Thursday 19 May 2011

Books That Make Me Really Happy

Most books I purchase bring me some sense of satisfaction, whether it’s the design, the contents, and sometimes, even just the weight.  Yes the weight.  Drop a Kindle on the floor and it sounds like four pennies fell out of your pocket.  Drop a copy of Peel's Bibliography of the Canadian Prairies to 1953 on the ground and, well, people know you mean business.  But I digress…

Every once in awhile I acquire a book that makes me really happy.  For example, a little while ago I obtained a copy of, Leonardo da Vinci: The Tragic Pursuit of Perfection, written by Antonina Vallentin and translated by E.W. Dickes (New York: Viking Press, 1938).  A decent early study of the great inventor’s life and achievements, this book made me happy because it came to me as a gift.  Then it made me really happy when I opened the cover to discover that it had previously been given to someone else as a gift as well, but many decades ago.  Evidence inside the front cover reveals that the book was originally a Christmas gift from Dr. Robert Charles Wallace CMG, Ph.D., FRSC (1881-1955) to his friend Mr. Thomas Gibson in 1938.  Born on the Orkney Islands of Scotland, Dr. Wallace came to Canada in 1912 where he later rose to prominence as a geologist, educator, and administrator.  While serving as the 11th Principal of Queen’s University at Kingston Ontario between the years 1936 and 1951, he also attracted controversy for his advocacy and support of various Canadian eugenics policies.

History within a history ... and an Italian roast coffee
Wallace employed what appears to be a calling card as his Ex Libris within the book that noted his name and official office 'Principle's House / Queen's University', inscribing upon it ‘with kind Christmas greetings’.  Overall, it's a great little piece of history offering provenance but some mystery about the book still remains.  While I know much about the man who gifted the book in 1938, I’ve yet to determine whom exactly the recipient of this gift was.  Perhaps some day I will figure this part out as well.  Still, thanks to these little inscriptions made by Dr. Wallace 73 years ago, I now have the enjoyment of knowing that the book was very likely happily received by others the same way as when it recently came to me.

Dr. Wallace's calling card / Ex Libris
The recipient - Thos. Gibson, Xmas 1938

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