionary of the Language of the Royal Academy defines the ex libris as the «card that sticks to the back of the cover of the books in which the name of the owner or the name of the library to which the book belongs. » Some authors extend the denomination of ex libris to those marks that form integral part of the book: from the super-libris, usually shields or monograms, which were stamped richly gold on the bindings of the old books, the printer’s marks and the filigrees of the paper, until small stamps, used mostly in public libraries. But the ex libris considered «artistic» is that piece of paper, of generally rectangular format, where it is recorded, for then adhere to the book, from a simple monogram to the most finished ones compositions

Home hobby

In Spain the hobby of collecting ex libris arises with more roots in Catalonia in the mid-nineteenth century, at which time began to form, during years of exchange and correspondence and with great patience on the part of their owners, important collections.

The ex libris, as old as the book itself and inseparable from the history of it, have an unsuspected interest and importance. The collections that houses the National Library are of great value for the quantity and quality of their specimens, both for the different origin of their owners, as for the diversity of the stamping procedures used in them as well as for the variety of topics covered. .

Main artists of Ex Libris

Among the leading artists of Ex Libris, highlight for its historical interest belonging to the Royal House of Spain.

An important piece is the Ex Libris recorded by Goya for Jovellanos, an etching executed between 1780 and 1798.


Besides Francisco Goya there are many Spanish artists, some of them excellent engravers, who dedicate themselves to the world of ex libris and Ex libris collection. There are also important painters and cartoonists. All of them great artists like José Triadó, Alejandro de Riquer, Ricardo Opisso, Joaquín Renart, Ramón Casals and Vernis, Cayetano Cornet, Luis García Falgás, Lorenzo Brunet, Antonio de Guezala, Ales Mestres, Alejandro Cardunets, Joaquín Diéguez, D’Ivori, Juan García-Junceda, Ismael Smith, etc. Which is more relevant for his work and expertise.

A small selection of this collection is shown in the chosen exhibition installed in one of the showcases of the Hall of the Muses on the occasion of Book Day from on April 10 until May 4.

Source: National Library of Spain (BNE)

Link of interest: http://www.bne.es/es/Actividades/Exposiciones/Exposiciones/Exposiciones2007/muestraexlibris.html

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