Do you know what bookplates and ex-libris are? These prints or stamps that mark the book’s ownership. Here is a twist: the Utopian Libraries project by a Russian artist Dmitry Babenko includes only bookplates of nonexistent libraries.
Dmitry Babenko is an artist who started with mail art in the early 1990s and through it came to creating artist’s books. The Utopian Libraries (“Утопические библиотеки”) project was a tool used to add dimension to some of his artist’s books. And it definitely works!
You’ll find more examples of the bookplates below, but let Dmitry introduce himself first:
I’m an artist by trade and always had a strong emotional connection with books. I read a lot, and buy lots of books (not as many as I’d like to, unfortunately.) I started wotking with mail art in 1994 and that lead me to artist’s books.
While my artist’s books were initialy born from this mail art heritage, later they were definitely pollinated by the contemporary Russian artist’s books. The important distinction is that the artist’s book stemming from mail art is a revolt against the overwhelming commercialization. The battle that was lost to galleries. While the Russian artist’s book is a direct heir to samizdat with its outcry against the prevailing socialist ideology.
One is on the left, the other is on the right, and here am I, right between them.
At the current moment, the Utopian Libraries account for about two dozen bookplates. Some of them are deeply ingrained, but the Russian and Soviet media. Others are pretty international or trans-national.
Borderline Library of the Oicumene
The first ex-libris came from the Borderline Library of the Oicumene (“Приграничная Библиотека Ойкумены”). As the artist describes it: “The fringe, borderline of Oecumene is a territory almost outside of the habitable area. This is laying outside the area of rational perception.”
Library Of the Apocrypha
Next, there was a stamp of the Library of the Apocrypha that holds “mostly books with pseudo-scientific contents far cry from conventional theories and practices.”
Library of the Pseudonymoholics Anonymous Society
Well, a person without a Soviet background may not knot that Lenin wasn’t the сommunist leader’s real surname. Vladimir Ulyanov-Lenin had a revolutionary name as well as many of his comrades. But with Lenin, it doesn’t even end with only one pseudonym. There was an astonishing number of 148 of them. Including Jacob Richter, John Frey, and many more.
But I guess my favorite is the ex-libris of the Tsundoku Library. It’s easy to imagine why.
Some more bookplates:
- Dmitry’s LiveJournal post about the Utopian Libraries project (the post is in Russian but quite accesible with automatic translation)
- Dmitry’s Flickr account
- Dmitry Babenko on Boek Visual
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