A potted history of Bookplates and a 21st century bookplate commission

We spend much of our time at Bloomfield & Rolfe creating ex libris bookplates so we thought it would be interesting to provide a bit of historical background to the art of the ex libris – with some notable examples from the great and the good.

Bookplates date back to the 15th century when they would have marked ownership of precious illuminated prayer books. As books were the preserve of the ruling classes, they were usually heraldic or armorial, and this trend continued until the mid-nineteenth century. 


 Samuel Pepys
The 17th century diarist’s ex libris, engraved by Robert White after a portrait by Sir Godfrey Kneller, is a portrait which was originally used as a frontispiece for Memoirs of the Navy published in 1690 – the equivalent of an author photo on the inside cover in modern terms - but was used in his private collection of books too. A bookplate showing the owner’s likeness was by no means the norm, but it would certainly make you think twice about pilfering one of his volumes… those eyes are saying ‘put it back’.

 During the Victorian era, with book-ownership widening, bookplates were suddenly in demand by those without a coat of arms (imagine the headache of not having a coat of arms!). The fully pictorial bookplate was born, and began to reflect the owner’s interests and personal history. 

Jack London
The author’s most famous works, The Call of the Wild and White Fang, are set in the Canadian Yukon, so it is no surprise that his striking bookplate features a wolf and some snow shoes. Again, the ferocious stare seems to act as a warning and I wouldn’t steal a book with this in!

Bookplate from PBD4370_395x520.jpg

Rudyard Kipling
Designed by Kipling’s father, John Lockwood Kipling this fine bookplate captures the colonial and oriental themes of his son’s literature, life and interests. Rudyard can be seen riding and reading on the elephant with two servants, very much reinforcing his status. 


Albert Einstein
Designed by Erich Buttner in 1917 this is probably my favourite Ex Libris of a notable person because it so brilliantly captures Einstein’s awe of the universe and the energy and forces which drive it.

At Bloomfield & Rolfe we draw on this history whenever we design a bookplate. To make our products affordable we design directly onto a computer with a digital tablet rather than carving or etching, but by creating highly detailed rubber stamps we hope to preserve some of the tactile wonderfulness of these examples.


 For a recent commission we were asked to use a family coat-of-arms to create an up-to-date pictorial bookplate. The customer liked the idea of putting the wolf in a library reading a book, and we added touches like the axe leaning against the armchair, and the stars between the books to refer back to the original symbols. 

If you want to commission something similar email us with any imagery and/or ideas and we’ll get back to you with quote - orders@bloomfieldandrolfe.com

We can also, of course, create Bespoke Bookplates, Name and Monogram stamps based on personal history and interests.

Or we have over 70 ready-made designs which can be personalised with a name.

The Botanical Collection - from sketchbook to rubber stamp

We're often asked where we get our inspiration, so here's a little insight into our new Botanical Collection which originated in the greenhouses of Kew Gardens. I spent a fabulous day there back in July gathering ideas about shapes and form.

Here I am looking slightly gormless (but really I'm just deep in concentration).


As you can see from my sketchbook pages I recordered a lot of colour. This is partly to the benefit of my other illustration projects, but also, the act of looking that is necessary for a long colour drawing really imprints the shapes I'm looking at on my memory. Once I was back in the studio I barely need to look back at my sketchbooks to get ideas for making personalised rubber stamp designs....

... although the sketches do crop up when it came to taking photographs of the sample stamps.

You can see the whole Botanical Collection and order your own personalised stamps by clicking here.

Jenny has been doing a drawing a day since 1st September 2014. You can see them all at www.instagram.com/jennybloomfield/ or follow @jennybloomfield


We get a lot of requests for something like our Bespoke Bookplates  (or Bespoke Wedding Stamps), but smaller. And so we're really pleased with our new Bespoke Monogram Stamps which, just like their bigger counterparts, are designed from scratch for each recipient, incorporating a range of imagery that reflects a person's (or couple's) life and interests.

The sample above (JHB) was done by Jenny for herself. It incorporates and Autumnal tree (favourite season and generally a big fan of trees); a fox (born in Leicester); an owl (lives in Leeds); two owlets (two children) and a pencil (illustrator!). 

Measuring about 4x5cm these stamps are incredibly versatile. They make a thoughtful and useful gift and can be used to mark ownership of books or papers; make your own stationery, create seals for envelopes; or to accessorise your wedding day.

When you place an order for a stamp the order form has several prompts including places, animals, trees and flowers, profession(s), hobbies and interests. We won't necessarily include everything, but if anything is essential you can indicate when you order. Natural imagery works particularly well with these stamps.

