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...