Sunday, 20 November 2011

A Review of The Bookplate Journal - March 2009

Reproduction of The Studio 1898-9
After delays caused by circumstances very much beyond their control, The Bookplate Society was ver pleased to be able to finally publish and deliver to their membership the long overdue March 2009 edition of the Bookplate Journal.  I am very pleased to report that it was well worth the wait.

Britain's Ex Libris Society was founded in 1891 during a period when interest in both design and collecting was steadily on the rise in Europe and North America.  One of its members, Gleeson White, founded and edited a journal named The Studio in 1893, and as a regular contributor still several years later he oversaw the production of a special issue in the winter of 1898-9 that examined modern bookplates and their designers.  This issue of the journal has reproduced the section on British bookplates in its entirety.

If you're an admirer of the Art Nouveau period then obtaining a copy of this issue is a must.  Beyond the biographies and catalogues the issue has reproduced nearly a hundred bookplate images from several of the leading designers of the period.  Whether your interest is books, history, at, form, or design, the issue offers a rewarding package of information for both collectors and general readers alike.  In addition to the reproductions, the issue contains a detailed catalogue and bibliography of White's writings, as well as other ancillary information relevant to the subject at hand.  All in all, this has been one of the most enjoyable issues of the The Bookplate Journal I've read so far and I highly recommend it to everyone interested in the hobby.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Bookplate Society News

October 2011 Supplement
The fall/winter edition of the Bookplate Society Newsletter (October 2011 supplement) arrived this past week containing the results of auction 63 as well as the latest offerings for Auction 64, a total of 170 lots.  As usual the auction contains a number of interesting lots including a small collection of plates by J.A.C. Harrison, engraved on copper, and offered for sale by the artist's grandson.  If you wish to reference some of the ex libris being offered, please see Brian North Lee's book on Harrison, also offered for sale by the Bookplate Society.  Other lots include bookplates by artist Leo Wyatt, as well as a good mix of British and American ex libris.  Additionally, at the back end of the newsletter is a advertisement by a collector seeking two elusive bookplates for his collection.  Apparently, cost is not a problem if you happen to have them, so I encourage you to go looking through your swap pile, you might have a treasure in there waiting for you.  Such is the interest and intrigue surrounding bookplate collecting!

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Hunting books and bookplates in Port Perry Ontario

Port Perry by Lake Scugog
Considering how late in the year it's getting, we've been having exceptionally fine weather these past few weekends.  This means more opportunity to remain outdoors longer, and as such, I'm taking every chance to get out on the road and visit the many interesting bookshops and libraries nearby.  One of my recent trips took me down the road to a place called Port Perry, a picturesque community located on the edge of a man-made lake named Scugog.

Port Perry is a great place to spend the afternoon, and after lunch at a great little Italian place I headed across the road to a book store named The Grenadier.

This place is a military book lovers dream come true.  In fact I suspect it is the kind of place many of my friends secretly wish they could turn their homes into.  Located in Port Perry's old War Memorial Library, The Grenadier stocks thousands of military history books covering every period and every possible subject.  

The Grenadier - books and militaria
I made sure to get here early in the day as I knew I would easily spend a few hours wandering through the stacks.  I've been collecting books since childhood and have built a pretty comprehensive library, so I tend to be looking for the rare and obscure items that have so far eluded my attention.  Even so, I found many items here, including a few things I'd be hunting for some time.   The man in charge was very knowledgable and helpful, and I was also pleased to see that the prices were more than reasonable.  Needless to say I walked out later that afternoon with a good little pile of new old books.

Where to begin??

On this trip one of my best finds of the day was a near mint set of the 2 volume official history of the North-West Mounted Police, 1873-1893, by John Peter Turner, published in 1950.  My existing set, which I found in a yard sale some years ago, was in terrible condition so I was pleased to find a replacement for such a great price.  In addition, I picked up a couple of other military history volumes as well as a few cheaper items carrying interesting bookplates.  I'll share these finds in a subsequent post.