Below is a sample we did for Nic & Will.
Listeners to BBC Radio 4's The Archers will know that they live in rural Borsetshire (countryside) where Will is a gamekeeper (pheasants); they got married at new year (winter wedding) and have a daughter called Poppy (!). I've also included 'cake' because Ambridge is a place of the WI, Fetes and the Flower and Produce show.

Stamps are £52.50 each and come gift boxed with a black ink pad. An explanatory card is also included. Allow 2-3 weeks for dispatch, although we try and process them as fast as possible.

How will you use yours? Get creative with a Personalised Christmas Jumper!

Having your own personalised stamp means making things unique and having lots of fun in the process.

We love making our own cards and decorations and the months leading up to Christmas are, of course, the peak season for  DIY card making creativity.

This year we’ve been having fun already with our new ‘Christmas Jumper’ design...“So much potential..!” as Bloomfield put it.

Order yours, which can be personalised with names of up to 25 characters, and start your Christmas crafting early...

Design your own Christmas Jumper Christmas cards - get the kids involved with colour pencils and paints...see who can create the craziest jumper!

One size fits all...try drawing a cartoon of the kids wearing the jumper. Don’t be daunted, keep it simple! People love the personal touch, even stick men are acceptable...

Bloomfield and Rolfe Christmas Jumper stamp

Use the stamp to make tags and decorations...think about witty ways to use the stamp. Do show us how you got on via twitter and instagram!  #BRxmasfun

A spotlight on Bespoke Bookplates

Our bespoke bookplates are designed by hand, especially for the recipient, incorporating details about their life - the ultimate personalised rubber stamp. They make a thoughtful and very special gift.

I thought I'd share some of the designs I've done over the years to show what is possible. Every design is unique so these are only examples but should give a good flavour.

For the first example I've included the information the customer gave me - he ordered it for himself with some accrued birthday money and was thrilled with the result.

I am a person that is not easily impressed but I was utterly overwhelmed and delighted by the bookplate I ordered. I am undergoing some long-term studies, so am frequently purchasing new books, and am proud to stamp the Ex Libris design into every volume. The quality of the design is first class and beyond what I imagined when I placed the order.
— David Beedon (Notts) - October 2015

We don't offer a proofing service but if you want something specific to be included just say - providing us with pictures of pets or special places can help make the design even more personal.

We usually say to allow 3 weeks from ordering for a bookplate to be dispatched. If you need one quicker just drop us an email and we'll help wherever possible.
Before a bookplate is sent it is checked, test prints made and then carefully gift-boxed ready for the recipient. If you're ordering for someone else, we'll always include a test print with explantatory notes outside of the gift box so you can see what you're giving (and one inside too!).


If you have any queries at all about Bespoke Bookplates, just email jenny@bloomfieldandrolfe.com and I'll get back to you ASAP.


*New Product Alert!* Ex Libris Carousel and Digger

We may be up to our necks in orders at this time of year, but the creativity never stops (although the boring paperwork may suffer!). We're pleased to reveal another couple of Ex Libris designs, there are now 20 to choose from in our online shop. (Last date for Christmas orders 12th December!)

Ex Libris - Carousel

Ex Libris - Digger

Quote from Rolfe when the design was revealed:

"Look at the mole! Jen, I think you have a knack for making even the most industrial of subjects.....cute. Never thought I'd say that." 


*New product alert* Personalised Music Stamp for the budding violinist

Yes we now realize we will now need to do one for piano, oboe, clarinet.....etc But who doesn't love a good fiddle?

These are perfect for keeping track of all those photocopied scores and carol sheets!

This is so new it's not even up on our website yet but if you are interested please contact orders@bloomfieldandrolfe.com stating what name you would like on the stamp (max 22 characters)

They are £19.50 plus P&P

Bloomfield & Rolfe Ex Libris in The Telegraph

We were thrilled last week when Bloomfield & Rolfe's Ex Libris stamps were featured in Daisy Bridgewater's Children's Notebook in the Telegraph.

We've been busy with lots of orders ever since and hope the word continues to spread as super-organised-types start to think about Christmas presents! At last count we have 18 different Ex Libris designs, so something for everyone.  Visit our online shop here.


A Bloomfield & Rolfe Christmas - sneak peak at new designs

As the nights draw in and it becomes cool enough to wear boots and don scarves (autumnal fashion is by far my favourite - all the accessories, none of the deep-winter disillusionment), our thoughts turn to Christmas. While we finalise our new Christmas 2012 designs, we thought you'd like a sneaky peak.

