Monday, 31 October 2011

Happy Halloween!

Looking for scary bookplates!
As we reach the end of October and the celebration of Halloween (at least here in North America), I always find this a great time of the year to head out for a walk on the brisk evenings and then come back inside to enjoy a warm drink and a good book.  It's also a great time to get caught up on my books on bookplates, though at the moment I'm committed to reading a rather lengthy biography of Sir Frederick Borden...

You may have noticed that there are now some tabs along the top of the website as I've added a couple of new pages.  One is dedicated to a living list of references on bookplates, which I'll keep adding to as time permits. Its main focus will be Canadian sources, however, I also plan to include the main reference works on the bookplates of other countries.

The other tab links you to a page providing details of how to get in touch if you are an author or publisher of a book on the subject of ex libris and are looking to have your work promoted and reviewed.  I've been writing book reviews on both academic and commercial press books for nearly two decades, and I look forward to reviewing new material on this hobby as it becomes available.

Look for more updates later this week.  In the meantime, Happy Halloween!

Sunday, 23 October 2011

October Odds and Ends 2 - J.H. Holbrook M.D.

Just a short update today to include another bookplate I discovered this month.  It was in a bit of rough shape for the price, but being a very specific 'dedication' bookplate I could not pass it up and therefore it came home with me.

This bookplate appears to be quite specific in that it does not have a generic space to fill in a name like many prize bookplates typically have, rather it appears to have been specifically designed for the individual to whom the dedication was made.  A gift from the Hamilton Rotary Club to J.H. Holbrook M.D., I found this bookplate fascinating for its completeness and apparent uniqueness.  I can't imagine that the Hamilton Rotary Club would have commissioned a designer to create just a single bookplate, but having inspected this ex libris very closely it appears that they did exactly that.

Of course, this has made me wonder why they would do such a thing, but more research will be required before I'll have answers for you.  To date, I've yet to discover more but I'll report back here as soon as I do.  In the meantime, enjoy the last week of October.  I have a busy book week ahead of me and will have more to report on the weekend.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Prince Edward County Book Culture

Glenora Ferry Crossing on a Fall afternoon
This week I took a trip down to Prince Edward County, a beautiful peninsula located at the eastern end of Lake Ontario on the Bay of Quinte.  This area was first settled about 2000 years ago by the Point Peninsula Complex peoples, and then more recently in 1792 by European-Canadians, mostly United Empire Loyalists escaping the American Revolution.  It is a region rich in history, art, vineyards, as well as libraries and book culture.

Just across the Glenora Ferry crossing lies the town of Picton, which is currently home to a fascinating and rapidly growing project known as the Archives and Collections Society.  Founded 12 years ago in the old post office on the Main St., and dedicated primarily to maritime history and preservation,  marine research, and nautical education, this non-profit foundation boasts a collection of over a quarter million books, documents, images, charts, magazines, journals, and ship plans.  It is a collection perhaps unlike any other in the country, and it is well worth the visit whether you're just generally interested in the subject or a serious naval scholar.  The curators and librarians are friendly, knowledgeable, and helpful to all visitors, and no matter what you might be looking for, it is very likely they will have it.

Archives and Collections Society main floor
Just across the street from the Archives and Collections Society is Picton's Public Library, which also happens to be 1 of the 111 Carnegie Libraries that were built in Ontario between 1903 and 1922.  Built in 1906 for a mere $12,000, it has avoided the fate of some of the other Carnegie libraries and continues to serve its community today.  I've always liked the front entrance of this building, it somehow reminds me of every classic library I've ever seen illustrated in every book and movie.  I must admit I wouldn't mind the front of my house looking like this.

Picton also has its fair share of book stores, and I took a bit of time to wander through one of my favourite stops, Books & Company.  This great little destination combines new and used books with music and a well stocked cafe.  I never leave this place without buying something, and this time I picked up two great volumes - a memoir by James W. Gerard who served as America's ambassador to Germany during the First World War, and an evocative Cold War essay by Canada's Lieutenant General E.L.M. Burns who served as the commander of the United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF) during the Suez Crisis.  Both were very fairly priced and I was pleased to get them for my collection.

Picton's Carnegie  Public Library
The county also seems to be home to a rather prolific community of local authors and publishers.  For example, the venerable Museum Restoration Service has published high quality research on antique arms from its Bloomfield office for over 40 years, and is considered one of the most respected authorities on the subject in the world.  As well, there is a host of authors here writing both history and fiction, offering readers much to choose from whatever their interests might be.