Monday, 31 October 2011

Happy Halloween!

Looking for scary bookplates!
As we reach the end of October and the celebration of Halloween (at least here in North America), I always find this a great time of the year to head out for a walk on the brisk evenings and then come back inside to enjoy a warm drink and a good book.  It's also a great time to get caught up on my books on bookplates, though at the moment I'm committed to reading a rather lengthy biography of Sir Frederick Borden...

You may have noticed that there are now some tabs along the top of the website as I've added a couple of new pages.  One is dedicated to a living list of references on bookplates, which I'll keep adding to as time permits. Its main focus will be Canadian sources, however, I also plan to include the main reference works on the bookplates of other countries.

The other tab links you to a page providing details of how to get in touch if you are an author or publisher of a book on the subject of ex libris and are looking to have your work promoted and reviewed.  I've been writing book reviews on both academic and commercial press books for nearly two decades, and I look forward to reviewing new material on this hobby as it becomes available.

Look for more updates later this week.  In the meantime, Happy Halloween!

Sunday, 23 October 2011

October Odds and Ends 2 - J.H. Holbrook M.D.

Just a short update today to include another bookplate I discovered this month.  It was in a bit of rough shape for the price, but being a very specific 'dedication' bookplate I could not pass it up and therefore it came home with me.

This bookplate appears to be quite specific in that it does not have a generic space to fill in a name like many prize bookplates typically have, rather it appears to have been specifically designed for the individual to whom the dedication was made.  A gift from the Hamilton Rotary Club to J.H. Holbrook M.D., I found this bookplate fascinating for its completeness and apparent uniqueness.  I can't imagine that the Hamilton Rotary Club would have commissioned a designer to create just a single bookplate, but having inspected this ex libris very closely it appears that they did exactly that.

Of course, this has made me wonder why they would do such a thing, but more research will be required before I'll have answers for you.  To date, I've yet to discover more but I'll report back here as soon as I do.  In the meantime, enjoy the last week of October.  I have a busy book week ahead of me and will have more to report on the weekend.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Prince Edward County Book Culture

Glenora Ferry Crossing on a Fall afternoon
This week I took a trip down to Prince Edward County, a beautiful peninsula located at the eastern end of Lake Ontario on the Bay of Quinte.  This area was first settled about 2000 years ago by the Point Peninsula Complex peoples, and then more recently in 1792 by European-Canadians, mostly United Empire Loyalists escaping the American Revolution.  It is a region rich in history, art, vineyards, as well as libraries and book culture.

Just across the Glenora Ferry crossing lies the town of Picton, which is currently home to a fascinating and rapidly growing project known as the Archives and Collections Society.  Founded 12 years ago in the old post office on the Main St., and dedicated primarily to maritime history and preservation,  marine research, and nautical education, this non-profit foundation boasts a collection of over a quarter million books, documents, images, charts, magazines, journals, and ship plans.  It is a collection perhaps unlike any other in the country, and it is well worth the visit whether you're just generally interested in the subject or a serious naval scholar.  The curators and librarians are friendly, knowledgeable, and helpful to all visitors, and no matter what you might be looking for, it is very likely they will have it.

Archives and Collections Society main floor
Just across the street from the Archives and Collections Society is Picton's Public Library, which also happens to be 1 of the 111 Carnegie Libraries that were built in Ontario between 1903 and 1922.  Built in 1906 for a mere $12,000, it has avoided the fate of some of the other Carnegie libraries and continues to serve its community today.  I've always liked the front entrance of this building, it somehow reminds me of every classic library I've ever seen illustrated in every book and movie.  I must admit I wouldn't mind the front of my house looking like this.

