Pasting Bookplates Into Your Books

This is an enjoyable task; do not rush it but, instead, take the opportunity to spend time with - and enjoy - your books. I do not paste plates into all of my books. For example, if I have a very valuable book, or a modern first edition that is in pristine condition, I usually lay the plate inside the front cover. Apart from this, I paste my bookplate into both books and portfolios.

Before you start, wash your hands and keep them clean at all stages of this procedure.

I suggest that you start by pasting a few bookplates onto paper or into cheap paperbacks until you get the hang of things. I would suggest that you limit yourself to about a dozen books for your first attempt.

Here are the materials that I use:

Here you see a small pile of bookplates, scrap paper, a pencil, a small brush (of good enough quality to avoid bristles detaching themselves) glue, clean soft cloth and a container to mix in.

I recommend PVA (Polyvinyl acetate) glue as is is flexible, acid free and is easily thinned with water.

I mix up a mixture of about 60% glue and 40% water in the container. I normally use a little less water for paperbacks, giving myself a stiffer mixture.

(At the end of this page, I describe an alternative paste that I now use)

I take a bookplate and place it inside the front cover of the book. I usually position plates by eye but it is better practice to use a ruler to make sure that the spacing is even each side of the plate. You can make faint pencil marks at each corner, if you wish:

It is now time to paste the bookplate into the book. Place it face down on clean scrap paper (I buy cheap photocopy paper) and take some paste on the brush. Hold the plate firmly with a finger and then brush the paste from the centre outwards - do not overload the plate with paste; better to add a little more. I hold the plate above the required position and then carefully, but deliberately, place it onto the book and smooth it down.

All being well, your bookplate is in the correct position. If a little too much glue has been used, then wipe it with a clean cloth that has been damped with clean water and squeezed to remove excess moisture. Wipe carefully and with a light touch to avoid damaging the surface of the paper.

I keep the book open to dry thoroughly. Now I can move on to the next book. The main danger for me is that I start reading through it and lose all track of time.

Sometime a book already has a bookplate. I suppose that one could just paste the new plate over the old but I prefer to add mine and so preserve the history of the book.

I hope that you enjoy your bookplates. Remember, above all else, to take your time. Do please contact me if you have any questions.


I have been experimenting with a bookbinding adhesive. It is a mixture of PVA glue and paste and is acid free. I find it a little stiff so I still dilute it with a very little water until it spreads more easily. I am very pleased with the results and recommend it. It is available from Shepherd's in the UK. They have a shop in central London.

(c) Andy English. September 2006 - revised October 2009