Mirka Mora’s bookplate designs on display at Montrose library

Mirka Mora's 13 bookplate designs are on display at Montrose library. Pictures: MIKAYLA VAN LOON.

By Mikayla van Loon

Montrose Library has a special display currently showing, dedicated to the bookplates of internationally acclaimed French-Australian artist Mirka Mora.

Most commonly known for her work as a painter and sculptor, her bookplate drawings and autobiographical work are less known.

Bringing it to life in a small exhibit produced by close friend and Montrose resident Marzena Walicka as part of the New Australian Bookplate Society, Mora’s 13 bookplates created in 1975 and 1976 are featured.

Ex-libris or bookplates are the identifiable symbols designed by authors which are printed into a book, often on the front endpaper to denote ownership that began in the 15th century.

Ms Walicka, originally from Poland, a gallery owner and librarian, met Mora 40 years ago where she asked her to design some posters based on Polish folk art and eventually Polish ex-libris.

“So all these ex-libris were for my Polish friends and she was the only foreigner in the group,” Ms Walicka said.

Taking the Polish symbol for the capital city of Warsaw, which was a mermaid, Mora weaved it into her own Polish ex-libris design.

“[Mirka] used a child which is quite different because the real ex-libris symbol was the woman fighting against [her opponent].”

The symbol of the mermaid has been used on many occasions, particularly on Polish stamps, depicting the uprising during German occupation in 1944 and the 700 years of the city of Warsaw.

Mora’s other bookplate designs follow her typical painting and sculpture style of doll-like people.

This exhibition at Montrose is the fourth location the display has been to, starting in the City, then Richmond and St Kilda.

Ms Walicka hopes by putting on the display in her hometown, more people will learn about Mirka Mora and her diverse background in writing and bookplates.

“I wanted to propagate the idea of having your own bookplates and Mirka’s designs were never shown in her other exhibitions because they were concerned with her as a painter and sculptor.

“So she is known from other side of her activities as a painter but not as a writer. So here are books and her ex-libris.”

A colouring competition will also begin in the school holidays for young people to design their own bookplate which will be put on display at a later date.