Picton also has its fair share of book stores, and I took a bit of time to wander through one of my favourite stops, Books & Company.  This great little destination combines new and used books with music and a well stocked cafe.  I never leave this place without buying something, and this time I picked up two great volumes - a memoir by James W. Gerard who served as America's ambassador to Germany during the First World War, and an evocative Cold War essay by Canada's Lieutenant General E.L.M. Burns who served as the commander of the United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) during the Suez Crisis.  Both were very fairly priced and I was pleased to get them for my collection.

Picton's Carnegie  Public Library
The county also seems to be home to a rather prolific community of local authors and publishers.  For example, the venerable Museum Restoration Service has published high quality research on antique arms from its Bloomfield office for over 40 years, and is considered one of the most respected authorities on the subject in the world.  As well, there is a host of authors here writing both history and fiction, offering readers much to choose from whatever their interests might be.

One could easily spend a few days wandering through the county pursuing its extensive book culture, but unfortunately this time I was only on a day trip.  Still, I made a few notes of places I missed this time, and will be sure to get to them on the next ferry trip across the Bay of Quinte.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

October Odds and Ends - Ballie, Turner, Spry, Macmillan

With the book fairs in full swing this month there's plenty of opportunity to add new bookplates to the collection, and I find that with all the activity going on I tend switch from research/learning mode over to hunting/acquiring mode.  So far the hunting has been good, so I thought I'd just share a sample of some recent finds with you, in no particular order or organization.

One of the nicest ex libris I found was this attractive pictorial to J.W. Ballie.  I have a feeling it's a British bookplate, not Canadian, but I suppose one can always hope.  Preliminary research hasn't turned up any biographical details, but there appears to be a distinctive artist mark in the lower left corner of the bookplate.  Anyone have any idea who the artist could be?

The next bookplate is a nice little late Victorian/early Edwardian era label for Allan Turner of Brockville, Ontario.  Similarly, I did a quick search on him and turned up a few interesting facts.  An entrepreneur, his father settled in Brockville around the 1850s and was later involved in the development for waterworks and rail interests for the city, and also appears to at one time have been involved in a Supreme Court of Canada case concerning imports and exports.  Allan himself appears to have taken a medical education and at one time operated the chemist and druggist shop on Brockville's main street.

Railways, Waterworks, and Medicine
 I noted that the Turner bookplate was not listed in either the Prescott catalogue or the Masson collection, which gives me some hope that there are other equally attractive pre-1900 Canadian bookplates out there beyond the armourial plates that seem to dominate the period.  This was a good little find.

The military bookshelf
The next bookplate was a bit easier to identify.  Lieutenant Colonel Daniel W.B. Spry was born in Toronto and worked in the newspaper industry prior to the First World War.  He raised the 54th Kent Regiment at Chatham, Ontario, and served with distinction overseas on the western front.  After the war he was appointed as the assistant adjutant quartermaster general in the Canadian militia, and later on served as the General Officer Commanding Military District No.13 (Calgary).  He retired at the rank of Major General and was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire.  His son, also named Dan Spry, was also a distinguished officer who led the Royal Canadian Regiment and afterwards the 1st Canadian Infantry Brigade in Italy during the Second World War.

Spry's bookplate is a simple pictorial of a busy bookshelf, again an attractive turn of the century ex libris not listed in Prescott or Masson.  I'm wondering since he was promoted, if perhaps there's not another bookplate out there named to this gentleman.

Next up are a couple of bookplates belonging to the Macmillan publishers.  As an editor who receives books for review from publishers, I enjoy finding these vintage bookplates.  Today, most publishers either simply stick an insert into the review book or worse, staple their business card to the title page.  I wish they'd go back to using labels like these.

These labels are clearly intended to just pass on instructions, but I find the one on the right interesting as it provides a wealth of little details about how Macmillan promoted their books to various markets.  These bookplates were found in a small book of poetry, which I must say wasn't very good, so maybe that was why they were pushing it out "with their compliments".

There are more odds and ends sitting here in the pile, but I'll save these for another time, perhaps tomorrow if I get the chance.  Now to get some cataloguing done.