Our popular Partridge in a Pear Tree design is being joined by Two Turtle Doves and Three French Hens! Here are the working drawings.

Christmas stamp designs

Bloomfield's bird obsession is realised in the form of 3 carolling Robins perched on a festive window ledge.

Singing Robins Christmas stamp

And Marlow the cat has muscled her way in to the design process again, angling for a kiss under the mistletoe.

Christmas Cat design

They should all hopefully be finalised and available to buy on the website by early October.

Preparations for the Chapel A Festival

***Due to some technical ineptitude on my part this wasn't published at the time. What the heck, here it is some three and half weeks late.*** I've been having fun making cards to sell at our stall at the Chapel Allerton festival.

20120916-212750.jpg A specially designed Chapel Allerton card featuring the willow and the old police station at Stainbeck corner. I've hand coloured the stamp to pick out different parts of the design.

20120916-212815.jpg Blue tit design stamped with special ink on wooden postcards and oak veneer greetings cards. They're hand coloured with watercolour.

20120916-212844.jpg The popular butterfly from our Ex Libris design reappears in a rainbow of colour on greetings cards.

20120916-212907.jpg The peacock struts across a postcard made of birch.


Happy happenstance: Bloomfield finally tidies her desk

Today I actually reached the surface of my desk through the piles of paper, stamps, pieces of veneer (from our new wood greetings cards), miscellaneous stationary items, watercolours, more stamps, ink pads of varying dimensions, felt tips and my ubiquitous Pilot V-7 fine liners, without which everything would crumble. I now have a clear and tidy work area. I've discovered i don't need to buy new pens (I found 8 in all!). And I feel a sense of zen like calm.... Amongst the detritus were these 'test sheets' covered in test prints, felt pen squiggles and water colour washes. I couldn't bring myself to bin them as they are pleasing to the eye.




Rolfe: Save the Date stamp show off

OK, ok, no earbashing about exploiting my forthcoming nuptials for commercial gain please! Today I wanted to share my Save The Date cards which were made with what else but a stamp - who knew??



I used one of my favourite techniques when it comes to stamping - painting over the top in inks - here a bright flash of hot pink merges with a sweep of tropical sea blue watercolour to almost iridescent effect!



Obviously we here at B&R can help you with any custom made stamp requirements you might have for your Big Day - or any other equally important days! We've been doing our wedding stamps (featuring a drawing of the venue plus names/dates) via Holly's Houses for a couple of years now but have also done loads of bespoke designs too. Watch this space for the initials stamps we are working on as we speak!

I ordered all my beautifully coloured stationery from Bureau Direct who have a great choice of colours and sizes and import from Switzerland.

P.S - don't you just love it when overseas stamps go so well with your colour scheme?(#weddingoverload)

A sunny day at Chapel Allerton Festival

Bloomfield & Rolfe were thrilled to have a stall at Chapel Allerton festival on Saturday, in the heart of Bloomfield's 'hood'. After a week of fretting about the weather, as I watched the torrential rain bounce off the windows day after day, the sun got its act together and blazed all afternoon. Little Bloomfield was in tow, remaining unphased by the loud fairground music behind us (the same can't necessarily be said for her mum). Yes, that's a ride, not an industrial skip!


All our products were on display and available to order. The undeniable hit were our new range of address stamps on their first outing (available now from www.bloomfieldandrolfe.com), and our range of wooden cards and postcards (soon to be available online). We also did a special souvenir Chapel Allerton hand-stamped card featuring the willow tree and old police station.


The only downside of the day was that I didn't have time to have a proper look around, although the woodland theme occasionally came past in the form of a be-garlanded infant. I was pleased to see Stacey on the Scamp stall with their super-cute screen printed vests. And I did manage to scoff some pad thai from Sukhothai (yum) and a divine lavender macaroon from Crust & Crumb - a picture of this confection would have been apt here, but the pleasure of eating it was too much!

Some of our favourite projects...Bistro Union in SW4

Very happy to see many great reviews of new Clapham eaterie Bistro Union who our sister company Holly’s Houses did a stamp for a few weeks back. This new restaurant’s colour palette is utterly divine – check out those on trend greys and ochres!

[caption id="attachment_177" align="alignnone" width="500"] ...here's a sample of the stamp with another recent one done for a fabulous French wedding...[/caption]

Can’t wait to head down there for some brunch to see how they are using it…

Best of luck guys!