Skip to Main Content

Bookplates at Yale: Search Strategies

This guide presents an overview of bookplates and the Yale Bookplate Collection.

Featured Item

Bookplate of W.K. Bixby by E.D. French, 1906.

Bookplate of W. K. Bixby by E. D. French, 1906. Collection of Bookplates by Edwin Davis French (BKP 49), Robert B. Haas Family Arts Library, Yale University.

Edwin Davis French (1851-1906) designed bookplates for individual patrons as well as institutions. One private commission was for W.K. (William Keeney) Bixby (1857- 1931), a St. Louis businessman and bibliophile, who considered the octopus an apt metaphor for his collecting habits.

Finding Bookplate Materials

Finding bookplate materials—both in the Yale Bookplate Collection and elsewhere on campus—can be an exciting, though sometimes complex, task. You may consult multiple resources, including both Orbis and the Yale Finding Aid Database (YFAD).

The sections that follow provide search strategies to target bookplate materials. Also, remember that librarians and curators can answer subject-specific questions and provide guidance for using these resources. Feel free to contact the curator of the Yale Bookplate Collection

See below for tips on searching Orbis and YFAD.


The Yale Bookplate Collection has a wealth of published resources for information on bookplates and their artists, patrons, and collectors. These include standard reference works, such as encyclopedias, dictionaries, and bibliographies, as well as published portfolios of prints and periodical literature produced by numerous ex-libris societies.

Records for many of the published works in the Yale Bookplate Collection are available in Yale University Library’s online catalog Orbis. Some of these published works, however, are not yet represented in Orbis, so don’t hesitate to ask the curator for assistance!

Orbis Search



Limiting your Orbis search can help pinpoint bookplate materials available for research and study in the Arts Library Special Collections as well as elsewhere on campus. See below for additional tips on locating bookplates and bookplate-related materials, including instructions on how to limit your searches according to the following parameters:


Descriptions of archival holdings, i.e., collections of actual bookplate specimens, in the Yale Bookplate Collection can be found in the Yale Finding Aid Database (YFAD). Finding aids are guides that provide information about the creation, historical context, arrangement, and content of archival collections as well as the information necessary for users to identify and request selections relevant to their research. 

YFAD Search



Using the YFAD Search box above, you can enter search terms and select the Arts Library from the drop-down menu. Or search "all finding aids" to find bookplate-related materials from repositories across campus. 

In addition, a search for "BKP" in the Call Number field under YFAD's Advanced Search option will yield results for all fully processed bookplate collections.

Search Orbis by Location

From the Advanced Search tab, click the drop-down menu for Location. Scroll down and select “Haas Arts Special Collections” to search holdings in the Yale Bookplate Collection.

Or you may wish to search for bookplates in other repositories on campus, e.g., the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, the Lewis Walpole Library, or the Music Library.

Enter additional keyword or subject terms related to your bookplate research, and then hit the Search button.

Drop-down menu for Location in Orbis Advanced Search.


Search Orbis by Holdings Keyword

From the Advanced tab, search for "Bookplate" in the Holdings Keyword field. You may also limit the location to “Haas Arts Special Collections."

These search results represent all of the published materials in the Yale Bookplate Collection that are currently cataloged in Orbis.  

You may also enter additional keyword or subject terms related to your bookplate research, in combination with the Holdings Keyword search for "Bookplate," to find published works on a particular bookplate topic. 

Orbis Advanced Search by Holdings Keyword.

Search Orbis by Special Collections Subject

From the Advanced tab, search for "Bookplate" in the Special Collections Subject field. This search returns results for local notes regarding bookplates within books, which are often documented to trace provenance.

This search recalls records from across Yale, so you may wish to limit by Location. Bookplates are often noted in the catalog records of the following repositories:

   -Haas Arts Library
   -Beinecke Library
   -Lewis Walpole Library
   -Elizabethan Club

Orbis Advanced Search by Special Collections Subject.