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)

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