To the History of the Austrian Exlibris Society (ÖEG)
by Heinrich R. Scheffer
Ernst Krahl - Heliographie, für die Österreichische Exlibris-Gesellschaft, 1904The Austrian Exlibris Society this year is looking back on 111 years of its interesting history, so rich in changes. It began already before 1903 in Vienna, when a “Dinner Society” was called to life, as a “free society, which was not restricted by any rule-governed, officially followed organization,” but rather as a desire of some high-positioned personalities who wished to meet casually to discuss the subject of exlibris.
These people were important bookplate collectors of the first hour, who have already conglomerated significant collections, as the awareness grew, that the exlibris was a bearer of culture and that was identifiable as an art form in itself, which was most closely bound and related to books. In addition to this, it also emphasizes the owner through this artistic creation of the bookplate, and through this, it makes the book in which such is placed into an especially unique specimen.
The idea received such great response, that these members of the “dinner society,” among them Moritz von Weittenhiller, Rudolf Höfken, Knight of Hattingsheim, and from the artistic workshop of the Imperial and Royal Court the painter of the Coat-of-Arms, Ernst Krahl, took the initiative, and in the beginning of 1903 founded the Austrian Exlibris Society. The effort was taken and the primary objective was to dedicate “to researching, and to heighten awareness of the national, native exlibris-treasures, and to make efforts to enable the Austrian homeland to join and become a part of the Exlibris Movement.”
Today, 111 years later, there is no longer talk of the flowering "raising of the native exlibris-treasures", and it is said in the constitution statutes of 2002 rather plainly, but still complementing the goals of the Society as a scientific institution: “the support of the art of the exlibris and the artistic branches related to it in the forms of small graphics in Austria and in other countries […] and the research of the history of the small graphics, especially the exlibris” – and its support and its spreading in our present time.