Monday, 10 October 2011

McGill Book Fair

October tends to witness a number of great book fairs in Eastern Canada and the McGill Book Fair is no exception. Though it started way back in the 1970s, I discovered this event while growing up in Montreal in the 1990s and it soon became one of my favourites.  The selection of material is always big and plentiful, and I never walked away from this book fair with anything less than an overflowing bag of booky goodness.

If you're a serious hunter or collector you'll need to get in line early.  The book dealers will start lining up at dawn for the 1pm opening, and no matter how far in advance I arrived, there was always a book dealer parked in a lawn chair in front of me.  While this annoyed me a little, it also reminded me just how much it was worth checking this event out.

My first objective at this fair is to pick up hardcovers for my reference library at a very fair price, but more recently I've also had some good scores when hunting for bookplates in the discount bins.  All in all it's well worth the visit, and I'll be taking a day off next week to drop in and do some shopping.  Perhaps I'll see you there!

Friday, 7 October 2011

Who Was B.D. Farquharson?

I found this bookplate a couple of weeks ago and so far I've not been able to learn much about the owner.  A search did turn up another book on Toronto from the c.1920s that also contained this bookplate, but otherwise this person remains a mystery to me.

Similarly, there is no mark of the artist on the bookplate that I could discover either.  I do get the sense, however, that either the artist or Farquharson may have created this image based upon a real location in someone's house.  It does have a very English countryside feel about it.

If you know who this person was, please contact me at with any info.  With thanks in advance!

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Bookplates of the Royal Canadian Navy

The Royal Canadian Navy has enjoyed considerable attention over the past year or so as it celebrated both its centenary as well as the return of it's "royal" moniker and traditional title 'Royal Canadian Navy', replacing the much blander 1970s era name "Maritime Command" that it had been sunk with many years ago.  In addition, we have also enjoyed the publication of the first volume of the RCN official History "The Seabound Coast", as well as the return of other important Canadian naval traditions that were rather unceremoniously stripped away in previous decades.  For all practical purposes, the RCN once again looks, sounds, and feels, like the RCN should.

In the Canadian experience, as with names, anniversaries, and titles, military libraries tend to come and go.  As I continue my own research into Canada's military library history and ex libris, I am constantly surprised at the number of different branches and locations that existed at one time or another, as well as the rich diversity of bookplates that existed to identify their holdings.  Recently, I came across three different variants of the bookplate employed by the Royal Canadian Navy's Naval Service Library, which at one time was located at Naval Service Headquarters (NSHQ) in Ottawa.  I was particularly pleased to see one of these attributed to Percy Walker Nelles, a Canadian naval flag officer who was Chief of the Naval Staff from 1934 to 1944.

These bookplates are both well designed and attractive, but unfortunately, I know very little about them other than they first came into existence sometime during the late 1920s and were likely used through to the end of the Second World War (1945).  There are no details of the artist, though one example does sport the item stationary identifiers in the bottom left corner.  Otherwise, they remain a mystery for the time being.

VAdm Percy W. Nelles, RCN


Sunday, 2 October 2011

Bookplates to Exchange or ...

Needs a new home!
Going through my bookplate duplicates and exchanges box this weekend I realized it's high time that I get some of them moved along to others who may want them for their own collections before the pile gets too big.

I'm always looking for any bookplates associated with Canada, military bookplates, or bookplates designed by ED French for my own collection.  If you see something below you're interested in, you can contact me at and I'll gladly exchange it for another bookplate, or failing that, sell it for a fair price.

The selection below includes British, American, and Canadian bookplates from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.  Hopefully there's something that sparks your interest, and I look forward to hearing from you.

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Saturday, 1 October 2011

Library Rules Rules Rules

Return your book or face the consequences
Bookplates explaining the lending rules for a library are perhaps amongst the most common ex libris to be found in used books.  I used to care very little for these reminders and felt they were only placed in books so their crabby lenders could continue their nagging even after I'd left the library.  Over time, however, I've come to appreciate them as a collectible bookplate especially as they can in some cases actually tell you a lot about how a particular library may have functioned.

