Friday 20 May 2011

Ex Libris and Victoria Day Weekend

Every year Canadians mark the beginning of summer by officially celebrating Queen Victoria's birthday.  Why you may ask?  Well, for one thing it’s an official federal statutory holiday in honour of Canada’s reigning sovereign(s) that was first observed in the year 1845.  In fact in 1854, one account noted that nearly 5000 people gathered in front of Government House in Toronto to give cheers to their queen on her 35th birthday.  These days, however, most people would probably simply state that any excuse to have a long weekend is a good one.  Such is life, I suppose, and we can’t expect everyone to appreciate history the way it should be.

Anyway, the holiday got me thinking about Ex Libris and bookplates associated with Canada’s various sovereigns, their representatives, and other heads of state.  A quick Google search returned an image of Queen Victoria’s bookplate that was happily found on the website of the American Society of Bookplate Collector’s and Designers.  My searches for bookplates belonging to Governors General and other Canadian Prime Ministers, however, has been a bit less successful but there are still some interesting examples out there to observe and study.

Ex Libris - Queen Victoria
Queen Victoria (1819-1901)
Buckingham Palace Library by H Melville (1841)

Now I simply don’t know (yet) if every Canadian Prime Minister owned a bookplate, but indications suggest that it is very likely.  Certainly some of Canada’s earliest leaders had Ex Libris commissioned, such as this one belonging to the Right Honourable Sir John Caldwell Abbott (1821-1893), our third Prime Minister who held the office for just seventeen months between June 1891 and November 1892.

Rt Hon Sir John Caldwell Abbott (1821-1893)
The Ex Libris of the Rt Hon Sir John C. Abbott

This bookplate belonged to the Right Honourable Sir Robert Laird Borden (1854-1937), Canada’s eighth Prime Minister who served from October 1911 to July 1920.  A well-known figure both due to his role as Canada’s leader during the First World War as well as the fact that his face adorns the Canadian $100 banknote, both he and Abbott upheld the long established tradition of armorial ex Libris.

Rt Hon Sir Robert Laird Borden (1854-1937)
Ex Libris of the Rt Hon Robert L. Borden

Aside from Prime Ministers, Canada’s Governors General also typically had their own Ex Libris commissioned.  For a wonderful example, see the private library and bookplates of John Buchan (1875-1940), 1st Baron Tweedsmuir and Governor General of Canada from 1935 to 1940.  Buchan was a noted novelist and historian, as well as a prolific author of over 450 books and articles including his most well known novel, The Thirty Nine Steps.  Queen's University Library Special Collections currently holds The John Buchan Library and they have created an excellent website detailing its contents and scholarly research potential, as well as pics of various ex Libris and marks of ownership employed by him.  It is definitely worth checking out.

Governor General John Buchan (1875-1940)

Ex Libris John Buchan
Published by William Blackwood & Sons 1915

Needless to say this blog piqued my curiosity and I definitely need to do more research into Canadian regal and ministerial bookplates, but I hoped you enjoyed this little foray into Victoria Day Ex Libris.  And for those of you who get to celebrate this holiday with a day off of work, I wish you a happy long weekend.  I know I’ll certainly be off the blog and out enjoying the weather.  Be back soon.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting to see "DEVANT SI JE PUIS" on Abbott's bookplate, given his great reluctance to take on the office of Prime Minister. I note that it is not the Abbott family motto ("Deo patria amicis").