One could easily spend a few days wandering through the county pursuing its extensive book culture, but unfortunately this time I was only on a day trip.  Still, I made a few notes of places I missed this time, and will be sure to get to them on the next ferry trip across the Bay of Quinte.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

October Odds and Ends - Ballie, Turner, Spry, Macmillan

With the book fairs in full swing this month there's plenty of opportunity to add new bookplates to the collection, and I find that with all the activity going on I tend switch from research/learning mode over to hunting/acquiring mode.  So far the hunting has been good, so I thought I'd just share a sample of some recent finds with you, in no particular order or organization.

One of the nicest ex libris I found was this attractive pictorial to J.W. Ballie.  I have a feeling it's a British bookplate, not Canadian, but I suppose one can always hope.  Preliminary research hasn't turned up any biographical details, but there appears to be a distinctive artist mark in the lower left corner of the bookplate.  Anyone have any idea who the artist could be?

The next bookplate is a nice little late Victorian/early Edwardian era label for Allan Turner of Brockville, Ontario.  Similarly, I did a quick search on him and turned up a few interesting facts.  An entrepreneur, his father settled in Brockville around the 1850s and was later involved in the development for waterworks and rail interests for the city, and also appears to at one time have been involved in a Supreme Court of Canada case concerning imports and exports.  Allan himself appears to have taken a medical education and at one time operated the chemist and druggist shop on Brockville's main street.

Railways, Waterworks, and Medicine
 I noted that the Turner bookplate was not listed in either the Prescott catalogue or the Masson collection, which gives me some hope that there are other equally attractive pre-1900 Canadian bookplates out there beyond the armourial plates that seem to dominate the period.  This was a good little find.

The military bookshelf
The next bookplate was a bit easier to identify.  Lieutenant Colonel Daniel W.B. Spry was born in Toronto and worked in the newspaper industry prior to the First World War.  He raised the 54th Kent Regiment at Chatham, Ontario, and served with distinction overseas on the western front.  After the war he was appointed as the assistant adjutant quartermaster general in the Canadian militia, and later on served as the General Officer Commanding Military District No.13 (Calgary).  He retired at the rank of Major General and was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire.  His son, also named Dan Spry, was also a distinguished officer who led the Royal Canadian Regiment and afterwards the 1st Canadian Infantry Brigade in Italy during the Second World War.

Spry's bookplate is a simple pictorial of a busy bookshelf, again an attractive turn of the century ex libris not listed in Prescott or Masson.  I'm wondering since he was promoted, if perhaps there's not another bookplate out there named to this gentleman.

Next up are a couple of bookplates belonging to the Macmillan publishers.  As an editor who receives books for review from publishers, I enjoy finding these vintage bookplates.  Today, most publishers either simply stick an insert into the review book or worse, staple their business card to the title page.  I wish they'd go back to using labels like these.

These labels are clearly intended to just pass on instructions, but I find the one on the right interesting as it provides a wealth of little details about how Macmillan promoted their books to various markets.  These bookplates were found in a small book of poetry, which I must say wasn't very good, so maybe that was why they were pushing it out "with their compliments".

There are more odds and ends sitting here in the pile, but I'll save these for another time, perhaps tomorrow if I get the chance.  Now to get some cataloguing done.

Monday, 10 October 2011

McGill Book Fair

October tends to witness a number of great book fairs in Eastern Canada and the McGill Book Fair is no exception. Though it started way back in the 1970s, I discovered this event while growing up in Montreal in the 1990s and it soon became one of my favourites.  The selection of material is always big and plentiful, and I never walked away from this book fair with anything less than an overflowing bag of booky goodness.

If you're a serious hunter or collector you'll need to get in line early.  The book dealers will start lining up at dawn for the 1pm opening, and no matter how far in advance I arrived, there was always a book dealer parked in a lawn chair in front of me.  While this annoyed me a little, it also reminded me just how much it was worth checking this event out.

My first objective at this fair is to pick up hardcovers for my reference library at a very fair price, but more recently I've also had some good scores when hunting for bookplates in the discount bins.  All in all it's well worth the visit, and I'll be taking a day off next week to drop in and do some shopping.  Perhaps I'll see you there!

Friday, 7 October 2011

Who Was B.D. Farquharson?

