The first known bookplates or ex libris – a Latin phrase meaning ‘from the library of’ – are woodcuts from the fifteenth century, displaying the owner’s name and coat of arms. Through the centuries ex libris designers came up with ever more artful and imaginative designs for their clients’ libraries, inspiring a mania for collecting bookplates which lasted from the final quarter of the nineteenth century until the 1930s.

Starting in the 1980s there was a definite trend towards erotic subjects for bookplates, partly a throwback to the 1920s and 30s, and partly to explore the potential of woodcut and engraving techniques. Cornelis Labots regularly produced bookplates for friends and relations, many of which verged on the more or less erotic; he was particularly skilled at capturing the lines and movement of the naked body in woodcut.