Sunday, 30 December 2012

Canadian Bookplates 2012 Wrap Up

It'll be a few more years before my library looks like this!
As another year of the Canadian bookplates blog draws to a close, I took a bit of time this morning to look back through the 2012 posts as well as my bookplate hobby in general.  Like any pastime, there were ebbs and flows throughout the year as time permitted more or less collecting, cataloguing, and research.  Overall, however, I was very pleased with how things went and have derived a great pleasure so far from this pursuit.

As always, if you have questions about bookplates in your collection, or have something you wish to sell or trade, please do not hesitate to get in touch at the email above.  I'm always keen to hear from other collectors as well as those with a general interest in Canadian book culture, ephemera, ex libris, and library history.

I'd like to thank everyone who has visited the blog this year (we squeaked past 40000 views before year's end) and especially those who took time to leave a comment or two.  If you've enjoyed what you've seen so far, please consider becoming a follower of the site or take a moment or two to click on some of the links posted on the right.  Here you'll find a mix of resources and ads, both of which help support the site over the long term.

Coming in 2013

Thinking of some new year's resolutions, my main plan for 2013 is to simply keep the blog healthy with at least 4 posts a month.  Time permitting, I'd like to add more to the other pages on designers, bibliography, and libraries, but I also invite you to contribute anything you think may be of interest to everyone reading this blog.  Just email me your info and I'll edit and post it.  As for book reviews, the offer still stands if you have a publication you'd like to give wider attention to.

Since there hasn't been very many posts concerning ephemera lately I will also endeavour to include this more often in the coming year.  I actually have a good little collection of book and bookplate related ephemera, documents, correspondence, etc., and my first post of the new year will highlight some interesting correspondence I acquired this fall.

My other two main ex libris projects are 1) the design of my own bookplates, and 2) my ongoing research and writing of a new book on Canadian Ex Libris.  Both are progressing well and I expect to have some results to share in the coming year.

I hope everyone has had a safe holiday and has a Happy New Year.  Best wishes for success in 2013.  Until next year....

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Thomas Aylwin - Merchant of the Seven Years War

Modern day Rue Notre Dame, Quebec City
Bookplates offer a tremendous opportunity to study those men and women who laid the foundations of the country we live in today.  Thomas Aylwin, an English merchant who conducted trade in Quebec City after its capture by General Wolfe’s army in 1759-60, and then in Boston until the American revolution broke out, had this beautiful Chippendale armorial bookplate made for his bibliographic possessions. 

Aylwin was born in Romsey, Hampshire, England in 1729.  He pursued a merchant’s life and eventually established himself at Quebec City after its capture from the French by General Wolfe’s army in 1759-60.   As one biography of him noted, “he was doubtless among that set of merchants of whom Governor Murray said in 1764: they have resorted to a Country where there is no money, and . . . think themselves superior in rank and fortune to the Soldier and the Canadian.”  At Quebec City, Aylwin’s partner was Charles Kerr and the two men specialized in the retail sale of imported products including dry goods, foodstuffs, wine, hardware, stationery, and other merchandise. After Charles Kerr died in 1765, Aylwin carried on at Quebec until about 1769.  After that, records indicate he moved to Boston, where he continued to operate as a merchant until the outbreak of the American Revolution.  Along the way he had married Lucy Cushing, daughter of the US Supreme Court Justice William Cushing, on 11 September 1771.  Together they had three sons. 
Thomas Aylwin's book plate

Fleeing the outbreak of war, Aylwin returned to Quebec City with his family in 1776 and set up a new business on Rue Saint-Jean, later renting a house on Rue Saint-Joseph. On 23 October 1777 he bought two houses on Rue Notre-Dame, in the business district, from merchant and legislative councilor Thomas Dunn for £948.  Over time the range of products he advertised in the Quebec Gazette steadily broadened.  He died at Quebec City on 11 April 1791.  Throughout his life Aylwin seems to have enjoyed moderate prosperity, and the inventory made after his death reveals that he lived comfortably, though not in luxury.  Included in this inventory was the record of a library of some fifty volumes that included works of history, law, religion, and poetry, as well as business.

I secured Aylwin’s bookplate amongst a small collection of heraldry items I bought earlier this year.  Interestingly it was not listed in the famous Franks collection catalogue, but it was listed in the 1895 catalogue of Canadian bookplates assembled by Quebec Ex Libris authority Phileas Gagnon (G.4755 and G.S. Appx).  Given that his estate noted that Aylwin owned “some fifty volumes” I can’t help but wonder just how many of these bookplates have actually survived over the last 250 years.  Is this the last one?  Does anyone else have one of these in their bookplate collection?  If you do please let me know.  Until next time …

Monday, 17 December 2012

Lawrence Inglebert McMahon Bookplate

Who was he?
Ever since I first saw this bookplate in the Thomas Murray Collection I've been attracted to it.  It's a fabulous composition in a restricted space and it does a great job of focusing the eye on central scene.  If you look at it while, you might even find yourself wondering, "where did the reader go?"

