Wednesday 1 June 2011

Medical Bookplates 1 - Banting and Bethune

Ex Libris are often found in the books of those who have pursued some sort of profession.  Prescott noted in his postwar study of Canadian bookplates, for example, that the majority of those listed in his catalogue belonged either to clergy, lawyers and solicitors, or doctors.  For me, from this community of professionals it is the bookplates belonging to the doctors and medical practitioners that I tend to find most fascinating, for they often portray some vivid pictorials.  There have also been many famous and notable doctors throughout Canada’s history, making this field of bookplates particularly attractive for further research.  Here are a few examples of bookplates from some well-known Canadian medical professionals:

Banting by Tibor Polya (1925)
Capt. F.G. Banting (1917)
Banting's Personal Bookplate

Frederick Grant Banting (1891-1941) was a Canadian medical doctor and one of the main discoverers of insulin, an achievement that would later earn him a Nobel Prize.  His bookplate was a pictorial black and white engraving depicting his medical research lab.  It was designed in 1927 by Leslie Victor Smith, a noted Canadian artist of several important bookplates and whose Ex Libris were later catalogued by the prominent Canadian art historian William Colgate.

Bethune with Mobile Blood Transfusion Unit - Spain 1937
Henry Norman Bethune or pinyin (1890-1939) hardly needs any introduction.  A graduate of the University of Toronto, Bethune served in the First World War as a stretcher bearer with No.2 Field Ambulance, Canadian Army Medical Corps, and was wounded in 1916.  After recovering he returned to Canada to complete his medical studies, earning a degree before returning to serve in England as a surgeon-lieutenant with the Royal Navy.  Bethune later rose to fame for his wartime medical services first in Spain during its civil war, where he developed the first mobile blood transfusion service, and then later in China where his battlefield surgery skills caught the attention and respect of future leader Mao Zedong.  In politics Bethune was an acknowledged Communist, having joined the party in Canada in 1935.  However, it was his belief in universal healthcare that drove his ideals, not any real desire for political power or communist domination in world affairs.

This is the only example I've seen of a bookplate for Bethune, though there certainly may be others out there.  If anyone has knowledge of one please let me know, it would be great to hear from you.

Bethune's bookplate - very considerate!

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