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Playing cards

Although playing cards were invented in 9th century China, with the idea spreading throughout the world to Persia, Egypt and India, it was not until the invention of printing that the playing cards we know could be possible. They were printed from woodcuts and coloured by hand at first, and later the colours were stenciled on before colour printing took over. The idea of four “suits” was invented in Europe, along with “Kings” and other royalty by the late 14th century, so that placks of 56 cards contained a King, Queen, Knight and Knave in each suit. The King was the highest value card until the late 15th century, when the “Ace” replaced it, being adapted from Dicing. Cards with their value printed in the corners grew from 1700 on and in English packs the “Knave” became known as the “Jack.” Then it was found that square corners became tattered and could give away particular cards, so round corners were adapted, along with backs printed with designs to hide wear and tear and to discourage tell-tale writing on the backs. Jokers are a recent addition to a pack of cards and have no standardized appearance, so each publisher tends to design them separately from the other cards, adding their own variety of illustration, so that Jokers have themselves turned into collectible items. Continue Reading…

In memoriam — Geoffrey Spencer

Editor’s note: this memorial for Geoffrey Spenser was created in March 2015 when he passed away. Geoffrey was survived by his wife Elizabeth. Continue Reading…

Art Post Cards Collected by Lucie Lambert During Her World Travels

Art reproductions on post cards caught my idea as I left the great museums I was visiting on my travels. Over the years they became my imaginary collection of artworks, drawn from every era and culture and showing every technique and style in human history, from the Lascaux cave paintings to our own contemporaries. However, a collection of this kind quickly becomes a disorganized mass of treasures sleeping unseen in boxes and files, so it is a pleasure to single out some special ones for publication. Continue Reading…

A interview with Peter Mitham, editor of Amphora

The editor of Amphora Peter Mitham has been interviewed in Welcome to Literary Ashland blog:

Peter Mitham’s writing has appeared in more than 80 publications worldwide. Based in Vancouver, Canada, he chronicles news and trends in real estate, agriculture and food for such publications as Wines and Vines, Good Fruit Grower and Business in Vancouver. His academic work includes a bibliography of author Robert W. Service (Oak Knoll, 2000). He has edited Amphora, the thrice-yearly journal of the Alcuin Society, since 2009. Continue Reading…

Sim lecture upcoming for Vancouver Historical Society, February 23, 2017

Alcuin member and supporter Gary Sim is giving an illustrated lecture at the Museum of Vancouver on February 23, titled Early Vancouver Artists. The lecture is hosted by the Vancouver Historical Society, admission is free, the doors open at 7:00 p.m., and the lecture goes from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. Although primarily based on his extensive digital research project BRITISH COLUMBIA ARTISTS, Sim has done extensive additional research into this early and little known part of Vancouver’s past for the lecture. Continue Reading…

Ann Marie Holland retells Robert Reid’s postage stamps story on the McGill Rare Books and Special Collections blog

When we posted Robert Reid’s story about designing stamps for the post office and the subsequent visit from the RCMP to his office and the Rare Books and Special Collections at McGill University Library last spring (you can read it here) we let the staff at Rare Books and Special Collections at McGill University know. Now Ann Marie Holland has posted a retelling of the story and a short biography on their blog:

In March of this year, Robert Reid wrote a blog article for the Alcuin Society which began like the beginning of a suspense novel: “I was running a type house in Montreal at the time I was asked to design Christmas stamps.” Continue Reading…

1930s sheet music from the collection of Terry Berger

During the 1930s Tin Pan Alley produced the most tuneful popular music the world will probably ever see. Because the phonograph was still being developed and was not in general use, the populace produced their own music at home—generally on the piano. The success of a new song was gauged by the sale of the sheet music printed up so people could play it at home. And what wonderfully designed covers were produced to attract customers in the music stores. Art Deco was the style of the day, and here it is in abundance. And the performers’ photographs have become an archive of the great professional musicians, band leaders, and singers who were the superstars of their day. For a while Terry went through a mania of collecting sheet music and has boxes of it, from which a very few of the more interesting ones are shown here. Continue Reading…

Beautiful Pens and Pencils

One of my favourite advertisements for anything, let alone pens, is this beautiful one for Swan Fountain Pens, from a 1914 issue of the Royal Academy magazine.  The image suggests that the art of writing was an activity held in high regard. Continue Reading…

Jaap Roos, if you read this, forgive me

(First published in “Trinity Today”, the electronic newsletter of Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Strathcona, AB in Dec/2015.)

By Adrian Peetoom

In my (Dutch) grade six my seatmate (at a twin desk) was Jaap Roos. Jaap was the oldest son of the village garbage dump guardian. The family lived in a small house next to the dump just outside the village. That dump forever sent up a plume of smelly smoke deep from within its rubble. One school day I stole a ruler from my friend Jaap. I am still ashamed. Continue Reading…

Tailored to Fit:
 On the Importance of Bespoke Ebooks

The Porcupine’s Quill has always been known for creating beautiful print books. For over forty years we have offered handsome editions of Canadian literature whose quality in design and craftsmanship harkens back to 19th-century letterpress volumes. Needless to say, the recent boom in electronic reading, with its emphasis on reflowable ebooks often hastily and imperfectly rendered, is not easily reconciled to the ethos of our press. Continue Reading…