Needless to say, I was very excited to have one turn in up in the old collection I just bought.  I've spent a bit of time researching the owner, but other than determining that he might have been an Irish immigrant to Canada around 1880 I've had no other luck so far.  A closer inspection of the plate itself revealed the initials 'Ph.K.' tucked under the face of the creature depicted a the bottom right.  Again, I've no idea who the designer might have been.

This is one of those bookplates that I would really love to be able to tell the story of.  It's obvious the owner cared enough about his library to adorn his books with a fine plate, and I'd be interested to hear from anyone who may know more about the plate, the designer, or the owner.  My email is above if you know.  Until next time...

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Reading by the Fire

Bookplate for W.E. Kelley
The more bookplates one acquires for their collection, the more one begins to observe recurring themes  amongst them.  For example, I have many bookplates in my collection that illustrate piles of books, sailing ships, homes, and even skeletons.  Perhaps my favourite theme, however, are those illustrating reading by the fire.

Living in Canada means a living a life that includes a good winter season.  This also means getting outdoors for those precious few hours of daylight to skate, play some hockey, or ski, followed by much longer dark afternoons and evenings indoors.

In the winter I always enjoy taking some time during the evening to enjoy a good book by the fire and I know many others who do as well, therefore it seems fitting that this activity would find strong association in the design of several bookplates.

The mysterious Palmer ?
Another thing I really enjoy about these bookplates is that they tend to include a considerable number of details in their drawing.  For example, the bookplate to Palmer at left has included a cat by the fire as well as a very detailed curio cabinet in the background.  Is this a fictitious room or perhaps these were Palmer's favourite things illustrated in his/her favourite place to relax and read?  If anyone knows anything about who Palmer might have been please let me know.

This next bookplate for Charles A.A. Modeer illustrates a couple sitting by the fire, one reading and smoking his pipe while the other knits.  Modeer was born in Sweden in 1877 but his family moved to the United States prior to the First World War.  He ran away to serve on sailing ships (his father was a ship master on the Great Lakes) and spent some time with the Pacific Mail Steamship Company out of San Francisco.  A more detailed biography of Modeer may found here and it appears that the archives of the Oregon Historical Society currently hold some of his personal effects and notebooks.
A couple by the fire

Ladies also enjoyed their time by the fire.  This bookplate belonging to Hope Summerell Chamberlain (1888-1951), a North Carolina socialite and author of local history, shows perhaps a favourite corner chair and lamp by the radiator (okay not a fireplace but still heat...).  

H.S. Chamberlain's papers are at UNC

Of the many bookplates I have with this theme design, Gordon Hanson's remains a personal favourite.  He appears to be in the most relaxed position possible, drink and book in hand, yet still ready to remind you to keep your grubbers off of his property and to not think for one second about walking off with one of his beloved friends.  I must admit there are times you might discover me in the same relaxed pose offering a similar warning.  So whatever else you are up to this weekend, don't forget to put aside a little time to enjoy the coming holidays and curl up next the fire with your favourite book.  That's where I will be.  Until next time ...

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Finding and Buying Collections

My most  recent acquisition
I'm always looking for new bookplates to add to my collection, and although my main interest is the research of Canadian bookplates and their designers, I enjoy collecting a wide range of American and British ex libris as well.   As such I'm always happy to consider any offers to buy old collections if you've got one you want to part with.

Buying old collections always brings excitement both in the find and then afterwards during the sort.  This past weekend, for example, I bought an old collection of about 1700 bookplates for a very fair price.  And though so far I've only been able to briefly skim through the boxes, some excellent bookplates have already surfaced.  In addition to a number of seventeenth and eighteen century British and American bookplates, I found ex libris for Charles Dickens, E.F. Hutton, Evelyn Waugh, and other notable figures.  The collection also included a number of ED French plates including a few rarer ones I've been pursuing for some time. There were many great plates I'll have to research further, and needless to say, I can already see what I'll be doing with my free time over the holidays.

Finding large collections like these is becoming harder these days given the hobby's modest appeal, but they do continue to surface from time to time.  Buying such collections, however, can be a bit of a daunting task for some people.  Not everyone has the means or the time to collect, catalogue, and research large collections.  Putting a fair value on such collections is likewise a very difficult task.  Old doesn't necessarily equal expensive, and condition is everything to a serious collector.  I often feel that bookplates are a prime example of one man's trash being another man's treasure.  I'm also wary of anyone selling bookplates who is reluctant to answer a few basic questions about the item.  Caveat emptor definitely applies in this hobby.

Anyway, I'd love to spend more time blogging but I've got some serious sorting and cataloguing to do.  Until next time...

