Monday, May 12, 2008

Louvain: Bookplate from Louvain University Library, circa 1930

This bookplate was used in books that were given to the rebuilt Louvain University Library as a result of reparations enforced by the Treaty of Versailles. The Library had been destroyed during the German advance in late August 1914, and a contemporary report commissioned in Germany cleared their army of any wrongdoing (blaming, instead, irregular forces that were alleged to have deployed themselves in and around the library). In the West, the destroyed library became a potent propaganda symbol, and after the war restocking the destroyed library holdings an urgent task. Books and money were donated from around the world, but many more books were taken in the form of reparations from German collections. Hence this bookplate, which shows seated Wisdom rescuing a book from the flames (although a popular misconception thought that the bookplate actually depicted a German soldier setting the halls of the university alight).

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