Friday, 22 July 2011

The Eatons

Timothy Eaton (1834-1907)
When Timothy Eaton sold his small dry good business in 1869 and opened a new general purpose and Haberdashery, he probably did not realize that he had embarked on a path that would make his name a common household brand, as well as one of the largest department store and retailers in Canadian history.

Needless to say, the Eaton family were the holders of substantial libraries and produced a number of bookplates for their collections.  The Phillipe Masson Ex Libris collection at McGill University has a number of the Eaton family bookplates in their collection.  I recently acquired one for my own collection from fellow collector Lew Jaffe who writes the ' Confessions of a Bookplate Junkie' blog.  This led me to explore not only the history behind the Eaton's empire, but also their libraries.  The result was a plethora of interesting and diverse pictorial and armourial bookplates.  In no particular order I've included a number of these below.







As you can see there was a broad diversity not only in the style of bookplate (pictorial, armourial, labels, and memorial) but also the composition.  Lady Eaton's full colour bookplate is an interesting departure from the others, for example.  As of note are the clearly Canadian icons - the maple leaf, the beaver - all of these are the hallmarks of a legendary Canadian family.    

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Prize bookplate for Ecole Normal Laval

Prize bookplates - or what some people might call decorative bookplates - are commonly found in old Canadian text and reference books from the early 20th century.  I recently discovered this bookplate from the Ecole Normale Laval, awarded to Mademoiselle Helene Lemay on 19 June 1906 as a second prize in the first division of studies.

The Ecole Normal Laval was situated in Quebec City at the location of the old residence of the British Governor of the province of Quebec, Sir Frederick Haldimand (1718-1791).  He had originally built here opposite the old Castle Saint-Louis in the late eighteen century, but this building was later destroyed by fire in 1834.  It was replaced soon after with a terrace, and then in 1837, with a new building that housed a teacher training school.  This later became the Ecole Normale Laval.  In 1969, it merged with the Jesuit College to become the new Collège François-Xavier-Garneau.

Ecole Normale Laval c.1900

Unfortunately, I don't know much else about the prize recipient at present and the scrappy old book from which the plate came didn't offer any further clues.  Nevertheless, I still think prize and decorative bookplates are an interesting sub-genre of the hobby and shouldn't be overlooked.  After all, for someone over a century ago, this ex libris held a very special significance.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Book Review - Ex Libris: The Art of Bookplates

ISBN 978-0-300-17163-1
Needless to say, anytime I succeed in getting someone else interested in Canadian bookplates I consider it a personal victory.  Not only does it open up a potential source of new ex libris for me, it also expands my group of friends interested in Canadian book culture and art.  Still, there are those who continue to ask me 'what's a bookplate?', and whenever this happens I am very careful not to nerd out on them like some U.S. Civil War re-enactor.

Recently I bought a smart little book that saves me a lot of the trouble of going into lengthy dorky explanations of my hobby.  Authored by Martin Hopkinson, formerly Curator of Prints at the Hunterian Art Gallery, University of Glasgow, Ex Libris: The Art of Bookplates, is a delightfully simple and very readable little introduction into our fascinating world.

Originally published by the British Museum Press earlier this year (and with a slightly different cover design), the edition illustrated here is from the Yale University Press.  At 111 pages including notes and index, its concise history survey is followed by one hundred full colour images of bookplates, each of which is accompanied by details of both the owner and the designer.  Necessarily selective, Hopkinson has nevertheless delivered a very attractive and fascinating precis of the history and evolution of ex libris.  I strongly recommend this book to both novices and veterans of this subject, not only for its attractiveness as a reference, but also for its utility in introducing others to the field. 

Friday, 1 July 2011

Happy Canada Day!

On 1 July 1867 Canada formed a federal dominion of four provinces after the union of its three British North American colonies through confederation.  Over the next century Canada continued to grow in both size and independence, culminating with the Canada Act of 1982.  Today, our country is a federal state governed as a parliamentary democracy.  It is, in my humble opinion, the best place in the world to live.

Collecting Canadian bookplates has offered me a simple opportunity to explore the very best of my country's history and book culture.  If you're following this blog I encourage you to take another look at your Canadian bookplate collections, pick one out, and see where it's story might take you.  Happy Canada Day everyone!