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!

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Review - The Bookplate Journal Vol.9 No. 2 (Autumn 2011)

Vol.9 No.2 (Autumn 2011)
Happy New Year!  It's been way too long since my last blog, but my absence from this hobby was delightfully caused by the arrival of a new family member.  Now that things are somewhat settling back to "normal" around here, it's time to get caught up on the massive stack of library and bookplate items sitting on my desk.

At the top of the pile was the latest issue of The Bookplate Journal, which arrived a last fall and has since been waiting patiently for my attention.  Typically I'll dive into new publications as they arrive, but given the amount of reading material I've acquired over the past few months thanks to several successful book hunts (see previous posts), it's taking me a bit longer to get caught up.

As always the latest issue is packed full of interesting articles and information on the hobby.  There are six articles addressing an interesting range of topics.  Brian Welch investigates whether or not Linley Sambourne designed any bookplates.  John Blatchly discusses the privileged short term collecting of Florence Amy Clark.  Renae Satterley offers a great article on the bookplates in the Library of the Middle Temple.  My favourite entry, however, was the extremely interesting piece by W.E. Butler who relates the story of a Wodehouse inspired bookplate and its designer.  Additionally, there are Notes on half a dozen other subjects including Darley Addenda; Thomas Oughtibridge /Barlow /Browne; Edmund Blampied; an Anglo-American label for David Hoffman; Railway bookplates; Gothic Revival plates; and Paul Lemperley's label by Edwin Davis French.  Readers and members should also note that the journal's cover now sports the titles of 'Spring' and 'Autumn' rather than specific months, giving the editors a better window in which to deliver our journals to us during these two seasons.

Up next?  It's actually rather hard to say at the moment, it's been too long since I've looked at everything so I'll need to peruse the pile and pull up something suitable.  Be assured though, that the next blog will appear much sooner than the last.  There's a lot of catching up to do!