Welcome to The Ephemera Society Website
News   About Us   Membership   Events   Links
Image of Book Token

Book Token & Ex Libris

  • Open Book Lithograph Design No 11 by Barnett Freedman
  • Available in four different colour ways
  • On the opposite leaf a bookplate or ex libris repeating the design on the cover
  • 152 x 127mm (6 x 5in)
  • circa 1943

On 14 November 1932 under the auspices of the National Book Council, Book Tokens were launched together with relevant instructions as to how to use them and with point of sale give away bookmarks to advertise the new scheme.

The introductory piece of publicity for them was a folding leaflet deliberately similar in size and format and contained the reassuring promise that 'There is at least one bookseller selling Book Tokens in almost every town throughout the country'.

The first piece of publicity explaining 'What they are' tells the reader that 'it enables you to show courtesy, esteem, affection, appreciation or gratitude, by means of a gift which you can make as cheap or as expensive as you wish, and with which the recipient is bound to be pleased.'

In 1943 Book Tokens Ltd was formed by the Book-sellers Association and from this time onwards the tokens have a consecutive design number and artist accreditation. Early cards included a mixture of original works commissioned from popular artists and existing images from contemporary artists.

Designs were published by the parent company and were available to subscribing booksellers who could choose which ones to stock. With this system, depending on sales, some designs could remain available for many years.


The above extracted from a comprehensive article authored by Amoret Tanner in
The Ephemerist No 166 Autumn 2014. All of the fifty known book token designs
from 1934 to 1972 are reproduced in the article.


This regular feature shows special items from members’ own collections. Submissions by email should include a scan of the item.