Rare Books Take on an Added Dimension

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As technology continually reshapes the world, modern academic libraries are finding innovative new digital projects and presentations to breathe renewed life into rare treasures from centuries past. Moving from the physical to the digital is allowing McGill students, faculty and researchers to explore ROAAr‘s rich holdings in creative new ways.

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Visualization wall in the Research Commons

Last year, the McGill Library launched its new Research Commons, an innovative, collaborative space that provides next-generation tools to students and researchers. The Commons includes a high-tech visualization studio capable of projecting high-resolution images onto a large video wall comprised of eight video screens.

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Emeritus Professor Ian MacLaren  presenting “From ‘nothing but a pasenger [sic]’ to Canadian Hero: Paul Kane’s Authorship of Wanderings of an Artist (1859).”

This October, ROAAr put that new technology to the test during a public lecture by Emeritus Professor Ian MacLaren (University of Alberta) about prominent 19th-century Canadian artist Paul Kane (1810-1871). Kane travelled from Ontario to the northwest quadrant of North America in the 1840s, sketching and painting the life and customs of the indigenous peoples across the vast northwestern Canadian wilderness. This initiative would eventually grow into a key documentary and visual history of the west, a portion of which was published in London in 1859 as Wanderings of an Artist among the Indians of North America : from Canada to Vancouver’s Island and Oregon through the Hudson’s Bay Company’s Territory and Back Again. Continue reading

Mrs. Beeton in Publisher’s Cloth

Professor Nathalie Cooke, McGill Library’s Associate Dean of Rare and Special Collections, drew our attention to these cookbooks while giving a seminar to Geoffrey Little’s graduate class in Book History. The McGill Library has a substantial historical Cookbook Collection, steeped in printing curiosities and demonstrating exceptional aspects in book production developments.

     For example, Mrs. Beeton’s cookbooks were the most popular British series of cookbooks in the latter half of the nineteenth century.  Elizabeth Driver writes that “From its first publication in book form in 1861, Mrs. Beeton’s The Book of Household Management ruled English kitchens for well over half a century.Her monumental text was recognized as a culinary authority throughout the Empire as emigrants carried the complete book, or the various shorter derivations of the original work, with them to their new homes” (Culinary Landmarks, 474).

1887. Decorative publisher’s cloth .

They were a staple commodity for the Ward and Lock Publishers in London. Despite the popularity and longevity of the Mrs. Beeton persona, as well as the many editions of ‘her’ books on cookery and household management, the real Isabella Beeton died after childbirth on 6 February 1865.

Ward & Lock used the Beeton name on for a number of affordable every day handbooks such as: gardening, letter writing, dictionaries and household management. We are showing just two of the later British editions, from about 20 titles that Rare Books and Special Collections houses on the “Mrs. Beeton’s cookery” series.

Edition bindings started up in the nineteenth century as the book market expanded and the publishers of books started to do large print runs of popular titles intended for a wide readership.   Cookbooks fit the bill, especially the Mrs. Beeton series, which continued well into the twentieth century. In the 1830s, for various reasons, publishers started to assume the responsibility for binding their own editions. Cloth was their choice material – it was more durable than paper; and less expensive than leather.

1893. Pictorial publisher’s cloth.

Publishers commonly had their names stamped at the bottom of the spines, hence the book collector’s term:  “in publisher’s cloth”. Publishers understood that illustrated covers “could be used to enhance the outward appearance of a book and thus help catch the eye of the buyer” to encourage a sale (Percy Muir, Victorian Illustrated Books, 1971). At first, cloth bindings were dyed in colours and either textured or decorated in simple border designs by a blind-stamping process, and used small squares of paper as spine labels. By the 1840s, lettering and decorative and pictorial designs, were filled in with black or gilt, and applied directly onto the cloth.

Elaborate, multi-coloured pictorial cloth bindings picked up where stamped bindings left off.  The Ward and Lock edition from 1893, is an excellent example of this trend, which was at the height of popularity in the late Victorian era. It is bound in a smooth cloth dyed mustard yellow; the front cover and spines are partly stamped and partly printed in colours: white, black and pink and a bit of blue. The design is carried over to the spine.

Folding frontispiece in Mrs. Beeton’s Every Day Cookery, London: Ward & Lock, 1893. Chromolithograph made in Holland by Emrik and Binger.

At this time, cover art might take its inspiration from the illustrations in the text or from the  inserted plates of illustrations. The covers of the 1893 edition obviously borrows  from the  quite remarkable folding frontispiece.

Pictorial publisher’s cloth bindings are in many ways precursors to the dust jacket as an advertising medium, the kinds that are still in use today for cloth-bound, hard covered books.

