Wednesday 29 June 2011

The Architect's Library

Designed by A.S. Carter
During a recent business trip to Toronto I had some free time to explore the downtown core as well as visit a few good bookshops.  I always enjoy the architecture of the city, and thinking a bit more about the subject ultimately led me to investigate whether or not I might find a few bookplates belonging to Canadian architects.

Prescott's book on Canadian bookplates includes a couple of ex libris belonging to the well-known architect Henry Sproatt (1866-1943) on pp.101 and 149.   One of the leading architects of Toronto in his day, Sproatt had worked on a number of projects including Hart House and the Soldier's Clarion Tower.  During his career Sproatt had partnered with other notable architects such as John A. Pearson (1867-1940) and Frank Darling (1850-1923).  Pearson was perhaps best known for his work on the Center Block of the Canadian parliament buildings.  Similarly Darling had a hand in the Toronto Club as well as the Victoria Hospital for Sick Children.  If you're interested in learning more about the Sproatt and Rolph architect firm, there is a fond available at the Archives of Ontario.

Alexander Scott Carter
Both of Sproatt's bookplates were designed by Alexander Scott Carter (1881-1968), one of Canada's pre-eminent heraldic artists, and a designer and decorator who had collaborated with Sproatt and Rolph on the Hart House design.  Digging a little further, I was also able to locate Carter's own bookplate as well.  Though a much simpler design than those he did for Sproatt, it does portray a medieval image of a knight in repose, a period of history that Carter employed in several of his creations.

Given the nature of their work, architects were likely to have substantial office libraries as well as their own private collections.  Therefore I imagine that bookplates for practitioners in this field are plentiful, and I look forward to discovering others as time permits.  And if you're ever in Toronto, I encourage you to take a walk through the downtown core, find a quiet corner, and look up.  In between the great glass towers of the twentieth century lurk the very first 'skyscrapers' that proceeded them.  They are the products of men like Sproatt, Pearson, Rolph, Darling, and Carter.

Thursday 23 June 2011

Thanks for Your Support!

When I started this blog a month ago, I didn't really think I would get very many visitors. Let's be honest, bookplates and ex libris are a bit of a specialist hobby so it's hard to gage naturally how many people out there are interested in the subject.  Still, I've tried to make this blog a friendly place with plenty of useful links for both interested readers as well as collectors.  Needless to say, I'm pleased to have had over a thousand visitors to the blog already. Obviously this means I'm doing something right, but surely there's much to improve upon still to keep this site interesting and growing without becoming cluttered.  That's where you come in.  If you have a google account please consider becoming a follower of the blog.  And if you are a 'googler' please do not hesitate to leave a comment for me and the other visitors here.  If you like what you read, don't hesitate to tweet or facebook it out.  And if you see something in the ads on the side, consider supporting this site and check a few links out.  Anyway, you get the idea...

More blogs on the way this coming week, I've had some good finds that led to some very interesting stories about Canada's library and book history.  We'll see you soon!

Tuesday 21 June 2011

Canadian Landscapes

Designed by F.H. Johnston
Living in a country that witnesses a good deal of winter weather, I tend to make the most of my summer days with outdoor activities.  It's also a great season for markets, shows, and sales, which means lots of book hunting as well.  But anyone who has had the privilege of living in Canada knows that above all else, it is the remarkable and striking landscapes stretching from coast to coast that truly represent one of our greatest treasures.  I've been fortunate to see a great deal of my own country, from the northern reaches of the Yukon, to British Columbia, across the Rockies and all the way east to the Bay of Fundy.  And throughout all these travels I have always marvelled at our wonderful landscapes.  It is no wonder then as well, that landscapes were often the subject of Canadian bookplates and related ex libris.

I am currently in the process of designing a new bookplate for myself, and after considering many ideas - a tribute to the Edwin Davis French Style; an armourial bookplate; a recreation of an illuminated text image; even a random pictorial - I think I've settled on a Canadian landscape pictorial.

So as I continue to ponder my creation and sketch out a few ideas, here's some Canadian landscape bookplates I encountered during my research that I particularly liked.  They've been designed by various notable Canadian artists and engravers.  I hope you like them as well.


Friday 17 June 2011

A Gift bookplate for the Ottawa Library

A Gift Bookplate in 1921
It has always been a common practice for people to donate or bequeath books to public libraries. As a result, 'gift' bookplates are a common sight, especially in organizational holdings and special collections.  When I bought a couple of old books that had been discarded from the Carnegie Public Library of Ottawa (see my previous blog), one of them included a gift bookplate in addition to the library's lending rules ex libris (see photo).  I did a quick internet search for any Edward Bruce Bates connected to Ottawa and 1921 but came up empty.  Was he an affluent philanthropist or simply a local bibliophile who loved his library?  The bookplate itself isn't very ornate.  Perhaps this was part of an early donation to expand the library's holdings?  The public library only opened in 1906, and given its requirement to feed the reading needs of a growing capital city there is little doubt that donations were gladly welcomed.  I'll have to see what else I can dig up on this mystery as time permits.

