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!

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