Voltaire by Madame Lamothe

voltaire-exhibitionTo supplement the on-going 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.

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And what about the print? 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 – her name has not turned up in any of our reference sources. What has not always been obvious, is the text beneath the portrait – being a “Prayer ” for Voltaire, engraved in nice 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.

rbsc_rousseaulamothecropIn fact, McGill has the good fortune to possess a second print by Madame Lamothe of the rival “philosophe” Jean-Jacques Rousseau. It is dated “Janvier 1806”, and is entitled: “PENSÉE DE J.J. ROUSSEAU”. The outline for the artistry and the layout for the lettering is almost identical as the former print of Voltaire. In the second example, Rousseau is shown gathering flowers, walking in the opposite direction, hat under his arm, a cane in his hand, and done up with a similar calligraphic treatment of jacket.

The image is again accompanied by 8 lines of text, this time in prose, and engraved in the same style of roman lettering. Both prints are of the same plate size: 27 x 18 cm and the same sheet size 33 x 25 cm.

A second state exists in the print collections of the Bibliothèque nationale de France (de Vinck 6333), with the following imprint information: “A Paris chez l’auteur, Rue St. Magloire, no. 2”- which is engraved slightly higher on the plate. We think that the original plate was altered to accommodate this new address and reprinted.

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With regards to the source of inspiration for these portraits, we have located two distinct prototypes in the collections at the Château de Versailles, whichclearly served as the basis for Madame Lamothe’s particular compositions some 25 years later: one of Voltaire dating from 1778; and the other of Rousseau, dated 1779, signed Moreau le jeune after a drawing by Mayer (ie. Georg Friedrich Meyer).

It is not odd to pair the images of the two philosophers – both died in the same year, 1778, and both were instrumental in the French Enlightenment. Their images circulated widely following their deaths. These works embody the importance of the two philosophers, at the time of the creation of these two engravings, in 1805 and 1806 respectively.

As for dating their entry into the McGill Library, the prints were accessioned as a pair, roughly between 1946 and 1965, into the European folio print collection, inventoried as numbers 44a/ 44b.

There is much more to gather about the artist, the scarcity of the prints, and their provenance. We invite you to have a look at the “Voltaire” engraving while it is on view in the exhibition, and look forward to any feedback concerning the possible locations of these prints elsewhere in the world.

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.

Colour our collections!

We couldn’t resist joining in on the fun of #ColorOurCollections week (February 1-5, 2016)!
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Inspired by the New York Academy of Medicine (NYAM), the New York Public Library (NYPL), the Smithsonian Libraries, and many more museums and libraries, we’ve decided to share selections from the McGill Library and Archives for your colouring enjoyment.

Download our first two colouring sheets from the Canadian Architecture Collection here:

1. Heraldic drawing 1916 2. Redpath Library 1922

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Be sure to share your completed masterpieces on social media with the tag #ColourOurCollections / #ColorOurCollections [Twitter: @McGilllLib Facebook: @McGill.Library]

From the staff of: Digital Library Services and Rare Books and Special Collections

 

Gorey in Rare Books

A recent acquisition presents the work of the American artist, book designer and author Edward Gorey (1925-2000), consisting of cover and typographical designs on paperbacks published by Doubleday Anchor Books of New York in the 1950s. Gorey worked for Anchor Books roughly from the mid 1950s to mid 1960s. The cover designs and typographical work are not always credited. For this reason, this body of commercial work is a lesser known aspect of Gorey’s artistry. Examples are: the The American Transcendentalists, 1957; and the cover and typography for the non-fiction book, The Dead Sea Scriptures, translated into Englpic_2015-11-12_195843ish by Theodore Gaster, 1957.

They supplement very well the existing Gorey holdings as book illustrator, and are reminiscent of the work we associate with Gorey. In Rare Books and Special Collections, the Gorey Collection of book illustration is comprised of eighty-eight volumes, mostly first editions and date from the period ca 1950 to 1980. As well, there is a small body of ephemera including book jackets by and articles about Gorey. Other links to Gorey’s work in are the editions of Albondocani of New York housed in the Colgate Collection section 6 on private presses – showcasing Gorey’s enchanting work in a handful of editions.

Happy Holidays.

On Conjuring, the Book-Collecting Baron

To supplement the current exhibition in the lobby of Rare Books and Special Collections, “Sir Charles Sebright: The Book-Collecting Baron,” Jason Rovito (Master of Information Studies, Candidate) was invited to write the following text:


Thus counter to that ancient will’s malign,
Who them to the devouring river dooms,
Some names are rescued by the birds benign;
Wasteful Oblivion all the rest consumes.

