Removing Bookplates Without Damage

Watch This Video of How To Remove a Bookplate from a Book

To Remove or Not To Remove

So you have a book with a bookplate. And you want to remove the bookplate and display it on its own. Often, due to provenance issues, or a special relationship between the book and its bookplate, you should not. Say the book is of some historical significance, or your volume is an association copy from a famous author, scholar, or a presidential library. You won’t want to “ex libris” the Ex Libris in these and certain other special situations. Say it was your grandmother’s favorite copy of her favorite book. Definitely leave it in.
Ex-Libris (Latin – “from the books”)

Understanding Bookplates and How They Affect Book Value

But say you’ve purchased a less than thrilling copy of a less than thrilling book, which just happened to have a beautiful bookplate. And say you wanted it for your collection, or to use it to start one. Then, by all means, you should remove the bookplate and let it shine on its own.

Trouble is, you’ve never removed a bookplate before. Or you’ve tried to, but never managed the delicate surgery. The video above, combined with the instructions below, will show you how to successfully remove a bookplate without ruining it, ripping it, or allowing it curl.

Good luck and happy collecting.

Step by Step Removal

What You’ll Need:

  • paper towels
  • a blunt knife
  • wax paper
  • a heavy object
  • watercolor paper (optional)
  • distilled or purified water

You want the paper towel damp but not soaking. Some experts use boiling water, though this may or may not be necessary. Simply wet the paper towel and blot it with a dry one. Then lay the damp towel (cut to size – just a little larger than the bookplate) over the bookplate. Apply a piece of wax paper over that and leave them both to sit for half an hour underneath a heavy object. When the wet paper has soaked into the bookplate, carefully pry it up with the edge of a dull knife. Once it’s free, you may want to wipe any excess adhesive from the back of the bookplate with another damp paper towel.

What If It Doesn’t Work?

You may have to repeat the process. If your bookplate still sticks to the board after a half an hour or so, wait thirty minutes and repeat the steps in the video.

Avoid Curling

To keep your newly freed bookplate from curling in upon itself (as it will try to do), lay it flat between two sheets of wax paper with a heavy object (an iron or an Oxford Dictionary – or the Complete Works of William Shakespeare) for 24 hours. The wax paper is much better than another paper towel or other material, as it should keep the bookplate’s adhesive from sticking.

What To Do With the Wet Book

To remove the moisture imprint from the book itself, simply put a sheet of watercolor paper over the spot where the bookplate used to be and leave it to sit, underneath a heavy object, overnight.


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