A collaborative post by AMH and NC

Announcement: Lecture by Professor I.S. MacLaren on Paul Kane

We welcome you to a lecture at McGill Library’s  Research Commons Presentation Space_A for a compelling lecture on Paul Kane’s Wanderings of an Artist (1859), to be delivered by Emeritus Professor Ian MacLaren (University of Alberta).

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Professor MacLaren will discuss Paul Kane (1810-1871), the best known artist of early English-language Canada, and the alteration of his field writings to make a book “readied for the press” under the title:Wanderings of an Artist among the Indians of North America : from Canada to Vancouver’s Island and Oregon through the Hudson’s Bay Company’s Territory and Back Again.

This book appeared in London in 1859 by the publishing giant Longman, and would transform Kane into a hero of early Canada. It was followed by  subsequent editions, such as a French translation produced in Paris in 1861; and a closer-to-home version out of Toronto in 1925 by the Radisson Society of Canada.

This event is free of charge and all are welcome. Please note the room location at the Research Commons Room A. This event is sponsored by the Montreal Book History Group, and the McGill Library’s new ROAAr (Rare and Special Collections, Osler, Art and Archives) division.

The Library of David Hume

The Library of David Hume

The Scottish philosopher, David Hume (1711-1776) has been the subject of special interest at McGill since the late 1940s, and McGill has one of the major scholarly Hume collections.

Just before the end of 2015, Rare Books and Special Collections acquired a volume from David Hume’s library to add to its already existing holdings. This new addition is a copy of Gian Battista Guarini’s Il pastor fido, Paris: Prault, 1766. It is just possible that Hume acquired this copy of the pastoral dramatic best-seller, first published in 1585, during his last days in Paris in January 1766. He had been in Paris since October 1763 pic_2016-06-30_111612 (2)as Secretary to the British Ambassador, the Earl of Hertford. Or, it is possible that it might have been in the package of books sent to him by Jean le Ronde d’Alembert in the summer of 1767.[1] When David Hume died in 1776, his library passed to various members of his family, and to his nephew, David, Baron Hume, and the present volume has the inscription “Baron Hume 1829” on the front fly-leaf. On the latter’s death in 1840, the library was dispersed.

The philosopher’s library and its history has been reconstructed by the late McGill professor David Fate Norton and his wife Mary J. Norton in The David Hume Library (Edinburgh: Edinburgh Bibliographical Society in association with the National Library of Scotland, 1996). The Guarini volume appears in the Norton’s bibliography as entry #559. Continue reading

On this day: William Blake (d. August 12, 1827)

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One of William Blake’s illustrations of the Book of Job, pulled from the McGill plate by Miss Van Hoogandycke, 1969. RBSC (Lande Blake Collection), Blake 5.2 B64T57 1969 elf.

William Blake (1757–1827), English painter and poet, made his living as a commercial engraver and was best known for that work during his lifetime. He was later recognized for his original work as an artist and poet, which included lyrical compositions of spiritual imagery inspired by his interest in theology and philosophy, and an innovative method of “illuminated printing” that combined text and image on a single copperplate.

McGill’s Blake Collection was established in 1953 with a donation of some 250 items by Dr. Lawrence Lande (1906–1998), a major Canadian collector and bibliographer. It has grown to include more than a thousand monographs, facsimiles, engravings, drawings, and slides. Editions of Blake’s own literary works are here, as are copies of books in the editions owned or read by him. Continue reading

Remembering Corridart

By Fin Lemaitre*

This month marks the fortieth anniversary of Montreal’s Corridart exhibition—a project that promised to turn Sherbrooke Street into a linear, open-air art museum for just over a month in the summer of 1976. The centerpiece of the cultural programme of the XXI Olympiad, Corridart stretched from Atwater Avenue to Pie IX Boulevard. Organizer Melvin Charney, a Montreal-based artist/architect, envisioned the project as a critical intervention in Montreal’s recent urban development. From a pool of 306 submissions, the competition jury selected for inclusion 22 artists[1] whose proposals addressed collective life and its relation to the built environment.

Cover of our copy of the limited edition, artist proof copy, of Corridart 1976-. [Montréal : Graff, 1982] 72x52cm.

Cover of our copy of the limited edition, artist proof copy, of Corridart 1976-. [Montreal: Graff, 1982] 72x52cm.

Charney sought artworks that would enter into dialogue with the street and its history. Montreal’s streets deserved special attention, as he saw it, because more than those in other North American cities, they had historically served as meeting spaces. They had transcended their apparent purpose as transportation routes and achieved importance foremost as places of contact between the city’s diverse sub-populations. The decision to mount Corridart on Sherbrooke Street was significant in this regard. As a main avenue connecting economic, linguistic, and cultural enclaves, it was an ideal host site for the exhibition. Installations would begin near the wealthy, Anglophone borough of Westmount and pass McGill University before crossing some of the city’s more working-class, Francophone areas. Continue reading

Exhibition: Alcuin Society Book Design Awards 2015

AwardsLogo-215x300We are pleased to unveil the newest edition of the Alcuin Society Awards Exhibition for Excellence in Book Design in Canada. Since 1981, The Alcuin Society organizes a friendly annual competition to appreciate and enjoy the best-designed books across the nation.