The original Ottawa Public Library - later torn down :(

Thursday 16 June 2011

Ontario Public Library bookplates

Middlesex County Public Library
As I continue to explore the history of Ontario's public libraries, I've also started looking for bookplates related to this subject as well.  So far things are progressing nicely.  A few pokes into the fundraiser sale book bins at nearby libraries produced some quick finds.  Others have come from the $1 piles in various local second hand shops and flea markets.  It seems the good thing about public library ex libris is that they are plentiful.  The simple fact is these libraries tend to have large holdings, which means, lots of bookplates produced.

As I previously mentioned these plates tend to be functional more than artistic but thankfully this isn't always the case.  One attractive bookplate I recently found was for the Middlesex County Library Association.  Unfortunately I have no idea when this bookplate was created, but it is signed by the artist Robert Muma (1907-1993), a notable Canadian bookbinder and restorer.  Printed in blue ink, I really like his combination of landscape over the book pile/ bookshelf.

A book for all seasons
Trees seem to be a common theme with Ontario public library ex libris.  For example, the Frontenac County Public Library at one time also employed a modernist looking tree motif in its bookplate.  The motto 'A book at any time' is reinforced in the iconography of this ex libris by having the tree's leaves quartered into the four seasons of the year.  This bookplate may also reflect a time before the amalgamation of Kingston's libraries under a single administration.  What started with the Kingston Mechanic's Institute Library in 1834 eventually grew into a 16-branch modern library system dispersed across several villages and neighbourhoods.  Interestingly, this public library system replaced a much older one where citizens could borrow books from private libraries for a small fee.

Of course, "lending rules" is something that commonly appears on public library bookplates.  Take for example this old bookplate from the Carnegie Public Library of Ottawa.  Originally sponsored by Andrew Carnegie and opened in 1906, the initial onslaught of 'borrowers' apparently created such a stir in getting at the stacks that they left the place in complete disarray, forcing the library to open several hours later than expected on its second day of business.  Needless to say, it's not often that people rush into public libraries like that today.

Rules, rules, rules ...
As I was mentioning before, these functional bookplates actually provide a lot of good historical detail about the library in question.  For example, this bookplate not only tells us when the library was open to the public - 9 to 9 except Sundays and holidays (better hours in fact than most libraries offer today) - but also how many books could be taken out, of what type they could be (1 fiction, 2 non-fiction), and for how long they could be kept.  We also learn from this bookplate the penalty of overdue fines (1 cent per book per day), as well as what might happen if a borrower damaged or destroyed a book.  "Losses or injuries must be promptly adjusted" the bookplate reminds the reader.  I wonder how often a book was declared "injured" by some judicious and protective librarian at the Carnegie...

Saturday 11 June 2011

2011 Canadian Book Binders and Book Arts Guild Show and Sale

Today's event in the national capital.  If anyone attended this show please let us know.  I had planned to go myself but had unexpected visitors drop in on me.  Thankfully, I was pleased to see them!

The Future of the Book: The 2011 CBBAG Book Arts Show and Sale
hosted by the CBBAG Ottawa Valley Chapter
Saturday, 11 June 2011, from 10.30 a.m. to 4.00 p.m.
Library and Archives Canada
395 Wellington St., Ottawa, Ontario

Exhibition: The Nature of Words - all day
Speakers include: George Walker "The Future of the Book" at 4 p.m.

Open to the public and admission is free.  More information abut the CBBAG may be found on their

Friday 10 June 2011

Ontario Library History

Uxbridge Public Library - late 1900s
Beyond the books and bookplates of private libraries, are those ex libris associated with public libraries.  Now, some collectors won’t bother with the bookplates of public libraries as they consider them not to be “true” ex libris; Canadian bookplates especially tend to be functional rather than artistic.  Usually they're just labels, or worse, lists detailing lending rules instead of displaying interesting scenes, and in many cases they lack the pictorial attractiveness and detail often observed in British and American public library bookplates.  Regardless, personally I like our public library bookplates.  Not only are they very collectible in my opinion, they also provide a tangible material artifact from which more can be learned about how public libraries performed their primary function – lending books.

Hosted by Lorne Bruce
Naturally, as my “addiction” (or affliction as my kinder companions call it) for collecting and researching all things associated with Canadian books and ex Libris continued to evolve, so to did my interest in learning more about the history of Canada’s public libraries.  Digging around for more information on the history of these institutions in my own province, I came across a wonderful website and blog named Libraries Today.  Hosted by Lorne Bruce, this site contains great photographs, capsule histories of public libraries, the biographies of several historical librarians, as well as links to several interesting and important historical primary source documents related to the evolution of libraries in the province of Ontario.

