Marquette University’s library has existed for more than a century. Through the years, many of the books that have come to rest on its shelves were already used—some with storied histories. Some of these secondhand books were donated by retiring Marquette faculty. Others came to the library during growth periods in the middle of the 20th century, when Marquette’s librarians bought whole collections from US and European booksellers. 

Many of the early 20th-century secondhand books in Raynor Library’s collection were personalized with a bookplate, also called an “ex libris.” Squares of paper glued inside the front cover, bookplates displayed the owner’s name and, often, decorative illustrations. Bookplates not only often display unique artistry but also offer up fascinating clues to the sometimes celebrated, sometimes unknown book owners. Several hundred bookplates have already been discovered in Raynor Library’s collections, and they continue to be found. This digital collection features images of a growing portion of these little pieces of art and book history. Highlights include a bookplate belonging to famed actress Helen Hayes and an bookplate designed by celebrated illustrator Arthur Rackham. Explore and enjoy!

Curated by Kerry Olivetti

In collaboration with Elisa Coghlan & Amy Cooper Cary