Rare books reveal secrets thanks to ex libris

Rare books that date back centuries have often had an eventful life: different owners, libraries that have been broken up, many different readers. But who were these people? And how did the books end up in each place?

Ex meis libris

The owners' marks found in the books – printed ex libris, handwritten notes or stamps – can help trace this: the new Ex meis libris catalogue (external link) on the platform E-Pics enables specific origin marks in ETH Library's rare books to be tracked. This renders all that tedious scrolling through digitised books redundant. The specific entry of owners’ names, provenance marks or sources enable academics and anyone else who is interested to reconstruct erstwhile private and public library holdings virtually.

Currently comprising around 500 images, the catalogue is constantly being expanded. Links redirect from the individual ex libris images to the corresponding book on the platform e-rara.ch. And thanks to Linked Open Data, additional information, from the Historical Dictionary of Switzerland or Wikipedia for instance, is also included.

E-Pics (external link), ETH Zurich's platform for images, photographs and illustrations, is run by ETH Library.


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