George H. Locke (1870-1937)
Surfing this site I was especially interested to learn more about various librarians such as George H. Locke (1870-1937), who served as the chief librarian of the Toronto Public Library during the early 20th century and was also at one time president of the American Library Association .  During his presidency, he even organized the ALA’s annual meeting to be held in Toronto (June 1927).

There’s actually a lot of interesting history to uncover in our public libraries, and needless to say, many unique bookplates as well.  In an upcoming blog I’ll look at Canadian public library bookplates in a bit more detail, but for now I simply wanted to share Lorne Bruce’s great website and blog with you.  Be sure to check it out.

Thursday 9 June 2011

Canadian Bookplates Goes Mobile

Canadian Bookplates on the go
It was as simple as checking a box in the blog settings, and voila, old meets new.  And since I and most of my friends are on the near side of the digital divide, it made sense to make Canadian Bookplates easier to read on smart phones.  The next step of course will be to blog an entry from my smart phone, which I have no doubt will happen sometime soon as I begin to cover various events out in the field associated with books and ex libris.  In the meantime, I hope going mobile makes the blog even more accessible for all of you out there, especially during the summer when most of us spend more time outdoors than inside.  Enjoy!

Tuesday 7 June 2011

Review - The Bookplates and Badges of C.F.A. Voysey

Published by Antique Collector's Club 2011
Every year the The Bookplate Society offers its members a free book as part of the their annual subscription. Having just joined earlier this year I received a copy of, The Bookplates and Badges of C.F.A. Voysey: Architect and Designer of the Arts and Crafts Movement, authored by Karen Livingstone.

As one who already has an amateur interest in Art Deco and modernism design, I must say I was very pleased to receive this book.  Charles Francis Annesley Voysey (1857-1941) was a very active player in Britain's turn of the century design movement, producing over the course of his long career countless meticulous designs both large and small.  He was an architect, a designer of furniture, as well as a creator of fixtures, patterns, logos, and crests.  In 1932, he compiled an album for himself, in which he included over 100 bookplate designs he had created.  It was this original album (pictured on p.46) that served as the foundation for Livingstone's book.

It is not often that authors or publishers do full justice to a subject, but at just over 300 pages of detailed history and full colour illustration there is no doubt that this was achieved in the creation of this book.  Livingstone first offers the reader a solid biography of Voysey as well as ample illustration of his diverse range of designs and creations.  This is then followed up with nearly 250 pages of full colour bookplate and badge illustrations and descriptions.  Cloth bound, fully indexed, and including a select bibliography, Livingstone has presented both art historians as well as collectors with a tremendous and very readable research reference for our private and public libraries.  I hope you enjoy this book as much as I did.

Friday 3 June 2011

Medical Bookplates 2 - Canada's Great War Physicians

Adami's Personal Bookplate
Published by Musson Book Co. Ltd. 1918

A few days ago I blogged about Banting and Bethune, perhaps two of the most well-known doctors in Canadian history.  That said, there were also many others who rose to prominence, as well as those who either published their own books, maintained personal libraries, or both.  For example, the British-born pathologist John George Adami (1862-1926) was head of his department at the Royal Victoria Hospital, Montreal, from 1891 onwards, while also serving as a professor at McGill University.  At the outbreak of the First World War, he took a commission in the Canadian Expeditionary Force's (CEF) Canadian Army Medical Corps (CAMC) and served overseas.  Adami is well known to military historians for the narratives of the operations of the CAMC that he later wrote for the Canadian War Records Office.  These books were published by The Musson Book Company Ltd. in Toronto, though they were originally printed at the Chapel River Press, Kingston, Surrey.

The medical association journal

Official bookplate
Another McGill University alumnus and Great War medical officer, Dr. John Andrew Macphail (1864-1938), was a physician and soldier as well as at one time editor of the Canadian Medical Association Journal.  He also wrote the official history of Canadian medical services in the Great War, published a few years after the release of Adami's own work.

Clarence B. Farrar (1874-1970) was an American who studied medicine at Harvard and Johns Hopkins.  In 1916 he emigrated to Canada, and soon after joined the Canadian Army to serve as its chief psychiatrist.  A pioneer in treating soldiers suffering “shell shock” – what today we acknowledge as post-traumatic stress disorder and other operational stress injuries – he later became the Director of Toronto’s Psychiatric Hospital.  Additionally, he served as the Editor-in-Chief of the American Journal of Psychiatry from 1931-1965.  Farrar was known to employ 2 different bookplates, a label as well as a personal pictorial ex libris that depicted his Toronto office.

