Monday 16 May 2011

The Thomas Murray Bookplate Collection at the University of British Columbia

In my first post I mentioned Winward Prescott's edited List of Canadian Bookplates published in 1919.  When first reading this book I was a bit disappointed at his opening comment, which said "a disgruntled collector once said that the only differences between Canadian and English bookplates were that the former were harder to get and less interesting when you got them."  Nothing could be further from the truth!

Canadian bookplates reveal a wide and interesting variety of traditional and modern designs.  Some of the best collections demonstrating the great depth of Canadian Ex Libris are held by various universities across the country.  for example, the University of British Columbia Library Special Collections Division holds the Thomas Murray Collection of Bookplates, an extensive gathering of nineteenth and early twentieth century Canadian ex Libris belonging to both prominent as well as lesser well-known Canadian individuals and institutions.

Thomas Murray (1878-1955) was born in Toronto.  Apprenticed as a tailor as early as 1890, he moved to Montreal around the turn of the century and continued working in the garment industry.  He operated his own manufacturing business from 1918 to 1928, amassing a small fortune which permitted him to retire at the age of fifty and to devote the rest of his life to his love of book collecting.  He first established the Bleury Book Store on Bleury Street, Montreal, Quebec, and then later opened another branch on St. Catherine Street in the same city.  He operated both stores until 1949, during which time he amassed a huge collection of bookplates.  This collection, organized into 11 volumes, was deposited with his other Canadiana at the University of British Columbia beginning in 1958.

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