Saturday, 17 November 2012

The Bookplate Journal - Autumn 2012

I was very pleased to receive the latest bookplate society journal this past week, which includes in its pages an excellent updated version of Colin White's comprehensive study on the Scottish artist Jessie M. King.  As the society's web page notes:

Vol.10 No.2 Fall 2012 
It forms a major part of the Society’s Autumn 2012 issue of The Bookplate Journal, which has been sent out to members in the last days of October 2012. Not only does this article (32 pages in all) update the checklist that appeared in March 1995, but 15 of the bookplates are reproduced in colour. In his book A Guide to the Printed Work of Jessie M. King, 2007, Colin White listed King’s bookplates, but two or three have since come to light, and the book does not have his extensive comments which are now appearing in this forthcoming journal.

Bookplate by Jessie M. King

This issue also includes articles examining the bookplate designs of Graham Rust;  makes inquiries into whether or not Catherine the Great had a bookplate; displays the ex-libris work of English painter Keith Vaughan (1912-1977); as well as a great little piece about how one might design one's own bookplate (something I'm currently working on myself...).  In addition there are collecting and personal notes, etc., and along with the journal was the October 2012 society newsletter containing the details for Auction 67.

I've acquired some nice new items this past week for my collection but I'll post these tomorrow after I get them scanned in later today.  Also, I want say 'thank you' for the many kind emails and comments I received concerning my previous post on hoarders and snobs.  It seems this attitude is a bit more prevalent on this side of the pond and I encourage folks not to be bullied out of enjoying what is a great learning hobby.

As always, if you have bookplates for sale or trade, I'm always interested in buying whole collections or individuals items from any period.  As well, if you have any questions or want to share some of your own finds on this blog for everyone to see, don't hesitate to get in touch.  Until next time...

Monday, 12 November 2012

Hoarders, Snobs, and the Endangerment of a Hobby

Given the title of this blog I need a bit more space than usual to cover the rant that follows.  It's a subject, however, that's been on my mind over the past couple of years as I've delved into library and book history, not to mention as I continue my pursuit of Canadian bookplates and the stories of their sellers and owners.

Having come from a long line of antiquarians, dealers, and collectors, I've been exposed to just about every known hobby as well as the characters they attract.  And while every hobby has its ups and downs, nothing endangers the longevity of one's enjoyment of collecting something more than having to deal with two particularly troublesome folks in the collecting business - the hoarder and the snob.

We've all met them in our travels.  The hoarders often like to style themselves as 'acquisitors'; they treat everyone as competition; they're knowledgeable enough of the hobby to be dangerous; they're shameless in their pursuit of new material often using subtle shoving, poor manners, and a lack of bathing as weapons to move others out of their way at shows.  They often derive a guilty pleasure from the feeling that another collector might covet what they've already hoovered into their own basements.  They care little for the objects they possess other than to own them.  They do nothing to enrich their artifacts through research, show no interest in sharing any knowledge of their finds with others unless it makes you jealous of course, and they actively encourage you to give up collecting the same things as they declare a corner on the market.  In essence, they want you to go away.

At the other end of the spectrum are the snobs.  They style themselves as 'experts'; they treat everyone else as idiots; they're knowledgeable enough of the hobby so why aren't people impressed by this?  They're shameless in their disdain for others who apparently are unaware that the said collectible is in fact a type E version only issued in July of said year, not the B version issued in much smaller numbers in February of said year and therefore much rarer (idiot!).  They often derive a guilty pleasure from pointing out things you've missed in the most condescending manner possible.  That said, they usually care little for taking the time to answer questions about their hobby at all, show no interest in getting others excited about it or cultivating new generations of collectors, and actively discourage you from trying to retain your interest in the hobby since you obviously don't know what you're doing anyway. And you're bothering them. Again. Sigh.  In essence, they also want you to go away.

This past week I've run into both of these archetypes.  One guy shoved in next to me at a show and seeing the bookplates I had found, actually tried to outbid me with the dealer right as I was paying for my purchase.  He then announced his claim to first refusal on any other bookplates at that table.  When sending another guy an email asking a question about the provenance of a particular bookplate, I was condescendingly informed that as he was the only "serious" dealer in his entire country of over 300 million people how dare I challenge his opinion and bother him with such trivial queries.  And then these people wonder why everyone thinks their hobby is lame and marked for extinction.

I've had a couple of friends who took up bookplate collecting, only to leave the hobby after their encounters with the hoarder and the snob, and it's a shame really.  Given that even the most organized bookplate societies have only a couple hundred members worldwide at best, if people are discouraged from joining the hobby by such folks or treated with disdain when they show a genuine interest, more bookplates will end up in the bin than in albums.  Worst of all, no one will really care.  Food for thought.  Until next time...