Farrar's personal bookplate
Ex Libris label for Farrar

And finally, here are a few others I've come across from the same wartime period.  Leo Pariseau was a distinguished doctor from Quebec who now has a prize named in his honour, awarded annually to an outstanding individual in the biological or health sciences field.  The doctor behind the bookplate for H.B. Anderson of Toronto still remains a mystery to me so far, but needless to say his bookplate is a great pictorial showing a research lab over an open book.  Lastly, I’ve included one interesting book label I found, this one being for J.A. Carveth & Co., a Toronto-based dealer in medical books during the early 20th century.

Bookplate of H.B. Anderson MD

Medical booksellers label

Bookplate for Leo Pariseau

If you know anything more about these or other Canadian medical bookplates from the Great War period I’d love to hear from you.  Please feel free to drop me an email at robotwizard777 (at) gmail (dot) com.  Otherwise, enjoy the summer weekend and I'll be back next week!

Thursday 2 June 2011

Review - The Bookplate Journal Vol.9 No.1 (Spring 2011)

Spring 2011 cover of the Bookplate Journal
Published biannually by the The Bookplate Society, The Bookplate Journal is a must for anyone interested in the history and collecting of ex libris.  Additionally it presents fascinating material for historians, artists, designers, and bibliophiles, not to mention just about anyone with a keen interest in books and ephemera. Recently I was able to spend an enjoyable morning reading through the latest issue.

Softcover and perfect bound, the full colour covers of The Bookplate Journal immediately gives readers a good indication of the many interesting entries awaiting inside.  The Spring 2011 issue does not disappoint, using its 73 pages to the fullest.  Of the four articles presented, I most enjoyed W.E. Butler's examination of the Ex Libris of Peter Stephen Du Ponceau (a fantastic oil portrait of him is reproduced on the back cover).  Born in France and destined to later become a notable character in the events surrounding the American Revolution, Du Ponceau was also a central participant in the early development of the American legal system as well as the creation of the American Philosophical Society library.  Other articles include examinations of Matthias Darly and the Macaroni Print Shop, the library and bookplate of Sir Richard Francis Burton, as well as an interesting investigation into the relationship between two British bookplates.  Of the many research notes included, I found Bryan Welch's short piece on an association copy belonging to the infamous Soviet Double Agents Guy Burgess and Kim Philby simply fascinating.  Last but not least, the journal includes a great review of the 2010 FISAE Congress held in Istanbul, Turkey, written by Peter Ford.

Well researched and written, and wonderfully illustrated throughout, The Bookplate Journal presents a welcome addition to any collector's or bibliophile's library.  More details on how to get your own copy of The Bookplate Journal, or better yet become a member of the bookplate society, may be found at The Bookplate Society website.

Wednesday 1 June 2011

Medical Bookplates 1 - Banting and Bethune

Ex Libris are often found in the books of those who have pursued some sort of profession.  Prescott noted in his postwar study of Canadian bookplates, for example, that the majority of those listed in his catalogue belonged either to clergy, lawyers and solicitors, or doctors.  For me, from this community of professionals it is the bookplates belonging to the doctors and medical practitioners that I tend to find most fascinating, for they often portray some vivid pictorials.  There have also been many famous and notable doctors throughout Canada’s history, making this field of bookplates particularly attractive for further research.  Here are a few examples of bookplates from some well-known Canadian medical professionals:

Banting by Tibor Polya (1925)
Capt. F.G. Banting (1917)
Banting's Personal Bookplate

Frederick Grant Banting (1891-1941) was a Canadian medical doctor and one of the main discoverers of insulin, an achievement that would later earn him a Nobel Prize.  His bookplate was a pictorial black and white engraving depicting his medical research lab.  It was designed in 1927 by Leslie Victor Smith, a noted Canadian artist of several important bookplates and whose Ex Libris were later catalogued by the prominent Canadian art historian William Colgate.

Bethune with Mobile Blood Transfusion Unit - Spain 1937
Henry Norman Bethune or pinyin (1890-1939) hardly needs any introduction.  A graduate of the University of Toronto, Bethune served in the First World War as a stretcher bearer with No.2 Field Ambulance, Canadian Army Medical Corps, and was wounded in 1916.  After recovering he returned to Canada to complete his medical studies, earning a degree before returning to serve in England as a surgeon-lieutenant with the Royal Navy.  Bethune later rose to fame for his wartime medical services first in Spain during its civil war, where he developed the first mobile blood transfusion service, and then later in China where his battlefield surgery skills caught the attention and respect of future leader Mao Zedong.  In politics Bethune was an acknowledged Communist, having joined the party in Canada in 1935.  However, it was his belief in universal healthcare that drove his ideals, not any real desire for political power or communist domination in world affairs.

This is the only example I've seen of a bookplate for Bethune, though there certainly may be others out there.  If anyone has knowledge of one please let me know, it would be great to hear from you.

Bethune's bookplate - very considerate!