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... 

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