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

2012 Ottawa Antiquarian Book Fair

Time to break out the debit card!
I stumbled upon this event last year and highly recommend it if you're in the area.  The Ottawa Antiquarian Book Fair is Canada’s oldest book fair. This year it will include over 40,000 items, dating from the 15th century to the present day, displayed for sale by 40 dealers from across Canada and the United States. The fair will be held on Sunday, 4 November, at Tudor Hall, 3750 North Bowesville Rd.  10:30am – 5:30pm Admission: $5.00  Free Parking.

There is a great range of subjects covered at this show, some great book dealers, and obviously something for all manner of interests and budgets.  I am certainly looking forward to what might turn up here.

Have a great Halloween everyone and I'll report back on this event next week!  Until next time...

Sunday, 28 October 2012

The Bookplate of Louis-Hippolyte Lafontaine

Louis-Hippolyte Lafontaine (1807-1864) 
It's been a rather busy year for me, and always the hobbies must come last.  That said, however, there's nothing like a cold rainy Sunday in October to create some downtime for casual collecting and research.

One area of my bookplate collection that has been growing nicely lately is my section on Canadian political leaders.  Fortunately, many of these men were originally merchants, lawyers, doctors, businessmen or similar professionals, which meant that they often had reference libraries and thus a tendency to have bookplates made for themselves.  One that I recently acquired from Tomas G. Boss Fine Books was a bookplate for the great Canadian politician Louis-Hippolyte Lafontaine.

Sir Louis-Hippolyte Lafontaine, 1st Baronet, KCMG, was the first Canadian to become Prime Minister of the United Province of Canada and the first head of a responsible government in Canada.  Born in Boucherville, Lower Canada in 1807, he was a jurist and statesman, being first elected to the Legislative Assembly of Lower Canada in 1830. He was a political supporter of Louis Papineau and member of the Parti canadien. After the severe consequences of the Rebellions of 1837 against the British authorities, Lafontaine advocated political reforms within the new Union regime of 1841.  He has been immortalized in statue more than once, and is perhaps one of the most significant political figures in early Canadian history.

Lafontaine's bookplate
Lafontaine lived, worked, and acquired books for his library at at time when, according to Prescott's study on Canadian bookplates, "the most tiresome and inartistic style, the die sink armorial, was popular in England."  Prescott also suggested that there were practically no pictorial plates produced in Canada for book owners during this period but as my own collection continues to grow I would begin to argue that his assessment may have been incorrect.

Lafontaine's bookplate is a classic example of an early nineteenth century die-sunk Canadian pictorial label.  It is possible he chose a pictorial rather than an armorial de-sink simply as a reflection of the mood of the period - in post-revolutionary France any references to royalty and heraldry were out, even on bookplates (see Walter Hamilton's book on French bookplates for more detail on this trend). Nevertheless, it is a very attractive plate for its age and it does stand out nicely against my other Canadian political armorial ex libris.

I'm always on the look out for other Canadian bookplates like these, so if you have something you want to part with don't hesitate to get in touch.  Until next time....

Thursday, 4 October 2012

The Modern Bookplate - An Example

Modern Ex Libris
Living where I do I often come across discarded military history and other defence studies books.  Every now and again I'm pleased to find that some of these books include bookplates.  Recently I picked up a couple of items that contained what could be considered very modern bookplates by typical standards, even though these ex libris appear to have been created during the 1970s or 1980s.

The plate on the left represented the library of the Canadian department of national defence's operational research division, whereas the plate on the right was for the DND Operational Research and Analysis Establishment.  A bit of research has suggested that neither of these libraries still exist, so I don't think I'll come across these ex libris again anytime soon.  I would still like to pin them down to a more definitive date, but in the meantime I'm glad I was able to pick up good specimens for my collection.

I don't know why exactly, but I find it interesting that the bookplate on the left appears to have been created with a dot matrix printer.  It gives the whole bookplate a very specific early computer tech look, which seems appropriate given the library the plate was made for.  Meanwhile the bookplate on the right clearly demonstrates the bilingual nature of the country's armed forces, as well as the connections to the commonwealth by the inclusion of the official crest.

Two modern bookplates, rather different from the usual fare that appears here.  Makes me wonder what other organizations were using bookplates well beyond the 'golden era'.  Until next time...

Monday, 1 October 2012

The Bookplate Journal - Spring 2012 Reprint

Spring 2012 - Reprint
Earlier this summer members of the Bookplate Society received a replacement copy of their spring 2012 journal as a result of printing errors in the original edition.  The following caveat was posted on the Bookplate Society Website:

Members please note that we discovered that some copies were defective. This issue was mailed direct to members by our printers, who have apologised for, and have rectified, the error. In some copies (we think about half of those sent out) there are pages where the paper is tinted cream and is glossy on one side, but is white and matt on the other.
In mid-August we sent to ALL members a reprinted journal, together with our Summer Newsletter. Please now destroy your copy of the earlier issue.