I found this bookplate a couple of weeks ago and so far I've not been able to learn much about the owner.  A search did turn up another book on Toronto from the c.1920s that also contained this bookplate, but otherwise this person remains a mystery to me.

Similarly, there is no mark of the artist on the bookplate that I could discover either.  I do get the sense, however, that either the artist or Farquharson may have created this image based upon a real location in someone's house.  It does have a very English countryside feel about it.

If you know who this person was, please contact me at with any info.  With thanks in advance!

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Bookplates of the Royal Canadian Navy

The Royal Canadian Navy has enjoyed considerable attention over the past year or so as it celebrated both its centenary as well as the return of it's "royal" moniker and traditional title 'Royal Canadian Navy', replacing the much blander 1970s era name "Maritime Command" that it had been sunk with many years ago.  In addition, we have also enjoyed the publication of the first volume of the RCN official History "The Seabound Coast", as well as the return of other important Canadian naval traditions that were rather unceremoniously stripped away in previous decades.  For all practical purposes, the RCN once again looks, sounds, and feels, like the RCN should.

In the Canadian experience, as with names, anniversaries, and titles, military libraries tend to come and go.  As I continue my own research into Canada's military library history and ex libris, I am constantly surprised at the number of different branches and locations that existed at one time or another, as well as the rich diversity of bookplates that existed to identify their holdings.  Recently, I came across three different variants of the bookplate employed by the Royal Canadian Navy's Naval Service Library, which at one time was located at Naval Service Headquarters (NSHQ) in Ottawa.  I was particularly pleased to see one of these attributed to Percy Walker Nelles, a Canadian naval flag officer who was Chief of the Naval Staff from 1934 to 1944.

These bookplates are both well designed and attractive, but unfortunately, I know very little about them other than they first came into existence sometime during the late 1920s and were likely used through to the end of the Second World War (1945).  There are no details of the artist, though one example does sport the item stationary identifiers in the bottom left corner.  Otherwise, they remain a mystery for the time being.

VAdm Percy W. Nelles, RCN


Sunday, 2 October 2011

Bookplates to Exchange or ...

Needs a new home!
Going through my bookplate duplicates and exchanges box this weekend I realized it's high time that I get some of them moved along to others who may want them for their own collections before the pile gets too big.

I'm always looking for any bookplates associated with Canada, military bookplates, or bookplates designed by ED French for my own collection.  If you see something below you're interested in, you can contact me at and I'll gladly exchange it for another bookplate, or failing that, sell it for a fair price.

The selection below includes British, American, and Canadian bookplates from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.  Hopefully there's something that sparks your interest, and I look forward to hearing from you.

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Saturday, 1 October 2011

Library Rules Rules Rules

Return your book or face the consequences
Bookplates explaining the lending rules for a library are perhaps amongst the most common ex libris to be found in used books.  I used to care very little for these reminders and felt they were only placed in books so their crabby lenders could continue their nagging even after I'd left the library.  Over time, however, I've come to appreciate them as a collectible bookplate especially as they can in some cases actually tell you a lot about how a particular library may have functioned.

Most lending bookplates give you the basics - library hours of operation, the maximum books one is allowed to borrow at any time as well as the maximum time you can have them for, fines for overdue returns, plus the consequences of any book "injury".  All good things to know especially if you're a hoarder or was thinking about using your borrowed books as drink coasters or frisbees (I have seen students do both).

Though not very pictorially pleasing, library rules bookplates can become an interesting sub genre to pursue.  I've made a list of all the known public lending libraries that have existed in my local area over the past century, and needless to say acquiring a bookplate from each of these will be no small task.  The good news is, however, if you're just after the bookplate you can always buy the cheapest book in the pile.  As well, most public libraries are always selling books culled from their collection to raise money for new acquisitions, so a casual tour of the local branches will usually result in some good finds.  Below are some pics of a few others I have recently come across.

The old Canadian Army Library
A nicely designed bookplate

The Kingston Public Library welcomed suggestions for new books.

A rather common sense reminder from the base librarian

The quality of Canadian library rules bookplates varies widely from period to period, and I've come across everything from copperplate printings to xeroxed photocopies.  Another thing I've noticed is that the designers never seemed to have identified themselves, not even with buried or hidden initials.  Perhaps they weren't considered proper  miniature art as other library bookplates were.  Nevertheless, they are an important part of Canadian library history, and I look forward to tracking down more of these in the future.