The Mayo Library Bookplate: A Little History

January 30, 2012 at 1:11 pm

The Mayo family name went through many iterations and spelling variations, Mayo, Mayow, Mayhow, Mayho, as was characteristic of Norman surnames.  

The coat of arms borne by the Mayo family of Rochester, Minnesota, is representative of the descendants of John Mayo, 1671, and has the following elements: sable, a chevron between three silver roses and a chief or dove with an olive branch in its mouth for a crest with the motto “ Nuncia pacis oliva” – Announcer of peace by means of  olive.

 According to the Heraldic Art Studio of Victor Bruce Grant, Ann Arbor, Michigan, who researched the Mayo coat of arms, the armorial bearings of Mayo’s are centuries old and are considered from an artistic heraldic and historic sense to be among the most notable and beautiful in the ancient official records of heraldic art.

Coat of arms are displayed in many ways – stationary, monuments, and emblems on garments.  We will share how the Mayo coat of arms came to be incorporated into the Mayo Clinic Library bookplate.

For those working in the Mayo Library, bookplates are a familiar thing but how much do you really know about the origins of bookplates and the Mayo Clinic bookplate?

A bookplate, also known as ex librīs  [Latin, “from the books of…”], is usually a small printed or decorative label pasted into a book, often on the inside front cover, to indicate its owner.  Printed bookplates originated in Germany during the 15th century.  Since books were a luxury throughout the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries, those who could afford books knew the importance of adding bookplates to their books as evidence for the provenance of the books.  In America, the earliest known bookplate is from 1679 and belonged to John Williams.

Bookplates typically include a name, motto, device, coat of arms, crest, badge or any motif that relates to the owner of the book.  The name of the owner usually follows an inscription such as “from the books of . . . ” or “from the library of . . . “.

The Mayo library bookplate bears a very close resemblance to the official Mayo coat of arms and is adapted from the bookplates of Dr. Charles H. Mayo and Dr. William J. Mayo that they used in their private libraries.  Two versions of the bookplate exist one with the dove and olive branch one without the dove and olive branch. 

The Mayo library accession book helped us track back to the first dated item to have a bookplate in the Mayo library collection.  The date was 1917, ten years after the Mayo Library opened under the direction of Maud Mellish, the first Mayo librarian.  The librarian in charge at this time was Helen Tiesler (1917-1921). The first dated item in the collection with a book plate was Guy’s Hospital Reports, an early serial dating from 1836.

The Mayo Library bookplate was revised circa 1921-22 by Ella Jack, who worked in the Mayo Art Studio at that time.  She created a border around the “Coat of Arms” of inverted hearts with a rose center like the crest roses.  This became the common version of the Mayo Library bookplate.  According to heraldic design, the heart signifies “sincerity and charity” while the rose is indicative of “hope and joy”.  This Mayo Library bookplate design is still used today.   


 Dottie Hawthorne, Outreach Librarian
Renee Ziemer, Coordinator-Mayo Historical Unit

With acknowledgments to:

Tamra Kirk, Plummer Library, Technical Processing
Hilary Lane, History of Medicine Library
Brenda Lindsay, Media Support Services

Entry filed under: Feature Articles. Tags: , , .

Lunch & Learn: Mobile apps @ the Library! Most Popular New Items of 2011

%d bloggers like this: