Nico Bulder was one of the best European “Ex Libris” creators of his time. He spent a lot of time and effort from 1926 to 1963 to refine this most intricate form of graphical art. The level of detail that Nico Bulder could incorporate in these small wood engravings is almost incomprehensible. He made four ex libris for himself that we know of: Opus 75 (1943), Opus 45 (1938), Opus 12 (1932) and an very early unnumbered version . The Opus numbers refer to the book “Schoonheid in zwart-wit” published by “van Gorcum” (Assen, NL) in 1996 in cooperation with the Nico Bulder Stichting.
Here is his latest ex libris, Opus 75 (from 1943). According to Evert Musch, Nico Bulder once told him the meaning of this ex libris: “duivels werk met engelen geduld uit het hart van de eigenaar”. Although “duivel” is the Dutch word for “devil”, “duivels werk” has less to do with the devil himself, but refers more to a tremendous amount of work. Similar reasoning applies to the angels: although “engel” is the Dutch word for “angel”, “engelen geduld” means an almost infinite amount of patience, something an engraver like Nico Bulder would definitely need.
If you look closely to the opened book in the middle of the ex libris, you will recognize an illustration of St. George and the dragon, one of Nico Bulder’s favorite subjects (see at various places in this online museum). St. George symbolizes the protector who fights the good fight. The dragon is said to represent paganism. You will see a heart behind a book; this heart, being the traditional symbol of love supposedly symbolizes the love for books in this case. Both the heart and book are pierced by a hand engraving tool, the burin or graver which obviously refers to Nico Bulder’s tool of choice for his art. Although the modern symbolism of a pierced heart (by Cupid’s arrow) is romantic love, this symbolism is not fitting here. Probably Nico Bulder refers to the much older symbolism of the heart of Jezus.
Nico Bulder’s other personal ex libris, Opus 12, Opus 45 and an unnumbered version can be found in the chronological gallery below including their respective explanations.Many of the ex libris that Nico Bulder made for others bear his monogram “B-“; sometimes it is in plain sight, other times it is more hidden.
Our goal is to show you in the gallery below all the 168 Ex Libris that he created in his lifetime (including one that has never been published before). Click here for the pdf file that lists the background info of the people for whom Nico Bulder created their ex libris.