Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Bookplate of the Day

Just looking through some recent acquisitions, so I thought I'd post one Im currently researching for everyone to enjoy.  It doesn't seem this library exists anymore as a separate entity, but it may have been folded into another one at the University of Toronto.  If anyone knows for sure, however, please drop me a comment or an email and let me know!

The actual statue of King Alfred that this bookplate illustrates sits in the town square in Winchester, England.  I've had the opportunity to see it firsthand, and it's an impressive figure indeed.

I'll be back on the weekend with a new post.  Until next time...

Friday, 29 March 2013

Bookplates Exhibition at the National Gallery of Canada

The National Gallery of Canada
March is typically a very busy writing month for me - end of the fiscal year at work related activities, research reports to close off, as well as the start of a busy conference season, which means papers to prepare, etc.  As such, I haven't had much time for blogging this month, but I have been pursuing the hobby through exchanging research notes with a new colleague who is preparing an exhibition on Canadian bookplates from the Collection of the National Gallery of Canada Library and Archives.

The exhibition is scheduled to run from May 8-August 30, 2013, and presents a selection of Canadian bookplates from the National Gallery of Canada Library and Archives, beginning with an assortment from the nineteenth century, including those of two former prime ministers, John A. Macdonald and Robert Borden.

Most of the early examples that will be shown are known as armorial bookplates, featuring heraldic devices such as crests and shields to denote pedigree. Also on display will be works by seven artists who are widely acknowledged as Canada’s leading bookplate designers: William Walker Alexander (1870–1948), Morley Ayearst (1899–1983), Alexander Scott Carter (1881–1968), Stanley Harrod (1881–1954), Alfred Harold Howard (1854–1916), J. E. H. MacDonald (1873–1932) and Leslie Victor Smith (1880–1952). All were part of the bookplate revival that began in Canada in the 1890s and continued into the 1930s.

Needless to say I'm very excited to see the opening of this exhibition and encourage everyone to make a trip to the gallery to see it as well.  Until next time...

Sunday, 17 February 2013

The Right Honourable Vincent Massey PC CH CC CD

Rt. Hon. Vincent Massey (1887-1967)
There have been 28 Governors General (GG) of Canada since Canadian confederation in 1867 and I am happy to have in my collection bookplates for most of these gentlemen.  I've blogged before about GG ex libris but a recent inquiry this week has prompted me to write this time about Charles Vincent Massey, the 18th GG of Canada.

Born into an influential and wealthy Toronto family, he earned degrees at the University of Toronto as well as Oxford University before going into public service.  Massey served in uniform during the First World War as a commissioned officer working for the Cabinet War Committee, but otherwise had limited military service before returning to civilian life after the end of the war.  In 1918 he created the Massey Foundation that supported, among other things, the development of new architecture and building in Toronto.  Massey continued to pursue both business and philanthropy until 1925, when through the connections of friends he returned to public service being appointed to the King's Privy Council.  He was subsequently made a minister without portfolio in the Cabinet of family friend Prime Minister Mackenzie King.  Though he failed to secure a seat in parliament through election, he was still included as a special observer to the 1926 Imperial Conference before accepting an appointment as the Canadian ambassador to the United States.  Massey's diplomatic and public service career spanned over 25 years, until his appointment as the first Canadian-born Governor General on 1 February 1952.

Bookplate for Massey the diplomat
This armorial bookplate belonging to Vincent Massey is a personal favourite in my GG collection, and was designed for him by Alexander Scott Carter in 1913.  It is adorned with the shields of Massey's alma maters, University College (University of Toronto) and Balliol College, University of Oxford.  The tree also signifies learning; it may have been commissioned to mark Massey's appointment as the Dean of Men at Burwash Hall, and also a lecturer on modern history at Victoria University.  The composition is typical of Carter's approach to design during that period, as he worked to modernize the traditional coats of arms ex libris in a manner that retained a style of richness appropriate to the ladies and gentlemen he was crafting for.  His accomplishment in architectural decoration and heraldic ornament would eventually earn him accolades across Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom.

This bookplate is listed in Prescott (p.94), however, it's date of design/issue is wrongly identified as 1918.  A close examination of the bookplate itself in fact reveals the date 1913 in two places; on the upper right arm of the banner in roman numerals, and also, following Carter's signature at the lower right just above Vincent Massey's name scroll.  One might assume, however, that Massey used this as his main bookplate from 1913 to approximately 1925, when his appointment to government may have prompted the design of a new ex libris.