Most lending bookplates give you the basics - library hours of operation, the maximum books one is allowed to borrow at any time as well as the maximum time you can have them for, fines for overdue returns, plus the consequences of any book "injury".  All good things to know especially if you're a hoarder or was thinking about using your borrowed books as drink coasters or frisbees (I have seen students do both).

Though not very pictorially pleasing, library rules bookplates can become an interesting sub genre to pursue.  I've made a list of all the known public lending libraries that have existed in my local area over the past century, and needless to say acquiring a bookplate from each of these will be no small task.  The good news is, however, if you're just after the bookplate you can always buy the cheapest book in the pile.  As well, most public libraries are always selling books culled from their collection to raise money for new acquisitions, so a casual tour of the local branches will usually result in some good finds.  Below are some pics of a few others I have recently come across.

The old Canadian Army Library
A nicely designed bookplate

The Kingston Public Library welcomed suggestions for new books.

A rather common sense reminder from the base librarian

The quality of Canadian library rules bookplates varies widely from period to period, and I've come across everything from copperplate printings to xeroxed photocopies.  Another thing I've noticed is that the designers never seemed to have identified themselves, not even with buried or hidden initials.  Perhaps they weren't considered proper  miniature art as other library bookplates were.  Nevertheless, they are an important part of Canadian library history, and I look forward to tracking down more of these in the future.

Friday, 30 September 2011

American Bookplates by Charles Dexter Allen

Published in 1894
In any collecting hobby time spent on research is seldom wasted.  And though the pile of bookplates and other paper ephemera sitting on my study desk yet to be catalogued grows steadily higher, for the past little while I've been putting more effort into building my ex libris reference library.  The latest addition to the shelf is a beautiful limited edition copy of Charles Dexter Allen's 'American Book-Plates: A Guide to their Study with Examples'.  Originally published in the 1890s, Allen's book has long served as a catalogue reference for collectors of American ex-libris, and anyone who is seriously collecting bookplates, especially American bookplates, will want to obtain a copy of this book for their own libraries.

This was an acquisition for the private library I could hardly resist.  Only 75 copies of the limited edition were produced, printed on Japanese vellum throughout.  Already lavishly illustrated throughout, the inclusion of 41 full page bookplates printed from the original coppers - including no less than 12 bookplates designed by Edwin Davis French - simply makes this tome a must have for serious collectors.

Having compared it to some other volumes in my library, at 437 pages this work was also perhaps one of the most detailed studies of the hobby at the turn of the century.  In addition to the annotated catalogue which forms the nucleus of the text, the author included extensive notes on the evolution of bookplates in America, capsule biographies of collectors of the day and their collections, details about various bookplate societies, as well as an extensive reference bibliography covering American, British, French, and German sources.  Hardly surprising, there are only a handful of Canadian bookplates included in the catalogue or the the references, but still even this small amount of information may later prove helpful to other research.

As September turns over the reigns to October, here in Canada the weather begins to chill and the days grow substantially shorter.  While I'll miss the long lazy summer days, I suppose there'll be more evenings indoors to spend on chasing the elusive histories of bookplates.  Allen's volume is a welcome friend in that happy pursuit.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Bookplate of a Real Estate Magnate - William Ernest Bolton

Designed by Stanley Harrod c.1920

I was recently offered this bookplate by a fellow collector, and having grown up in Montreal, my interest was piqued.  Who was William Ernest Bolton?  A little digging led me to discover the biography of what was very likely Canada’s Victorian and Edwardian-era “Donald Trump”.  Though I’ve yet to complete my research for my catalogue, I thought I’d share with you what I have learned thus far.

William Ernest Bolton (b.1873-d.?) was born in Montreal, Quebec, on 2 April 1873, the son of Richard Bolton and Elizabeth Alinchin.  His education was acquired in the schools of his native city, after which he entered the real estate business and became a broker.