Needless to say this was a very thoughtful gesture and speaks highly of the bookplate's society commitment to bringing its members the best possible journal on the subject.  For those non-members who may be acquiring an individual copy by means other than through subscription, you'll know you have a corrected version if the word reprint appears on the last page of the journal.  Until next time...

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Bookplate Society News - Summer 2012

Vol.34 No.1 Summer 2012
Nothing like a new addition to the family and the completion of an academic manuscript to deplete one's time for a hobby.  Happily, the book is finally done and life is returning to normal after a great summer away from the keyboards.  I was sifting through my pile of bookplate related material sitting on a corner of the study desk and since it's a quiet rainy Sunday, it seems like a good time to finally post an update or two.

First on the pile is the latest Bookplate Society newsletter.  This issue includes a great little article by Bryan Welch titled, "On the identification of bookplates", which offers some preliminary guidance on how to go about researching your ex libris.  Welch briefly outlines what might constitute intrinsic and extrinsic evidence for the identification of a bookplate, as well as how this evidence may be clarified or confused depending on how it is derived.  Though he doesn't specifically say it, Welch's article does infer that provenance can play a big role in determining the owner and/or designer of a bookplate.

Other news includes a panegyric to the British designer Reg Boulton (1923-2012), who created many interesting bookplates for the Hereford region.  Other news items include the society's annual report as well as the catalogue for Auction 66.  Additionally, there are the usual notes on online auctions and other sales, member's news, library news, and book reviews.  All in all it's a great update with something for everyone.  Until next time...

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Review - Ray Safford: Rare Bookman

Exhibiting 15 Feb - 13 April 2012
Last post I mentioned that a review of this book appearing in the Spring 2012 issue of the Bookplate Journal prompted me to order a copy from Oak Knoll Press, and I am pleased to say the decision to do so did not disappoint.  Authored by Mark D. Tomasko, this short biography and catalogue of the life and artifacts of Scribner's bookseller Ray J. Safford (1866-1930) offers a tremendously interesting insight to the world of books, bookplates, dealers and collectors during the Golden Age of rare book and literary buying and selling in America.

Ray Safford, avid collector, buyer and seller, was considered one of the United States' most knowledgeable subject matter experts in the book trade at the turn of the last century.  Employed by Scribners for nearly four decades, he rose to become head of the retail department where he was both witness and party to several landmark book sales.  This included the sale of a Shakespeare First Folio in 1903 among other things.  Safford's life was also enriched by the many people he came into contact with, as well as the many friends he made over the course of his long and distinguished career.  He was good friends with Frank Nelson Doubleday, for example, the legendary publisher.

In addition to a short biography, the book includes a catalogue of Safford's papers, photos, and ephemera in the private archive of the author, as well as elaborations on some of the highlights of his career.  The book itself, as one can expect from Oak Knoll, is superbly designed and produced.  Soft cover, 6x9, and perfect bound (stitched), the 84-page volume includes many sepia toned and full colour illustrations of book covers, bookplates, and portraits.  Very reasonably priced at $15, this is a worthy addition to any private library.

This month has been devoted mainly to reviews of new bookplate related literature, and not so much about bookplates themselves.  My apologies for this, but a good collection or interest deserves a good reference library to explore it further, so I want to give relevant books and journals some attention to.  Until next time...


Monday, 7 May 2012

The Bookplate Journal - Spring 2012

Spring 2012 Issue
The Spring 2012 edition of the The Bookplate Journal arrived this past week and as usual it is jammed with an excellent variety of articles, research notes, items of interest, illustrations, and reviews.

Volume 10 No.1 of the new series features five excellent articles covering a wide range of topics.  Bryan Welch has written an insightful piece on 'Mary Watt's bookplate for her Husband', while his shorter piece on Ian Fleming, the creator of James Bond, is similarly gripping.  Jim McCready's homage to the work of Daniel de Bruin (1950-2010) is both informative and touching.  Meanwhile the articles by Benoit Junod and W.E. Butler reveal the interesting and often overlooked fringes of the traditional bookplate world.

The remainder of the journal is stuffed with research notes and reviews covering topics too numerous to list here.  However, one item I will mention specifically is the review of Mark Tomasko's recent book on 'Ray Safford: Rare Bookman' by W.E. Butler.  I found this review exceptionally informative, and have subsequently ordered the book from Oak Knoll Press for my private library as a result.  I am grateful to W.E. Butler, and the Bookplate Society, for including such reviews in the the journal.

The Bookplate Journal is published twice a year in the spring and autumn, as is available to all subscribed members of the society.  A tremendous resource for book and ex libris historians, researchers, and collectors, I highly recommend this publication for your private library.  Please take a moment to check out the society and its publications.  Now back to reading the journal.  Until next time....