 

—Orlando Furioso, Canto XXXV, as translated by W. S. Rose (1858).

In 1848, on the turbulent Mediterranean island of Cephalonia, insurrection broke out. Amidst a wave of revolutions in Europe, citizens of the United States of the Ionian Islands declared themselves to be Greek. In the middle of this fray was Charles Sebright, the Baron d’Everton, whose book collection is currently being exhibited at McGill’s Rare Books and Special Collections.

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Detail from Canto IV, Orlando Furioso (Venice, 1722); from the Sir Charles Sebright Collection, Rare Books and Special Collections, McGill University.

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Memorial Stained Glass Windows for Medical Building, 1919

Nobbs and Hyde design: Memorial Windows for Medical Building (1919).

Nobbs and Hyde. Memorial Windows for Medical Building (1919). John Bland Canadian Architecture Collection, Rare Books and Special Collections.

The memorial is a handsome stained glass window of three lights placed in the main hall of the Strathcona Dentistry and Anatomy Building [formerly Strathcona Medical Building], over the main entrance. It was designed by Prof. P.E. Nobbs, and executed by the Bromsgrove Guild, Leeds. The memorial was a gift of the teaching staff of the faculty of medicine. Each light represents a scene recalling the service of one of the men whose memories are honored. Continue reading

Arthur Erickson exhibition: Lignes topographiques / Site Lines (UQAM Centre de Design)

Arthur Erickson, office building south-west elevation (John Bland Canadian Architecture Collection)

Arthur Erickson, office building south-west elevation (John Bland Canadian Architecture Collection)

Drawings by the renowned Canadian architect Arthur Erickson are on display at the UQAM Centre de Design until October 18, 2015. The exhibition, Lignes topographiques / Site Lines, includes a selection of Erickson’s drawings from the collection of the Calgary Architectural Archives and the John Bland Canadian Architecture Collection (CAC), Rare Books and Special Collections, McGill University.  Continue reading

Getting to know Klibansky: adventures of an intern

Sophie Trolliet-Martial completed an eight week internship at Rare Books and Special Collections as part of her masters in library and information studies at the Université de Montréal. During that time she worked with archival material from the Raymond Klibansky Collection, bringing new material to light for an active research team, and making the material accessible as a whole through documentation and structured re-housing. We asked her to write about her experience.



By Sophie Trolliet-Martial

J’ai fait la connaissance de Monsieur Raymond Klibansky en mai 2015 à travers la collection qu’il a léguée à l’Université de McGill en 2005. Étant étudiante à l’école de bibliothéconomie et sciences de l’information (EBSI) de l’Université de Montréal, j’ai effectué mon stage de fin d’études à la division des livres rares et collections spécialisées de l’université de McGill aux côtés de ma superviseure, madame Jillian Tomm. C’est dans ce cadre-ci que j’ai eu la chance de travailler pendant huit semaines sur la collection de monsieur Klibansky afin de préparer de la documentation à présenter lors d’un symposium international en collaboration avec l’Université de Montréal, le Warburg Institute et Deutsches Literaturarchiv Marbach. Cet évènement intitulé «The Warburg Library’s Network: Geography and History of an Intellectual Afterlife. From Hamburg to London, and to Montreal – The contribution of Raymond Klibansky (1905-2005) » s’est tenu les 18 et 19 juin 2015 à Londres.

J’ai ainsi découvert le philosophe et historien, monsieur Raymond Klibansky. J’ai sauté pieds joints dans sa collection comme on plonge en plein milieu de l’océan rempli de trésors et de surprises. Monter une bibliothèque et l’enrichir au fil du temps nous apprend que monsieur Klibansky est un amoureux des livres mais aussi curieux de la vie, des êtres humains et du monde.

J’ai vécu cette expérience en deux étapes : la première que je nommerai d’« immersion matérielle», une entrée dans les rayons, visualisant le dos puis la couverture des livres, feuilletant des ouvrages de différents formats, époques et origines. Puis, je me suis immiscée dans les documents archivaux de monsieur Klibansky, des boîtes et des classeurs comprenant des lettres manuscrites et dactylographiées, des cartes postales, des reçus et des tirés à part. J’appellerai la deuxième approche, l’«immersion immatérielle», c’est-à-dire l’interprétation de ces écrits qui m’ont guidée, grâce à l’analyse de leur contexte, vers un enrichissement de la connaissance.

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Librorum Francisci Petrarchae Basileae impressorum annotatio …, 1496 folio Incun 1496 Petrarca:b – Raymond Klibansky Collection

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