A sharp and shrew businessman, he quickly expanded his own real estate interests while becoming involved with many important property transfers and developments in and around Montreal at the turn of the century.  Between the 1890s and the outbreak of the First World War (1914), Bolton acquired a controlling interest in some of the leading real-estate companies of Montreal, including the directorship of the Montreal Loan & Mortgage Company; the presidency of the Birmingham-Montreal Realty Company, Limited; and the directorships of the Midland Investment Company, Limited; the Richelieu Realty Company, Limited; the Renforth Realty Company, Limited; and the Riviera Realty Company, Limited.

While he avoided all calls to join politics and public office before the war, Bolton was a known Conservative supporter, and socially, he held memberships at some of the city’s finest clubs, including the Montreal Club, the Beaconsfield Golf Club, the Winter Club, the Montreal Country Club and the Montreal Amateur Athletic Association.  In 1905, he married Miss Catherine Hamilton McClure at Plainfield, New Jersey, and they later become the parents of two sons, Richard and Hamilton.
Masson Collection Bookplate

It is therefore little surprise that a man like Bolton would have a private library and a bookplate commissioned to identify his holdings.  The bookplates shown here were designed by Canadian artist Stanley Harrod around 1920.  Harrod employed a modern interpretation of a classic ex libris design, featuring Bolton’s coat of arms wthin a decorative arts border.  The bookplate is a brown and buff copperplate engraving, and may have had more than one printing as the specimen in the Masson Collection at McGill University looks slightly different to mine.

One thing that has me wondering is the motto.  Unfortunately it’s partially blocked so I can’t make out the entire thing.  Anyone know or have an opinion on what it might translate into?  Thanks in advance for your help!

Saturday, 10 September 2011

The Bookplate Society Newsletter - Summer 2011

It's been a very productive summer for my bookplate collection, with several classic texts added to the reference library and many new ex-libris carefully catalogued and stored.  My current project examining Canadian military ex libris and marks of ownership has also progressed with just a few more stones to overturn, and then I think I may have enough research at hand now to start putting together a small book on the subject.  As a teaser perhaps I will post a few interesting bits on the subject up on this blog in due course.  Admittedly, I thought it would be a relatively compact subject to explore, but my research has uncovered much more than I could have originally imagined.

In the meantime I continue to tackle the pile of bookplate reading material on my desk.  Recently arrived was the latest newsletter from the British Bookplate Society (Vol.33 No.1 Summer 2011).  Available to members of the society as part of their subscription, the newsletter includes a few interesting research notes, a book review or two, a statement of accounts for the society, membership news, and an healthy email auction list.  If you collect ex libris or simply enjoy knowing more about heraldry or the history and culture of books, I'd recommend joining the society.  They offer a wonderful selection of publications and materials, and even for us "overseas" members, the content is worth is the investment.  Have a great weekend.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

The bookplates of The Reverend R.H. Rokeby-Thomas

The Rokeby-Thomas Coat of Arms

For those who love books and build private libraries, chances are it’s a lifelong courtship. This also means a good likelihood that the owner has had a bookplate commissioned to mark the ownership of those books in his or her library.  For those venerable collectors, there's always a chance that they've had more than one bookplate made.  A recent find of multiple bookplates to the same owner allowed me to explore Canada's military history as well as the biography of a man who valued the books he held.  The details are as follows:

The Reverend Howard R. Rokeby-Thomas B.Sc., L.Th., MA, Ph.D. FRGS, FRSA (Ang) FRHSC was born in Eastcombe, Gloucestershire, England on 13 June 1907. He earned his B.Sc. from Philotech, Bruxelles in 1935, his L.Th. from Wycliffe College, Toronto in 1939; his M.A. in 1960, and Ph.D. in 1961.  He was ordained Anglican Deacon and Priest in 1934, and conducted missionary work between the years of 1934-1939 in Cambridge Bay, Victoria Land, King William Land and Matty Island.  Following this assignment, Rokeby-Thomas was Incumbent or Rector in Walter's Falls from 1939 to 1941.