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

The Bookplates of Miss C. Helard

ISBN 978-0-9555428-2-4
Authored and compiled by Colin R. Lattimore, this year's extra offering to members of The Bookplate Society is a wonderfully illustrated book examining the bookplates of Miss C. Helard and other related matters.

Mary Ellen Blanche Crookes (1870-1935) aka, Miss C. Helard, was the wife of Arthur Charles Fox-Davies, a noted Edwardian lawyer, author, and expert on heraldry.  When the library of his estate came onto the market in the late 1970s, the author was able to acquire a substantial archive of material that, combined with other research into the history of this family, culminated in this impressive work.

As the author explains, C. Helard was 'born' in 1895 as the pseudonym that Crookes used for her heraldic drawings and bookplate designs.  Why exactly she chose this name remains something of a mystery, but her portfolio of work as C. Helard was impressive.  The author has meticulously catalogued all known examples of her work, and has reproduced in superb quality many illustrations of her ex libris in this book.

The book itself is softcover, approx. 8 1/2 x 11; 135pgs; illus; biblio; index; and limited to an edition of 450 copies.  Well-researched, very readable, and beautifully illustrated throughout, this book will make yet another great addition to the private libraries of bookplate collectors and historians.  I highly recommend that you visit The Bookplate Society's website and get a copy, or better still, consider joining the society and receive both the journal as well as access to many other books like this.  Until next time...

Monday, 30 April 2012

More Miscellaneous Ex Libris

Bookplates are here!
Since tomorrow is the first day in May (already - where does the time go?), I thought I might do some small justice to my blogging in April by just sharing a bunch more miscellaneous ex libris related things I've come across this past month, in no particular order.

First on the list are some lists.  Specifically, the first one recently published onto the web by the Art Gallery of Ontario's E.P. Taylor Research Library and Archives.  It seems they have a small Canadian bookplates collection that one can explore further with the assistance of this Finding Aid.  At quick glance it looks as if they have a few interesting items that I'll have to try and see the next time I'm there.  The second one is a Finding Aid for the Hugh Anson-Cartwright Collection donated to the MacKimmie Library at the University of Calgary.

Over on the Royal Heraldry Society of Canada website there is a page dedicated to the Ex Libris work of Gordon Macpherson.    A well-known Canadian Herald Extraordinary who has designed many great arms and seals for his country, he is noted especially for his armourial ex libris and is highly sought after for this work.  At left is but one sample of Macpherson's highly skilled designs.

A few particular ex libris of interest were also brought to my attention.  For example, this eighteenth century bookplate belonged to Sir John Caldwell (1775-1842), a Canadian Lawyer who was elected to the legislative assembly of Lower Canada and served as its Receiver General from 1810-1823.  Apparently, in 1824 a scandal came to light that his office had misappropriated and "misplaced" $100,000.  Despite the scandal Caldwell was never brought to trial, and he died many years later at St.Mathews, Quebec.  History and rumour has it he was horribly underpaid yet led a rich and extravagant life...

Well, I think that's it for April.  I originally thought I'd have more to blog about this past month, but my last two book and bookplate hunting trips turned up nothing of note, and it's been a little while since I've added anything new to the collection.  Still, some new literature has arrived and I have tales of yet another book hunting adventure, but I'll save these for May.  I want to get this posted before the clock strikes twelve!  Until next time...

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Miscellaneous Ex Libris

Bookplate Blog Book 2011
It's already mid-April and I've yet to blog anything here!  As summer approaches I find myself wanting to get away from the keyboard more often, but that said I will try my best to blog at least once every week or so depending on what new finds come my way.

After my last post I had a couple of further inquiries regarding what I thought of making a bookplate blog book, as well as a few requests for a photo, so here's what the final product looks like.  As you can see, for the price it's a pretty decent hardcover publication.  I chose the arts and letters club bookplate to illustrate the cover simply because I liked it, but hopefully next year's book will sport my own new ex libris on the front.

Speaking of previous posts, since my blog on Ex Libris place names I've continued to explore this aspect of bookplates with some interesting results.  Looking through various collections for bookplates associated with the city of Toronto, for example, turned up a number of fascinating illustrations.  Here's a few of the one's I found particularly interesting:



As I was searching, I also noted the absence of certain place names in many of the collections.  I haven't seen very many bookplates for places in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, or the territories.  Surely someone living in the Yukon had a bookplate made?  For now the hunt continues, until next time...

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Bookplates, Blogs, and Bookplate Blog Books

It's a rainy spring Sunday here, so no better time than to catch up on the blog and share a bunch of interesting things I've come across this past week.

