Wednesday 29 June 2011

The Architect's Library

Designed by A.S. Carter
During a recent business trip to Toronto I had some free time to explore the downtown core as well as visit a few good bookshops.  I always enjoy the architecture of the city, and thinking a bit more about the subject ultimately led me to investigate whether or not I might find a few bookplates belonging to Canadian architects.

Prescott's book on Canadian bookplates includes a couple of ex libris belonging to the well-known architect Henry Sproatt (1866-1943) on pp.101 and 149.   One of the leading architects of Toronto in his day, Sproatt had worked on a number of projects including Hart House and the Soldier's Clarion Tower.  During his career Sproatt had partnered with other notable architects such as John A. Pearson (1867-1940) and Frank Darling (1850-1923).  Pearson was perhaps best known for his work on the Center Block of the Canadian parliament buildings.  Similarly Darling had a hand in the Toronto Club as well as the Victoria Hospital for Sick Children.  If you're interested in learning more about the Sproatt and Rolph architect firm, there is a fond available at the Archives of Ontario.

Alexander Scott Carter
Both of Sproatt's bookplates were designed by Alexander Scott Carter (1881-1968), one of Canada's pre-eminent heraldic artists, and a designer and decorator who had collaborated with Sproatt and Rolph on the Hart House design.  Digging a little further, I was also able to locate Carter's own bookplate as well.  Though a much simpler design than those he did for Sproatt, it does portray a medieval image of a knight in repose, a period of history that Carter employed in several of his creations.

Given the nature of their work, architects were likely to have substantial office libraries as well as their own private collections.  Therefore I imagine that bookplates for practitioners in this field are plentiful, and I look forward to discovering others as time permits.  And if you're ever in Toronto, I encourage you to take a walk through the downtown core, find a quiet corner, and look up.  In between the great glass towers of the twentieth century lurk the very first 'skyscrapers' that proceeded them.  They are the products of men like Sproatt, Pearson, Rolph, Darling, and Carter.

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