It's no surprise that Carter designed this bookplate.  Massey's family made considerable donations to the University of Toronto's improvement during the First World War era, including the building that eventually became Hart House in 1918.  Carter was the main heraldic artist commissioned to execute the interior design and decoration.  Perhaps it was the execution of this bookplate that helped him land the job, it's a remarkable piece of miniature art.  Until next time... 

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Sir George Stephen Bt and the Canadian Pacific Railway

Sir George Stephen Bt (1829-1921)
While driving home from a meeting the other day I watched a freight train glide past, paralleling the highway on its railway line, and it reminded me that I had a few train themed bookplates that I was planning to do a bit more research on.  I have always found that railway ex libris have been very desirable to both bookplate collectors as well as railway enthusiasts in Canada, and the armorial bookplate shown below belonging to Sir George Stephen Bt, is perhaps one of the most sought after ex libris in this category.

Sir George Stephen (5 June 1829 - 29 November 1921) was a Scottish Born Canadian who is best known to our history as the financial genius behind the creation of the Canadian Pacific Railway.  He also served as President of the Bank of Montreal, and later became the first Canadian to be elevated to the Peerage of the United Kingdom.  Cousin to another famous Canadian, Lord Strathcona, and a personal friend of King George V, George Stephen, 1st Baron Mount Stephen, was also remembered fondly as one of the greatest philanthropists of his time.

Sir George Stephen's Bookplate 
Stephen's coat of arms reflected both his Canadian heritage as well as own industriousness.  He first got into the railroad business in 1877, which eventually led to his association with the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway.  Along with a small syndicate of investors, Stephen poured millions of dollars into the tracks and persevered to see the CPR's construction through to completion in 1885.  For his amazing financial generosity (Stephen repeatedly lent the struggling government money for their railways) he was made baronet the following year, but soon after retired from the helm of the CPR in 1888.

Stephen's bookplate is listed in Franks (No.28013), but not in Prescott, which I find interesting as the plate was obviously engraved sometime after 1886 yet before Stephen's death in 1921.  It seems odd therefore especially given Stephen's celebrity status at the time as one of Canada and England's greatest philanthropists, that his bookplate somehow eluded the cataloguers.  Again, it makes me wonder how many others have also been missed.  The Artist of his plate is identified in Franks as Charles William Sherborn, the well-known English bookplate designer and later vice-president of the Ex Libris Society.

While a resident of Montreal Stephen had a marvellous Italianate style house constructed downtown in what was known as the "Golden Square Mile", a reference to an area where a number of wealthy residents at one time had their homes closely situated to one another.  Stephen's mansion took three years to complete and cost him $600,000.  Eventually turned into a private gentlemen's club in 1926, I was briefly a member when I lived in that city,and had the good fortune to attend several great dinners and parties there.  Today it remains an easily accessible landmark right in downtown Montreal, and I recommend if you're ever visiting that great city to take a stroll by the house.  It's a real joy to see up close.  Until next time...

Friday, 1 February 2013

Bookplates This Week

An interesting ex libris for Huntington
While I work away on a few interesting posts for a future date, I thought in the meantime I'd simply share some recent additions to the collection.  These bookplates came from a box of old books being given away by a local theatre company.  Always happy to take free books, I was very pleased to find several drama themed ex libris amongst the ratty volumes, including a few very nice pictorial plates I had not seen before.

I haven't had the opportunity to research these at all, but if any of you know anything about them, please get in touch at robotwizard1 (at) mac (dot) com.  Until next time...

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Rest Your Shield Now and Again

Remember to rest your shield now and again
It's a rather busy time at the moment with several other writing projects on the go, and I spent my weekend toiling away to meet a scholarly publisher's deadline instead of digging through the boxes of bookplates and other book related ephemera that patiently awaits my attention.  As I'm unlikely to get away from work to write up a proper blog this week, I thought I'd just share a bookplate with you that I've currently set on my desk.  This little ex libris reminds me that at some point everyone should rest their shield for a moment and take a break.  As one who researches and writes extensively every day in my career, it's easy to forget this.  It's a good reminder for me - it's good for your physical and mental health, and gives you the energy needed to return to the work at hand.

