Bookplates, or ex libris, are printed labels pasted on the inside cover of a book to display its ownership, especially in private libraries.

This exhibit shows bookplates in books that belonged to people with links to the Library, or to Armagh.


Armagh Public Library has collected a wide range of books from many different collections since its foundation in 1771, and this is reflected in the range of bookplates in the collection.

The first printed bookplates were produced in 15th century Germany, following the invention of the printing press. It was not until the end of the 17th century that bookplates became popular in Great Britain and Ireland.

Those early bookplates contain some or all heraldic elements from an armorial achievement. This is indeed the case for most the bookplates right up to the 19th century.

The elements of an armorial achievement can reflect family origins and professions, as well as personal characteristics.


Carolian Style 1650-1700

In the middle of the 17th Century, the so-called Carolian style bookplate often consisted of a coat of arms surrounded by wreaths or palms.


Early Armorial 1690-1720

The Early Armorial style bookplate consisted of a coat of arms surrounded by ornamental drapery (mantling) coming down from a helmet.

OWNER Jackson Family, probably the Jacksons of Ballybay Volumes in Armagh Robinson Library with the Jackson bookplate: at least 32

The coat of arms in this bookplate probably belongs to the Jackson family of Ballybay, who founded the linen industry in that area.


Jacobean Style 1700-1745

In the early 18th century the so-called Jacobean armorial became popular. This type of bookplate consists of a symmetrical frame with mantling, however less exuberant than in the Early Armorial style. The bookplate is sometimes decorated with shells, cherubs’ heads and animals. A distinctive feature in some of the Jacobean armorial bookplates is a horizontal plinth below the shield.

bookplate John Rawdon

OWNER John Rawdon, 1st Earl of Moira
Volumes in Armagh Robinson Library with the Rawdon bookplate: at least 43

John Rawdon, 1st Earl of Moira, was known as The Lord Rawdon between 1750 and 1762. He was a descendant of George Rawdon (1604-1684) who worked for Viscount Edward Conway as estate manager at Lisnagarvey House, Brookhill.

Viscount Conway kept his Irish book and manuscript collection at the Library at Lisnagarvey. Part of the collection and the handwritten catalogue were passed down to several generations of the Rawdons. The catalogue and some sixty volumes from the Conway collection are now held by Armagh Robinson Library.


Bookplate John Huson

OWNER John Huson Volumes in Armagh Robinson Library with the Huson bookplate: at least 8

John Huson, a Dublin Barrister, was an avid book collector. In 1737, after his death, his library was auctioned at the Parliament House in Dublin featuring subjects such as law, general history, Irish history, theology, travel, and gardening.


Chippendale Style 1740-1780

Under the influence of French Rococo and the furniture designs by Thomas Chippendale, the Chippendale armorial style emerged in the middle part of the 18th century.

These bookplates are characterised by an asymmetrical shield, a frame of shell shapes, surrounded by leaves and flowers. Often other elements were added, such as books, cherubs, animals and objects reflecting the book owner’s profession.

Bookplate Michael Dugan

OWNER Michael Ignatius Dugan Volumes in Armagh Robinson Library with the Dugan bookplate: at least 23

Michael Ignatius Dugan was a book and manuscript collector, as well as an auctioneer in Dublin.

His collection passed to Dr John Lodge, an English archivist and historian and father to the Library’s first Keeper William Lodge. The collection remained in the Lodge family until they were purchased by the Library in Armagh in 1865.


Festoon, Wreath and Ribbon Style, or Spade Shield Style – 1770-1810

By 1770 Rococo had gone out of fashion, and bookplate styles became much more controlled.

The main element of this new style is the spade shield. This could be used on its own, with a festoon (swags of flowers, leaves or husks, hanging down from pins or ribbon) over it, with wreaths tied together below it, or with both.

OWNER Archbishop Richard Robinson
Volumes in Armagh Robinson Library with the Richard Robinson bookplate: at least 174
Volumes in Armagh Robinson Library with the Archbishop Robinson bookplate: at least 2,742

Richard Robinson became Archbishop of Armagh in 1765. He was responsible for the creation of many buildings in Armagh during his time, including the Infirmary, the Gaol, the Palace, the Royal School, the Observatory and this very Library.

His own collection of books on theology, philosophy, classical and modern literature, travels, history, medicine and law became the foundation of the Library, and his bookplate can be found in numerous volumes. A mitre was added to his original bookplate after his installation as Archbishop.


bookplate J. Freind

Owner: John Freind Robinson
Volumes in Armagh Robinson Library with the Freind bookplate: at least 2

Freind Robinson was the son of Grace Robinson and Dean William Freind. Through his mother he was the nephew of, and the heir to Archbishop Richard Robinson.

Freind Robinson was Archdeacon of Armagh from 1786 until his resignation in 1797.