Saturday, 11 April 2015

More 19th Century Bookplates

My two favourite things
The pile seems endless. As I sit here at stare at coat of arms after coat of arms, I must admit that I did not realize there was so much heraldry in nineteenth century Canada. Morley, Ayearst, and Harrod actually noted in their introduction in Prescott's catalogue that much of the nineteenth century Canadian ex Libris consisted of die sink armorials. Perhaps they were right after all.

These are the type of bookplate I often see sitting in shoe boxes at book fairs. Somewhat abandoned to be bought for a dollar or two each because, frankly, no one has a clue who these people were or what their shields and crests mean. Mottos are proudly displayed in cryptic Latin, a language of sophistication all but lost on most folks today. Thankfully, in Canada at least, the language provides a convenience for most - no need to write things twice in English and French when it could be presented once in Latin.

And behind each bookplate is a story. A library. A person. And as a result I continue to sift through the pile, looking for clues that lets me unlock the biographies of their owners and designers. Unfortunately, most armorials lack a designers initials or mark, and as such, one is left to consult other sources to determine their origin. I've had some luck in looking through advertisers of the period in question.

Below, as promised, are a few mentioned in Prescott that I'm currently researching further. If you anything about the owners of these plates or their designers, please feel free to comment. Otherwise, enjoy, and I'll write more about them once the research has progressed a but further.

Until next time...

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Canada and the Battle of Vimy Ridge 9 April 1917

Lieutenant General Sir Arthur Currie (center)
Photo by William Rider-Rider
(Imperial War Museum, CO1970)
Every April 9th Canadians pause to remember one of its country's most famous battles - Vimy Ridge. Nearly a century ago in 1917, after years of failed attempts by the British and French armies to push the German defenders off the heights, the 4 division strong Canadian Corps stormed the heavily fortified ridge and succeeded in capturing the majority of it in a single day. By 12 April, the remaining pockets of German resistance crumbled under the weight of repeated Canadian attacks, marking a stunning tactical success in what otherwise became yet another failed British offensive on the Western Front that year.

Interestingly, the Battle of Vimy Ridge was neither the most costly or the most significant Canadian battle of the First World War, and as many historians have recently argued other engagements - Passchendaele, Hill 70, Amiens, and the Canal du Nord were similarly significant in establishing the remarkable Canadian reputation of being the 'shock troops of the British Empire". Even Canada's most widely recognized General of the Great War - Sir Arthur Currie - would earn his great reputation not on the heights of Vimy Ridge where his own division had a relatively easier fight than others, but rather in later battles where he repeatedly proved his tactical genius over his adversaries.

Sources on the history of the battle are plentiful as you can see from the references listed below. As such it serves as a tremendously interesting and poignant background to the collection of Canadian Ex Libris, books, and ephemera associated with the battle. Most of the items in my own archive are books and ephemera, bits and pieces I've collected along the way over the years. I've yet to come across a bookplate making specific mention of the battle in its composition, and would be interested to know if anyone else has. Otherwise, for now the search continues.

In other news, I'm still going through the pile of 19th century bookplates. I'll post a few this weekend that I'm currently researching. Until next time ....

Further Reading on the Battle of Vimy Ridge, 9-12 April 1917