If you're just looking for ideas, or perhaps resources even, to pursue creating your own bookplate then I recommend you consider attending the upcoming Canadian Bookbinders and Book Artist's Guild annual book arts fair in Toronto this June.  Dozens of artists, designers, and bookbinders gather at this event every year to showcase their talents and wares, making it an ideal venue for someone who might be looking to get a bookplate of their own.

I also noted this week that my blog has passed the 11,000 visits mark.  As I think I wrote last year after it passed the 1000 visits mark, I wonder who are all these people and perhaps more important, how many of them love, have, or collect Canadian bookplates?  If you're a regular visitor to this site, I'd love to get a comment from you letting me know what you think of this blog as well as if there are any topics or subjects you'd like to see covered more or less?  My posts reflect 1) what interests me, and 2) what I think might interest you.  Hopefully I get the latter just as right as the former, but I won't know for sure unless you send me your thoughts on the matter.

Several blog posts later, one of things that began to concern me slightly was making sure I did't blog the same thing twice.  This blog is just a way for me to share ideas about one of my favourite hobbies, but the fact that it is a hobby means I take a much less structured approach to it than my other more formal historical research and publication.  That also means I hadn't kept any record of what I've blogged about before...until now.

See, the historian in me wanted to keep a record of this blog, as I know that it lives in cyberspace only so long as its host Blogger lives.  If anything should happen, I could lose all of the information I've shared here forever.  That got me thinking about how best to make a more permanent record, and after a little research I came across a few print on demand websites that will turn your blog into a physical book for a modest price.  I ultimately chose Blog2Print to create a hardcopy of all of last year's blogs, and was very pleased with the end product that arrived in the mail.  If you're running a blog of your own I'd highly recommend doing the same.  Not only are the books themselves very attractive and affordable, the effort involved to make the book is minimal.  Frankly, I can't think of a better way to preserve your blog.  Until next time...

Friday, 16 March 2012

Bookplates and Place Names

A Vancouver BC bookplate
Aside from the obvious interest that comes with learning the identity of the owner of a particular old bookplate, one thing I always enjoy is when those owners also included the place name of where their library resided.  Some ex libris, such as those belonging to Canadian institutions, typically included not just the name of their organization but also its location.  But for private libraries the practice was much less consistent.

I suppose it makes sense in a way.  Even during the golden age of bookplate design and collecting, people moved often enough perhaps to not want to include a location.  Perhaps as well, it was simply a matter of practicality.  After all, who wants to remove and replace several dozen or even several hundred bookplates every time you move?

Still, to me adding a place name added just that much more to the story of the bookplate.  And as I continue to consider the design of my own new bookplate I've decided that I'll definitely include the place where my private library lives.  It may seem trivial to some, but I don't think it is.  If the book itself is considered an artifact, then every clue offered about where it came from as well as who owned it is important.

Anyway, just something that struck me this week as I was looking through yet another collection of bookplates.  I've included a few more place name ex libris below.  Until next time....

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

University of British Columbia bookplate collection online

Ex Libris Myrtle Bryce by Stanley Harrod
The University of British Columbia's Rare Books and Special Collections Division has made their bookplate collection available for browsing online.  This fascinating website incorporates the Thomas Murray Collection and greatly expands upon the number of bookplates that may now be examined more closely.  Needless to say this is great news for the hobby, and for Canadian book history in general.

I was pleased to find a number of new bookplates I had not seen before, including several by some of the artists and designers I've begun taking a greater interest in researching further.  For example, the bookplate on the right is a great specimen of Stanley Harrod's wartime work, and is but one of several interesting ex libris to be found in this collection.

Hopefully other Canadian institutions with similar collections in their holdings will take note and perhaps follow suit.  With each new collection opened to the public, interest in both our hobby as well as our cultural history grows.  Be sure to take a moment sometime soon and check out the collection.  Until next time...

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Spring Cleaning = New Opportunities for books and bookplates

Another season of book hunting is here
Ah, spring.   It's one the best times of the year to get out and go looking for new books and bookplates.  People have been cooped up all winter staring at the piles of "clutter" on their shelves and in their attics, and armed with new year's resolutions and a renewed sense of cleanliness, countless new finds will soon appear on the market for the taking.

This past week I opted to start the ball rolling slowly, and scout out a number of book shops and thrift stores (which often have good book sections and very cheap prices) not too far from home.  Admittedly it was slow going indeed, as some of the shops have yet to put out new holdings while others have trimmed back on what they take in, and also what they will put out in the store.  One of my favourite haunts has now stopped buying paperbacks altogether, and now deals only in hardcovers.  Even then, their best items end up on their ABE listings while lesser quality and damaged items are put on the shelves in the store to be sold at a premium.  I'm a hardcover collector, so the focus doesn't bother me, only the quality of what is being offered.  This is a disappointing trend, but sadly it seems to be happening more and more around here.