I've liked this ex libris for other reasons as well, and appreciate its unconventional approach to displaying a family coat of arms.  If you have a bookplate that makes you think, please feel free to share it with me.  Perhaps we can post some other people's favourites up here on the site.  Until next time....    

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Book Seller Labels and Binder's Tickets 1

A sample of bookbinder tickets and seller's labels
Ex Libris are often described as miniature works of art, but after I began collecting them I discovered that things can get even smaller.  Enter the stationer's and bookseller's label, and the bookbinder's ticket.

These mini tabs are often found in the bottom or top corner of the gutters of the pastedown, or on the endpapers, of many older books and were used by binders and sellers as a way of advertising their part in bringing a book to market.  Some sources suggest they saw first use in the 18th century but an exact date of introduction seems less certain. Still, they constitute an important book artifact and offer us great insight into the book trade of years past.  Whether your interest is books or local history, there's much research enjoyment to be founds in these tiny treasures.

labels and tickets in all shapes and sizes
Admittedly, when I first started acquiring these it was more by accident than by design and I didn't know (and still don't know) much about the ones in my collection.  Not surprisingly, however, there are a couple of excellent websites out there where one interested in these things can learn a whole lot more.  My favourite references on the topic to date are Bookseller Labels and Seven Roads.  Each of these websites offer a tremendously rich resource for someone looking to get a better understanding of the use of tickets and labels.  As well, both sights have large picture galleries to browse.

I seem to have amassed quite the pile of these things and am in the process of separating out the Canadian ones for my own collection.  I also need a way to store and present them. I thinking about putting them into an album, but does anyone have any ideas on how I might be able to display these?

Also, even after I've separated out what I want from the piles I'll be stuck with a large collection of old British, American and other international labels that I'll be looking to swap for Canadian bookplates, or perhaps, to sell to someone else who may appreciate them more than I will.  If labels are your thing, get in touch at the email above and I'll be glad to send you a photo of what there is on offer.  hopefully, these labels can find their way to a good home.  Until next time

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Bookplate Designer Sylvia Hahn (1911-2001)

Bookplate designer Sylvia Hahn
Happy New Year everyone, I hope you had a safe and enjoyable holiday season.

Occasionally in this hobby I come across little groups of letters and related bookplates like the one pictured here.  This particular lot consisted of two bookplates and a letter attributed to Canadian artist Sylvia Hahn.  Born in Toronto in 1911, she was an exceptionally talented and versatile craftswoman who was awarded the Governor General's Gold Medal for artistic achievement in 1932.  She then went on to a very successful career with the Royal Ontario Museum where she was a prolific painter, illustrator, engraver, designer, restorer, and writer.

Sylvia Hahn's personal bookplate
Hahn's design work included bookplates, which she often executed from wood engravings and pen and ink drawings.  A more complete biography of Hahn's extensive achievements may be found in the Canadian Women Artists History Initiative, but I'd like to include a short excerpt from the letter shown above (written in 1984), which offers some insight to Hahn's own bookplate design:
The things illustrated in my bookplate illustrate my pursuits and interests at that time - painting, sculpture, wood engraving, writing, jewellery work, cello playing, archery, swimming, astronomy, and the study of barn swallows.  I am afraid if I designed in again now the composition would be a bit emptier.  As one gets older it seems there is less time in a day for doing things!

She also pointed out that the medium employed on her own bookplate was wood engraving not wood cut:  "We engravers feel strongly on the subject - not that cuts aren't just as good, but they are different."

Hahn in her studio - date unknown
I feel lucky to have gotten this ex libris for my collection.  According to the letter, Hahn only made one printing of her bookplates and had run out of them save for this one that was tucked away "in my portfolio of prints and reproductions."

The other bookplate shown above was also designed by Hahn, for Canon Henry John Cody CMG, the 6th President of the University of Toronto.  I've already identified a few other bookplates designed by her as well, but further research is still needed before I can construct a complete catalogue of her ex libris work.

If you know of any other bookplates designed by Sylvia Hahn, I'd love to hear about them, just use the email above.  Otherwise, I encourage you to explore her work beyond her bookplates as well - her paintings and other illustrations show great talent and are an enjoyment.  Until next time...