All posts in Rare books

The Great Book(s) of Nature: The Origins and Treasures of Bunny Mellon’s Oak Spring Garden Library

The Great Book(s) of Nature: The Origins and Treasures of Bunny Mellon’s Oak Spring Garden Library. Presentation by Spencer W. Stuart at Van Dusen Gardens. Saturday, March 24th at 2:00PM.

In a 1969 interview with The New York Times, Rachel “Bunny” Mellon (née Lambert, 1910 – 2014) made a statement of her approach to garden design that soon came to define her character as a whole, “nothing should be noticed”. This mantra, however, would prove to be difficult to maintain in at least one aspect of her life: her rare book and manuscript collection. Beginning in the 1920s with childhood gifts from family members, Mellon went on to build one of the most comprehensive collections related to botany and horticulture in private hands. In 1981 the Oak Springs Garden Library was founded on her 2,000-acre estate in Upperville, Virginia (an hour’s drive west of Washington, D.C.). Both the VanDusen’s Yosef Wosk Library and Resource Centre and Oak Springs are members of the Council on Botanical and Horticultural Libraries.

VanDusen Gardens Yosef Wosk Library and Resource Centre invites you to join Art and Collections Historian, Spencer W. Stuart, for a 45-minute presentation and discussion of some of the earliest treasures housed in this prominent 16,000 item collection amassed over an eighty-year period. The presentation will focus primarily on publications that offer early examples of horticulture such as the earliest book in the collection illustrating methods of grating and pruning, Bussato’s Giardino di Agricoltura from 1592, as well as Jean de la Quintinie’s Instruction pour les Jardins Fruitiers et Potagers posthumously published in 1690 and subsequently translated by the British writer and gardener John Evelyn in 1693. Of particular focus during the presentation will be the period of late 17th century publications, an area Mellon made sure to collect with great precision. This exciting period demonstrates a dynamic exchange between French and English practitioners with the support of a burgeoning popularity toward books related to the development and maintenance of gardens.

Spencer W Stuart holds a Masters in the History of Art from the Courtauld Institute, UK, receiving the Director’s Award upon its completion. He then went on to work with Bonhams Auctioneers, focusing on Rare Books and Manuscripts in both their Toronto and New York offices. Spencer currently resides in Vancouver where he operates a collection management practice.

The Canadian Hellenic Cultural Society Presents two Illustrated Lectures: Monday, March 27

This lecture hosted by the Canadian Hellenic Cultural Society in Vancouver might be of interest to some of our readers:

Greek Bibles

Dr. Cillian O’Hogan, UBC Classics

Monday 27 March 2017 at 7:30 pm

Upper Hall, Hellenic Community Centre

The fourth century saw the creation of pandects – large manuscripts containing all the books of the Old and New Testament – for the first time. Remarkably, two of these pandects survive almost intact: Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus, both written in Greek. These two manuscripts reveal a great deal about the formation of the Christian canon, book production in late antiquity, and the history of scripture. This talk will explore some of the most interesting features of these late antique Bibles, and address the controversial question of the circumstances of their creation. Continue Reading…

Talk Features Early BC Book Collectors

Back in February of 2011 the then Head of Rare Books and Special Collection at UBC Library, and Alcuin Board member, Ralph Stanton presented a lecture at Robson Square with the title The Collections & Collectors of UBC Library Rare Books and Special Collections.

I recently had an opportunity to see and hear the lecture via the UBC Library web site. It covers the major, and some minor collections acquired by UBC Rare Books from the 1940’s until the 2000’s. I found the presentation on early B.C. publications and collectors like Judge F.W. Howay particularly interesting. The talk is accompanied by a slide show that features some the important items collected and is enlivened by slides of many of the bookplates of the various collectors.

The talk and slide show is available at: and is downloadable.

Book collecting: Rationalizing Collecting #2 – The Vancouver Poetry Society

In my last “Rationalizing Collecting” post, I started by noting that as a long-time student, book buying is hard to do on a limited budget unless you can justify the collecting as contributing towards your research. Most of my friends from the Master’s in English program at UBC fall quite heavily into this category, as their apartments burst at the seams with lovely books of all kinds. I was the only one of the group who actively collected antiquarian books, which to their amusement, often consisted of rather bad early Vancouver poetry. Hold your judgement: there is a good story behind this.

Continue Reading…

Book collecting: Rationalizing Collecting #1 – Canadian Children’s Literature

Until last summer, I had been a student for almost a decade when I graduated from the combined Master of Library and Information Studies and Master of Archival Studies program at UBC. Being a student means a limited budget for book collecting, but I found one way to continue to rationalize the buying of books: use them for your research. It’s not like I got to write off the costs, but at least I could justify book buying as contributing towards my education, right?

Continue Reading…

Very rare book to be auctioned at the Penticton Art Gallery’s annual fundraiser this Saturday

Each summer the Penticton Art Gallery holds an auction to raise funds for its endowment. Most of the items to be auctioned are paintings or graphics, but this year there’s one very rare book that was donated to aid the gallery. It is an incunabulum – a Latin word meaning cradle or beginning – which is used for any book printed in the 15th century, during the infancy of printing in Europe. The vast bulk of incunabula are already in public collections or private libraries, so they do not come to the market very often. In addition, most editions from the period survive only in a few copies. Hence their ever-rising prices in the rare book market. Continue Reading…

Publishing the Lande Bibliography

THE LANDE BIBLIOGRAPHY is a very special, lavishly produced book that reflects the monumental Lawrence Lande Collection of Canadiana that Lawrence had just donated to McGill with the proviso that McGill produce a catalog of the collection. I had just come to the McGill Press and, when handed the the project, decided that such a collection demanded a monumental book so I bought a special mouldmade paper from Spain, linen bookcloth from Holland, pigskin and Oasis Niger goatskins from Britain and hand-made papers from Britain and Italy. It was Mono-type-set in Montreal in Bulmer, the same type as you are reading here [below]. We thought the book must be printed in Canada but there was no printer capable of such a feat here, so McGill bought a Heidelberg cylinder press and we hired Ib Kristensen to come from Vancouver and print the book for us, two pages as a time on beautiful Spanish paper on the press shown here, set in the basement of Redpath Hall next to the library. Continue Reading…

Settling the Language dictionary exhibition at UBC

Dictionaries have a curious place in our society as monuments to our languages. As they grow, change and become superseded, they stand as evidence of how individuals used words and constructed meaning. When I was asked to curate an exhibition of dictionaries from the collections of Rare Books and Special Collections at UBC to commemorate the Dictionary Society of North America conference recently held there, I wanted to bring out the tensions and debates between the dictionaries in the collection by focusing attention on the greatest hits of lexicography and the lesser-known items. As I combed through the collections, I began to think about the curious and contradictory ways that dictionaries both fix, or settle a language, but also in work with one another to move a language about, for good and ill, and encourage change. I called the exhibition Settling the Language to focus on this dual role that dictionaries serve.


Featuring items from the H. Rocke Robertson collection of dictionaries and other items at RBSC as old as 1490 and as new as 2015, I chose items that celebrate the many forms of French, English, and North American Indigenous language dictionaries that have developed over the centuries to define our languages. Ranging from early Latin and multilingual works, miniatures, and dialect dictionaries, to the grand dictionaries of Samuel Johnson and Noah Webster and the vibrant work of Indigenous language revitalization, Settling the Language reflects on the fascinating tales dictionaries tell about our words, our ancestors, and ourselves.

The exhibit runs at UBC Rare Books and Special Collections until August 15. You can visit Monday to Friday, 10 am to 4 pm on the ground floor of the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre.

-by Grant Hurley