Books are chosen from 8 different categories: Children’s, Limited Editions, Pictorial, Poetry, Prose: Fiction, Prose: Non-Fiction, Prose: Non-Fiction (Illustrated), and Reference. Chosen from over 200 submissions, the award-winners are celebrated because of their ability to demonstrate exceptional visual design concepts corresponding with the intellectual nature of the content itself.

The travelling exhibition will be showcased from coast to coast across Canada, from June 2016-March 2017, as well as in several international venues, including the Canadian Embassy in Tokyo and international book fairs in Frankfurt and Leipzig. A complete list of exhibition venues is available on the Alcuin website.

The 2015 exhibition is on display in the lobby of the 4th floor of the Humanities and Social Sciences Library, McLennan Library Building until the end of July. Enjoy!

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Award Category: Children’s

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Award Category: Prose Non-Fiction Illustrated

Voltaire by Madame Lamothe

voltaire-exhibitionTo supplement the exhibit on Voltaire, we have conducted further research on the exhibit’s centre piece. It is a handsome standing portrait of Voltaire represented in the later years of his life, with calligraphic flourishes on his jacket, hat under one arm, and a cane in the other, entitled “PRIERE DE VOLTAIRE”. Printed in Paris in 1805, this engraved portrait turns out to be quite rare.

Exhibitions are a matter of team work. First of all, our sincere thanks to Michael David Miller, Liaison Librarian for French Language and Literature from McGill’s Humanities and Social Sciences Library, who helped to prepare and mount the “Celebrating Voltaire” exhibition. As for the image, thanks to Greg Houston of Digitization Initiatives, for digitizing several Voltaire-related imprints; and to Lauren Goldman, Communications Officer from the McGill Library, who integrated this image into various announcements relative to our series “Celebrating Voltaire”. Selection for the exhibition was accomplished in collaboration with the Head of Rare Books and Special Collections, Dr. Richard Virr, who identified and designated this print as the “brand” image for the McGill Voltaire Collection. This flurry of activity of course was inspired by the recent extraordinary acquisition in 2013 of the J. Patrick Lee Voltaire Collection. In the case of this print, we are making connections from the established collections to the topic of Voltaire.

First of all, it is uncommon to see an engraving signed by a woman in the early 19th century. Unfortunately we do not know more about Madame Lamothe for the time being.

Secondly, McGill’s use of the print as advertisement has not always made obvious the text printed beneath the portrait: a “Prayer ”engraved in roman lettering, consisting of 8 lines of poetry, in 4 rhyming couplets. In fact, the text can be traced to an earlier print (de Vinck 4102), probably from the 18th century.

The plate is signed on the left side of the portrait as: “Gravé par Madame Lamothe”; and dated on the right side as: “Le premier Germinal An 13” (ie. March 22, 1805). At the bottom centre of the plate, is inscribed the place of printing and publication: “Chez l’Auteur, rue St. Honoré, N°145, pres [sic] l’Oratoir, A Paris. – Déposé à la Bibliothèque Nationale. This print of Voltaire is indeed held at the Bibliothèque nationale de France, but for the moment no other locations can be found, including other institutions in North America. Continue reading

Chora 7 Book Release and Exhibition Vernissage

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Chora 7

Chora, the Greek word for space, is the title of a forum created by Alberto Péréz-Goméz along with Stephen Parcell in the form of seven books (1994–2016). Including seventy-eight authors and eighty-seven essays, these volumes—much like the historic works they reference—explore the capacity of language to address fundamental issues of meaning in architecture.

In collaboration with McGill-Queen’s University Press and the McGill School of Architecture, the McGill University Library and Archives’ Rare Books and Special Collections will be hosting a book launch on Wednesday, March 30 at 6pm for the final volume of CHORA: Intervals in the philosophy of architecture.

The event will also act as a vernissage for the accompanying exhibition, “CHORA: The Space of Architectural Meaning”, curated by Youki Cropas and Evan Pavka. Drawing on the numerous essays, along with the holdings of Rare Books and Special Collections, this exhibition brings together a selection of works addressing themes of communication, culture, myth, harmony, perception, instrumentality, history, and desire. Though emerging from works across a broad historical spectrum, the questions posed in each volume continue to permeate contemporary architectural discourse and to inspire explorations of meaning in the built world.

Event location: McLennan Library Building Rare Books and Special Collections, 4th Floor, 3459 rue McTavish, Montreal, QC, H3A 0C9

For more information on the CHORA series, please click here.