Friday, 30 September 2011

American Bookplates by Charles Dexter Allen

Published in 1894
In any collecting hobby time spent on research is seldom wasted.  And though the pile of bookplates and other paper ephemera sitting on my study desk yet to be catalogued grows steadily higher, for the past little while I've been putting more effort into building my ex libris reference library.  The latest addition to the shelf is a beautiful limited edition copy of Charles Dexter Allen's 'American Book-Plates: A Guide to their Study with Examples'.  Originally published in the 1890s, Allen's book has long served as a catalogue reference for collectors of American ex-libris, and anyone who is seriously collecting bookplates, especially American bookplates, will want to obtain a copy of this book for their own libraries.

This was an acquisition for the private library I could hardly resist.  Only 75 copies of the limited edition were produced, printed on Japanese vellum throughout.  Already lavishly illustrated throughout, the inclusion of 41 full page bookplates printed from the original coppers - including no less than 12 bookplates designed by Edwin Davis French - simply makes this tome a must have for serious collectors.

Having compared it to some other volumes in my library, at 437 pages this work was also perhaps one of the most detailed studies of the hobby at the turn of the century.  In addition to the annotated catalogue which forms the nucleus of the text, the author included extensive notes on the evolution of bookplates in America, capsule biographies of collectors of the day and their collections, details about various bookplate societies, as well as an extensive reference bibliography covering American, British, French, and German sources.  Hardly surprising, there are only a handful of Canadian bookplates included in the catalogue or the the references, but still even this small amount of information may later prove helpful to other research.

As September turns over the reigns to October, here in Canada the weather begins to chill and the days grow substantially shorter.  While I'll miss the long lazy summer days, I suppose there'll be more evenings indoors to spend on chasing the elusive histories of bookplates.  Allen's volume is a welcome friend in that happy pursuit.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Bookplate of a Real Estate Magnate - William Ernest Bolton

Designed by Stanley Harrod c.1920

I was recently offered this bookplate by a fellow collector, and having grown up in Montreal, my interest was piqued.  Who was William Ernest Bolton?  A little digging led me to discover the biography of what was very likely Canada’s Victorian and Edwardian-era “Donald Trump”.  Though I’ve yet to complete my research for my catalogue, I thought I’d share with you what I have learned thus far.

William Ernest Bolton (b.1873-d.?) was born in Montreal, Quebec, on 2 April 1873, the son of Richard Bolton and Elizabeth Alinchin.  His education was acquired in the schools of his native city, after which he entered the real estate business and became a broker.

A sharp and shrew businessman, he quickly expanded his own real estate interests while becoming involved with many important property transfers and developments in and around Montreal at the turn of the century.  Between the 1890s and the outbreak of the First World War (1914), Bolton acquired a controlling interest in some of the leading real-estate companies of Montreal, including the directorship of the Montreal Loan & Mortgage Company; the presidency of the Birmingham-Montreal Realty Company, Limited; and the directorships of the Midland Investment Company, Limited; the Richelieu Realty Company, Limited; the Renforth Realty Company, Limited; and the Riviera Realty Company, Limited.

While he avoided all calls to join politics and public office before the war, Bolton was a known Conservative supporter, and socially, he held memberships at some of the city’s finest clubs, including the Montreal Club, the Beaconsfield Golf Club, the Winter Club, the Montreal Country Club and the Montreal Amateur Athletic Association.  In 1905, he married Miss Catherine Hamilton McClure at Plainfield, New Jersey, and they later become the parents of two sons, Richard and Hamilton.
Masson Collection Bookplate

It is therefore little surprise that a man like Bolton would have a private library and a bookplate commissioned to identify his holdings.  The bookplates shown here were designed by Canadian artist Stanley Harrod around 1920.  Harrod employed a modern interpretation of a classic ex libris design, featuring Bolton’s coat of arms wthin a decorative arts border.  The bookplate is a brown and buff copperplate engraving, and may have had more than one printing as the specimen in the Masson Collection at McGill University looks slightly different to mine.

One thing that has me wondering is the motto.  Unfortunately it’s partially blocked so I can’t make out the entire thing.  Anyone know or have an opinion on what it might translate into?  Thanks in advance for your help!

Saturday, 10 September 2011

The Bookplate Society Newsletter - Summer 2011

It's been a very productive summer for my bookplate collection, with several classic texts added to the reference library and many new ex-libris carefully catalogued and stored.  My current project examining Canadian military ex libris and marks of ownership has also progressed with just a few more stones to overturn, and then I think I may have enough research at hand now to start putting together a small book on the subject.  As a teaser perhaps I will post a few interesting bits on the subject up on this blog in due course.  Admittedly, I thought it would be a relatively compact subject to explore, but my research has uncovered much more than I could have originally imagined.

In the meantime I continue to tackle the pile of bookplate reading material on my desk.  Recently arrived was the latest newsletter from the British Bookplate Society (Vol.33 No.1 Summer 2011).  Available to members of the society as part of their subscription, the newsletter includes a few interesting research notes, a book review or two, a statement of accounts for the society, membership news, and an healthy email auction list.  If you collect ex libris or simply enjoy knowing more about heraldry or the history and culture of books, I'd recommend joining the society.  They offer a wonderful selection of publications and materials, and even for us "overseas" members, the content is worth is the investment.  Have a great weekend.