Symbols that were first used in vanitas paintings like those in the Harris collection can be found again in more modest forms in these inexpensive exlibris [bookplates]. Graphis artists combined skulls and skeletons with other symbols to communicate ideas about mortality and wisdom. An old man contemplating skull is a reminder that wise men are not afraid to confront the idea od death. A skull or a skeleton with a young girl warn that the pleasures of youth is fleeting.
These bookplates display imagery common amongst artworks of the memento mori genre, which began with the European paintings in the Middle Ages. The viewer is warned not to forget that death awaits all men and women. The significance of skulls, skeletons and other symbols of mortality is reinforced by the texts that accompany them. Some of the texts remind the reader to remember death in the midst of life, others would have flaunted the educational and professional status of the person who labeled his books with them.