the study and collecting of bookplates is still an amiable and popular
pursuit which can bring pleasures and enlightenment of many kinds. The
bookplate, though a minor, often little considered graphic art form, has
nevertheless had considerable appeal for art lovers and collectors.
Fridolf Johnson, from A Treasury of Bookplates
The Rare Books and Special Collections Division includes among its many
collections the Philippe Masson Collection of Ex Libris comprising
of approximately 4500 bookplates, of which, three thousand are Canadian in origin.
This unique collection represents a
wide range of book ownership reflecting institutions, book sellers, and
individuals (it is worth noting that there are over one hundred examples
of bookplates from Canadian libraries). Moreover, the chronological coverage
dates to more than a century from the early 19th century and continuing
to the beginning of the Second World War. Bookplate design is a minor,
but important form of graphic design and, among the Canadian bookplates, many well-known
Canadian artists are represented
in the Masson collection including J.E.H. MacDonald, his son Thoreau MacDonald,
Jean-Paul Lemieux, and W.F.G. Godfrey.
Although the study of bookplates may seem trivial, or, for that matter
an esoteric subject, at first, glance, in fact they reveal a great deal
about our book-centred culture. Bookplates not only denote ownership,
and can also help to protect against theft. For many institutions, bookplates
possess an iconographic or emblematic value reflecting the values of the
institution. As well, within an institutional setting, bookplates are
often used to acknowledge individual collections, gifts and bequests.
Finally, for the individual the bookplate is a powerful symbol of possession
and a love of books.
The Masson collection reflects range and scope of the art of the bookplate
design, mirroring period styles and incorporating the owners personal
tastes and pursuits. References to heraldry, literature, nature and art
To date the Philipe Masson bookplate project has evolved in two stages.
Since 1996 the Rare Books and Special Collections Division has been fortunate
in having a dedicated volunteer undertake the first of what was envisioned
as a three phase project to provide access to digital surrogates of the
collection. The first phase of the project was the physical organization
of the collection; the second phase was the entering of bookplates into
a database that will enable researchers to search the collection from
an number of different access points. The final phase now completed is
the scanning of the Masson collection for which we have created a set
archival images and web-based images. Thus researchers will be able to
perform a search in the database and view the associated bookplate.
Although Philippe Masson died prematurely, we hope that this scholarly
site will honour his collection and its importance for the study of the
book and print culture in general.
Digital Collections Librarian