With Canada's participation in the Second World War growing, the Reverend Rokeby-Thomas gave up the safety of civilian life and joined the Canadian Chaplain Service with the rank of Honourary Captain.  He served overseas first in the UK, and then after in the Italian campaign as the Chaplain of the Royal Canadian Regiment.  The RCR's landed at Pachino Beach at the start of the Allied invasion of Sicily in July 1943, and fought all the way through that theatre of operations - including the terrible battles of Ortona, the Hitler Line, and the Gothic Line.

After the war the Reverend Rokeby-Thomas returned to civilian ecclesiastic life, serving in Port Stanley between the years 1948-1960, as an Honorary Assistant during 1960-1962 in Scarborough, Ontario, and then later during 1963-1969 in Toronto.  He was author of, Church In The Valley, published in 1949, and, Chronicle of the Rooks and Ravens, published in 1950. He authored numerous articles in learned and popular publications, assisted with publication of the "Canadian Churchman", as well as the Diocese of Huron "Church News" during 1958-1969.  His honours included a Grant of Arms, Lyon Court, Edinburgh in 1970, and Fellowship of the Royal Heraldry Society of Canada in 1979.  The Reverend passed away on Canada Day, (1 July) 1995.

The Reverend Rokeby-Thomas (1907-1995)
The Reverend liked to maintain a good private library and had at least two bookplates designed for his own use.

1. The date of creation of the first example is unknown at this time, though it's not in Prescott, which makes it likely the ex-libris was created after 1919.  The designer is unknown.  It is a portrait bookplate displaying a traditional heraldic design and bears an earlier version of the Reverend's coat of arms.  The ex-libris is black and white and appears to be a photogravure.  It does appear to be pre-1970, however, the time at which he received a Grant of Arms from Lyon Court.

2. More is known about the second bookplate.  It is armourial in style, with his heraldry positioned within a Norman twist and shielded border. The bookplate appears to be a black and white photolithograph.  It was designed in the 1970s by R.G.M. Macpherson, CM, the Niagara Herald Extraordinary who has designed Canadian bookplates in a similar style. The bookplate's dimensions are portrait 6.8cm x 9.1cm.  In the center is depicted an ecclesiastical helm and mantling over a shield Or on a chevron Vert between three Cornish choughs Sable a Maple leaf of the First.  The motto ‘Illumino’ adorns the base.  The Royal Canadian Regiment cap badge is depicted in left lower corner and the Canadian Chaplain Services cap badge is set in the lower right corner.  The owner’s name inscribed at bottom center.

First version (post-1919)
Second version (1970s)

Sunday, 21 August 2011

The Aneurin Williams Bookplate Collection

Printed by Messrs. Hughes and Son, Principality Press, 1938
It's a rainy Sunday afternoon and I'm pretty much stuck indoors for the day, so it seemed like a good time to browse through some of the recently arrived bookplate and book history literature.  As usual, not much of it is Canadian focused, but rather American or British.  So until I can find more Canadian publications on the subject, the next few book reviews will likely deal with bookplates from other countries.

One simple yet interesting book I scored off the Internet was a work titled National Library of Wales Catalogue of the Aneurin Williams Collection of Bookplates.  Authored and compiled by Herbert M. Vaughan, then Chairman of the Books Committee of the National Library of Wales, this publication offers a concise overview and listing of the 854 bookplates in Mr. Williams' collection.

Aneurin Williams (1859-1924) was a British Liberal Party politician who stood as a member of parliament for Plymouth, North West Durham, and Consett.  A life long interest in literature and the formation of a good private library encouraged his collection of bookplates, which was wide and general in its scope but also containing a small number of ex libris not previously known or listed in Franks at the time.  What interested me in particular was the listing of bookplates associated with University of Oxford, a place with which I am happily familiar with.