Dr. Robert Lang?
Still, despite small setbacks I managed to pick up a couple of interesting things.  One of the most intriguing finds was this traditional armourial book plate that appears to be Canadian from the context in which I found it, but it could also be British - so many books were transplanted here from the UK it's hard to tell sometimes - I'm not sure yet.  The motto at the top seems familiar but I've yet to crack it without my Latin dictionary, which is buried somewhere downstairs in boxes.  It says roughly, "not hasty or... ?" (someone help me out).

T.J. 1903 ?
Still, I really like the design of this bookplate.  It's not a traditional armourial ex libris although it borrows from the classical relaxed shield designs.  The mantling is exceptionally ornate, and the tower helm is provocative. The bookplate was engraved and printed on a watermarked paper, and measures 6.5x11cm.   The artist's initials and date of design is just to the right of the tower and looks like 'T.J. or G. and the date 1903'.  Unfortunately, I have no idea who the artist was.  As an admitted novice to the subject, I appreciate that every bookplate discovery reminds me that I have just that much more to learn about the hobby. So this year, I'm committing myself to uncovering the artists - both famous and less well known - that created these pint-sized masterpieces.  In the meantime, if you learn anything at all about this bookplate, please email me.  Thanks!

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Bookplate Society News - Winter 2011/12

Vol.33 No.2 Winter 2011/12
I'm still tackling the backlog of bookplates and publications that accrued over the Christmas holiday, so I figured I'd start with the easier ex libris items in the pile in an effort to get caught up.  The Bookplate Society has delivered its latest newsletter to members this past month, and once again it is packed with information, short articles, event updates, members interests, and the latest auction.  As usual, there is much going on across the pond and it often makes me wonder if a similar society could not be established here in Canada.  More on that thought later.

The latest newsletter includes the society's calendar for 2012, two interesting short articles - one dealing with modern bookplates in limited edition books, the other an examination of Frank Brangwyn's bookplates for John Gilmer.  Likewise there is an insightful little entry on a bookplate attributed to Stephen Tumim.  The latest auction offers 172 lots, many of which will appeal to those collecting coat of arms ex libris or looking to fill gaps in their Franks catalogue.  As usual there are also book reviews and membership news, and it was nice to see some new members added to the roll.  Finally, I wish to thank the Bookplate Society for their kind mention of this blog on the back page in member's news.  Hopefully, this will result in further traffic to this site.  Until next time then....

Monday, 20 February 2012

Some Bookplates of the Royal Military College of Canada

RMC Canada c. 1890s
The Royal Military College of Canada was founded at Kingston Ontario in 1876.  Based in fact upon the American West Point model and not the British Sandhurst model as many automatically assume, it remains one of Canada's oldest and finest military learning institutions.

When the college first opened one of the things it had to create was a sufficient library for the faculty, staff, and company of gentlemen cadets.  The college's first Commandant, Colonel Edward Osborne Hewett, recommended in a report to the Adjutant General dated 26 August 1879, "that the library be built on the grounds and opened no later than 1882".  While it took a few years longer to realize this goal, eventually the college built a library for its rapidly growing collection of books.

RMC Edwardian bookplate
While I have yet to determine an exact date of origin, with much of the college's symbology created during the 1880s and 1890s, it appears that the library only began using bookplates to identify its holdings sometime after 1900.  This first known example, printed in blue ink on distinctly watermarked paper, was likely created between 1901-1911.  The design is simple and straightforward - an early period version of the college's coat of arms consisting of a shield of three fields over a compartment of laurels, berries, and a motto, under a mailed fist helm and Edwardian crown. Over this the simple phrase 'Ex Libris' and a equally plain blue border. The hand-written '6000' in india ink at the top hints at the size of the library's holdings within three decades of its opening.  A second example in my collection sports the number '7015'.  It's unknown whether it was intended or not to crop the bookplate along the blue borders.  Again both examples in my collection have extended edges.  Its dimensions are 8cm x 11cm, and they were originally tipped in with a simple water-based paste.

The bookplate of No.47 Cadet Wurtele
In addition to institutional ex libris, many of the faculty, staff, and gentlemen cadets created their own bookplates.  The cadets, each of whom were assigned a unique college number in sequence upon their admission, often had ex libris made to identify their small private libraries kept in their rooms.  This traditional coat of arms bookplate belonged to Cadet No.47 Ernest F. Wurtele.  Entering the college as a member of the fifth group of cadets in September 1878, his bookplate sports his family's coat of arms, as well as his family home (Quebec).  The bookplate itself is engraved, and this particular example appears to have resided in a book that eventually ended up in someone else's library after the First World War (note the inscribed dates 1/5/19).

I have other RMC and related bookplates in my collection, but I'll save these for a future post.  In the meantime, I hope you've enjoyed this blog and I look forward to any comments or questions you may have.  Otherwise, good hunting for that next bookplate or book!