Like people, books have their own destinies. Many of the publications in the Bucharest Municipality Museum Library have travelled a long way from their first day in the print press to their present destination. They were sold, bought or gifted, passed down from one owner to another for many years. Some books were part of old vanished libraries, fallen apart or confiscated, that belonged to important people (historians, philologists, medics, clergymen, politicians) or to unknown people, all of them united through their love for books. The books’ journey through time and space can be traced back with the precious help of signatures, notes and markings left on the title pages.
The book-stock of the Bucharest Municipality Library counts books that, according to the markings they contain, belonged to members of great historical families: ban Mihail Ghica (1796 – 1850), his Eminence Vladimir Ghica (1873 – 1954), Constantin C. Brătianu (1887 – 1956), Constantin Karadja (1889 – 1956), as well as some figures that lived and worked during the 18th -20th centuries: count Johann Georg Friedrich von Einsiedel (1730 – 1811), Cesar Bolliac (1813 – 1881), Nicolae Bălcescu (1819 – 1852), Alexandru Papiu Ilarian (1827 – 1877), Paul Gore (1875 – 1927), Gheorghe Tătărăscu (1886 – 1957), doctors George Severeanu and Alexis Zaloziecki (? – 1960), archaeologist Dinu V. Rosetti (1899 – 1974) and so on.
Ownership of books was marked through an ex libris, a generic term originating from the Latin “ex libris meis”, meaning “from my books”, followed by the owner’s name. The ex libris can be either a simple signature, can be applied unto the book as a tag (with text and image) or can be printed (with a seal or stamp). It serves as evidence of ownership and sometimes even has artistic value.
The exhibition will showcase books printed in the 16th-20th centuries, marked with ex libris of different kinds, and will be accompanied by texts and images about the items on display and their owners. Through auxiliary texts we will tell who they were, what we know about their libraries and what their reading tastes were. Visitors will get acquainted with notions such as: the antique book, books of bibliophile value and ex libris and will be able to distinguish between different types of ex libris.
In a world where printed books face the threat of rapidly emerging digital formats, we wish to remind the public about the personal and personalized relationship between the people of the past centuries and their books.
Dr. Daniela Lupu
Head of Research, Library and Archive Department