The catalogue itself is straightforward, offering heraldry and biographical notes of the various owners of the bookplates.  The entire list is also cross-refernced with the Franks catalogue, which is helpful.  The book itself is clothbound, 142 pp., illus. and was published in a limited edition of 500 unnumbered copies in 1938.  Though hardly a rare volume it seems, my own copy smells like it's been sitting on a dusty shelf of some private study for a long time, and one does wonder how many copies have actually survived.  Regardless, it's a good reference added to my slowly growing library of books on ex libris.  For your notes.  

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Finding "A List of Canadian Bookplates" edited by Winward Prescott

Canadian summers are all about the weekend, and since we typically only get about eight of them before the colder weather returns one must take every opportunity to spend them outdoors and away from the keyboard.  Thus I apologize for this blog’s silence over the past several weeks, but without making any lengthy excuses, I had people to see and better things to do.

The Holy Grail for Canadian bookplate collectors?
One of those things was continuing my hunt for Canadian books, ex libris, and library history. I did a good deal of reading outdoors (at times with a libation in hand), and also hit just about every second hand book shop and book sale I came across in my travels.  I am very pleased to announce that those efforts hit pay dirt a couple of weeks ago.

After following down a promising lead I managed to locate and purchase a coveted original copy of Prescott’s edited List of Canadian bookplates.  Published in 1919, the production of this book was limited to an edition of only 250 copies, of which the first 25 were numbered and signed.  Though the copy I acquired sadly isn’t a numbered and signed edition, it is otherwise complete and in excellent condition with all of the bookplates still tipped in.  Previous ownership marks in the book revealed that at one time the volume was in the private library of noted 20th century American librarian and bookplate collector Louis J. Bailey.  Other notations in the margins and throughout the book include details on other plates not on the list that he must have otherwise discovered.  In many ways Bailey's own notes make this an even better copy to own.

Original copies of this book present a real treat for the bibliophile, the art collector, and the historian.  Many of the finest examples of Canadian bookplates may be found among the detailed list of known Canadian ex libris, including several that I’ve detailed in previous entries on this blog.  Here are a few photos of other various pages and their tipped in bookplates for your enjoyment.

Ex Libris for W.W. Alexander and Morley Ayearst
E.D. French's only Canadian Bookplate designed for Queen's University

Bookplate for the Toronto architect Rolph and also Sir Edmund Walker

I must admit I thought it might be years before I’d be able to secure a decent original copy of this must have volume, if at all, so needless to say I’m grateful to be adding this Holy Grail to the private reference library reasonably early in my collecting career.  I also picked up a few other books on bookplates during my travels, explorations, (and shopping), which I'll review here in subsequent blogs soon.  Watch for more updates later this week.  Cheers!

Friday, 22 July 2011

The Eatons

Timothy Eaton (1834-1907)
When Timothy Eaton sold his small dry good business in 1869 and opened a new general purpose and Haberdashery, he probably did not realize that he had embarked on a path that would make his name a common household brand, as well as one of the largest department store and retailers in Canadian history.

Needless to say, the Eaton family were the holders of substantial libraries and produced a number of bookplates for their collections.  The Phillipe Masson Ex Libris collection at McGill University has a number of the Eaton family bookplates in their collection.  I recently acquired one for my own collection from fellow collector Lew Jaffe who writes the ' Confessions of a Bookplate Junkie' blog.  This led me to explore not only the history behind the Eaton's empire, but also their libraries.  The result was a plethora of interesting and diverse pictorial and armourial bookplates.  In no particular order I've included a number of these below.







As you can see there was a broad diversity not only in the style of bookplate (pictorial, armourial, labels, and memorial) but also the composition.  Lady Eaton's full colour bookplate is an interesting departure from the others, for example.  As of note are the clearly Canadian icons - the maple leaf, the beaver - all of these are the hallmarks of a legendary Canadian family.