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...