Tuesday, 30 August 2011

The bookplates of The Reverend R.H. Rokeby-Thomas

The Rokeby-Thomas Coat of Arms

For those who love books and build private libraries, chances are it’s a lifelong courtship. This also means a good likelihood that the owner has had a bookplate commissioned to mark the ownership of those books in his or her library.  For those venerable collectors, there's always a chance that they've had more than one bookplate made.  A recent find of multiple bookplates to the same owner allowed me to explore Canada's military history as well as the biography of a man who valued the books he held.  The details are as follows:

The Reverend Howard R. Rokeby-Thomas B.Sc., L.Th., MA, Ph.D. FRGS, FRSA (Ang) FRHSC was born in Eastcombe, Gloucestershire, England on 13 June 1907. He earned his B.Sc. from Philotech, Bruxelles in 1935, his L.Th. from Wycliffe College, Toronto in 1939; his M.A. in 1960, and Ph.D. in 1961.  He was ordained Anglican Deacon and Priest in 1934, and conducted missionary work between the years of 1934-1939 in Cambridge Bay, Victoria Land, King William Land and Matty Island.  Following this assignment, Rokeby-Thomas was Incumbent or Rector in Walter's Falls from 1939 to 1941.

With Canada's participation in the Second World War growing, the Reverend Rokeby-Thomas gave up the safety of civilian life and joined the Canadian Chaplain Service with the rank of Honourary Captain.  He served overseas first in the UK, and then after in the Italian campaign as the Chaplain of the Royal Canadian Regiment.  The RCR's landed at Pachino Beach at the start of the Allied invasion of Sicily in July 1943, and fought all the way through that theatre of operations - including the terrible battles of Ortona, the Hitler Line, and the Gothic Line.

After the war the Reverend Rokeby-Thomas returned to civilian ecclesiastic life, serving in Port Stanley between the years 1948-1960, as an Honorary Assistant during 1960-1962 in Scarborough, Ontario, and then later during 1963-1969 in Toronto.  He was author of, Church In The Valley, published in 1949, and, Chronicle of the Rooks and Ravens, published in 1950. He authored numerous articles in learned and popular publications, assisted with publication of the "Canadian Churchman", as well as the Diocese of Huron "Church News" during 1958-1969.  His honours included a Grant of Arms, Lyon Court, Edinburgh in 1970, and Fellowship of the Royal Heraldry Society of Canada in 1979.  The Reverend passed away on Canada Day, (1 July) 1995.

The Reverend Rokeby-Thomas (1907-1995)
The Reverend liked to maintain a good private library and had at least two bookplates designed for his own use.

1. The date of creation of the first example is unknown at this time, though it's not in Prescott, which makes it likely the ex-libris was created after 1919.  The designer is unknown.  It is a portrait bookplate displaying a traditional heraldic design and bears an earlier version of the Reverend's coat of arms.  The ex-libris is black and white and appears to be a photogravure.  It does appear to be pre-1970, however, the time at which he received a Grant of Arms from Lyon Court.

2. More is known about the second bookplate.  It is armourial in style, with his heraldry positioned within a Norman twist and shielded border. The bookplate appears to be a black and white photolithograph.  It was designed in the 1970s by R.G.M. Macpherson, CM, the Niagara Herald Extraordinary who has designed Canadian bookplates in a similar style. The bookplate's dimensions are portrait 6.8cm x 9.1cm.  In the center is depicted an ecclesiastical helm and mantling over a shield Or on a chevron Vert between three Cornish choughs Sable a Maple leaf of the First.  The motto ‘Illumino’ adorns the base.  The Royal Canadian Regiment cap badge is depicted in left lower corner and the Canadian Chaplain Services cap badge is set in the lower right corner.  The owner’s name inscribed at bottom center.

First version (post-1919)
Second version (1970s)

Sunday, 21 August 2011

The Aneurin Williams Bookplate Collection

Printed by Messrs. Hughes and Son, Principality Press, 1938
It's a rainy Sunday afternoon and I'm pretty much stuck indoors for the day, so it seemed like a good time to browse through some of the recently arrived bookplate and book history literature.  As usual, not much of it is Canadian focused, but rather American or British.  So until I can find more Canadian publications on the subject, the next few book reviews will likely deal with bookplates from other countries.

One simple yet interesting book I scored off the Internet was a work titled National Library of Wales Catalogue of the Aneurin Williams Collection of Bookplates.  Authored and compiled by Herbert M. Vaughan, then Chairman of the Books Committee of the National Library of Wales, this publication offers a concise overview and listing of the 854 bookplates in Mr. Williams' collection.

Aneurin Williams (1859-1924) was a British Liberal Party politician who stood as a member of parliament for Plymouth, North West Durham, and Consett.  A life long interest in literature and the formation of a good private library encouraged his collection of bookplates, which was wide and general in its scope but also containing a small number of ex libris not previously known or listed in Franks at the time.  What interested me in particular was the listing of bookplates associated with University of Oxford, a place with which I am happily familiar with.

The catalogue itself is straightforward, offering heraldry and biographical notes of the various owners of the bookplates.  The entire list is also cross-refernced with the Franks catalogue, which is helpful.  The book itself is clothbound, 142 pp., illus. and was published in a limited edition of 500 unnumbered copies in 1938.  Though hardly a rare volume it seems, my own copy smells like it's been sitting on a dusty shelf of some private study for a long time, and one does wonder how many copies have actually survived.  Regardless, it's a good reference added to my slowly growing library of books on ex libris.  For your notes.  

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Finding "A List of Canadian Bookplates" edited by Winward Prescott

Canadian summers are all about the weekend, and since we typically only get about eight of them before the colder weather returns one must take every opportunity to spend them outdoors and away from the keyboard.  Thus I apologize for this blog’s silence over the past several weeks, but without making any lengthy excuses, I had people to see and better things to do.

The Holy Grail for Canadian bookplate collectors?
One of those things was continuing my hunt for Canadian books, ex libris, and library history. I did a good deal of reading outdoors (at times with a libation in hand), and also hit just about every second hand book shop and book sale I came across in my travels.  I am very pleased to announce that those efforts hit pay dirt a couple of weeks ago.

After following down a promising lead I managed to locate and purchase a coveted original copy of Prescott’s edited List of Canadian bookplates.  Published in 1919, the production of this book was limited to an edition of only 250 copies, of which the first 25 were numbered and signed.  Though the copy I acquired sadly isn’t a numbered and signed edition, it is otherwise complete and in excellent condition with all of the bookplates still tipped in.  Previous ownership marks in the book revealed that at one time the volume was in the private library of noted 20th century American librarian and bookplate collector Louis J. Bailey.  Other notations in the margins and throughout the book include details on other plates not on the list that he must have otherwise discovered.  In many ways Bailey's own notes make this an even better copy to own.

Original copies of this book present a real treat for the bibliophile, the art collector, and the historian.  Many of the finest examples of Canadian bookplates may be found among the detailed list of known Canadian ex libris, including several that I’ve detailed in previous entries on this blog.  Here are a few photos of other various pages and their tipped in bookplates for your enjoyment.

Ex Libris for W.W. Alexander and Morley Ayearst
E.D. French's only Canadian Bookplate designed for Queen's University

Bookplate for the Toronto architect Rolph and also Sir Edmund Walker

I must admit I thought it might be years before I’d be able to secure a decent original copy of this must have volume, if at all, so needless to say I’m grateful to be adding this Holy Grail to the private reference library reasonably early in my collecting career.  I also picked up a few other books on bookplates during my travels, explorations, (and shopping), which I'll review here in subsequent blogs soon.  Watch for more updates later this week.  Cheers!