The Robertson Davies Library has four small display cases for students in the BHPC Collaborative Program and Massey Fellows to mount exhibitions. The library has also begun to create online exhibitions, available on the University of Toronto’s Omeka platform:
Visitors to Massey College are asked to sign in and out at the Porter’s Lodge.
The Artist’s Box
Exploring 19th Century Landscape Painting & Technique in Print
Curated by Chelsea Humphries
Advances in colour printing in the mid-to-late nineteenth century allowed for an unprecedented dissemination of artworks, advances in colour theory, and painting techniques. “The Artist’s Box” explores Victorian watercolour and landscape painting through contemporary art materials and instruction books curated from the Ruari McLean collection, featuring a nineteenth century watercolour paint-box and gorgeous full-colour wood engravings and chromolithograph prints.
Ongoing & ever-changing
Robert R. Reid Digital Ephemera Collection
Texts selected by CAUSA & designed by Robert R. Reid
Life is the elimination of what is dead
— Wallace Stevens
Expanding on Robert R. Reid’s purposeful/pioneering role as an initiator (designer/printer) of artisanal (typographically individuated) books — produced (since 1949) in limited, connoisseurial editions — a fluent (ongoing) assemblage of self-contained Digital Ephemera (recognizably realized by Reid, in his ninety-first year) now functions to connect an academic library’s traditional Collection/Conservation process to an experimental programme of Curation/Revivification.
At the Robertson Davies Library, a continuously collaborative CAUSA curatorial commitment — and its self-defining aesthetic of forward motion — links the conceptive/regenerative development of certain closely read writings to their timely (digitally dispersed) transgenerational capacity for Communicative Contemporaneity.
May 2018 , CAUSA Research Curators
An Old Tale, New-Told with Pictures
Illustrations of Famous Folk and Fairy Tales from the Ruari McLean Collection
Curated by Kirsten Brassard
The Ruari McLean collection reflects the various uses made of the printing processes of the nineteenth century, including the illustration of children’s books.
This exhibition features famous folk and fairy tales in children’s books from the nineteenth century and considers how the illustrations in the books transform the stories – from the style of Cinderella’s ball gown to the fate of Little Red Riding Hood. “An Old Tale New Told with Pictures” is the subtitle of Beauty and the beast by E. V. B. published in 1875 by Sampson Low, Marston, Low and Searle (pictured here) and perfectly captures how even the oldest tale can be told anew, with a just a different picture.
Robert R. Reid
Celebrating his 90th Birthday and 69 Years of Designing and Printing
Curated by Chester Gryski
One day in the late 1980s Allen Ginsberg showed up in New Haven for a poetry reading at Yale…we got the idea of that we might print one of [his poems] in our series of poetry broadsides that we were producing at our private press. … The poem we selected was wonderful, we thought, and I set up in Baskerville on the 42 pica Linotype machine, one of two I had at the press I had set up after moving to New Haven from New York. I proofed it up with a combination of Linotype borders that I had cast on the other 30 pica machine, and thought it looked quite wonderful. But Allen didn’t like it because I had centered the lines of type, instead of setting them flush left like most poems. I had done this deliberately, as I thought it suited the poem and was surprised to find someone as avant garde as Allen turned out to be so traditional in his tastes.
Robert Reid, 2012
Graphic Design in the Digital Age
Designs by Robert Reid with texts selected by CAUSA
Developing from affiliations with Free International University for Creativity and Interdisciplinary Research (as initiated by Joseph Beuys and Heinrich Böll), CAUSA — Collective for Advanced and Unified Studies in the Visual Arts — aims to develop autonomous interpretation of visual culture within specific historical contexts. CAUSA functions in association with a ‘global village’ network of independent and institutional scholars — in tandem with a pluralistic community of socially engaged contemporary artists.
In its association with Massey College, CAUSA sustains a continuous process of philosophical reflection by connecting its programme of research to an expansive glimmering that was first formulated by Marshall McLuhan. He advises us, assuredly, “We may be drowning. But if so, the flood of experience in which we are drowning is very much part of the culture we have created. The flood is not something outside our culture. It is a self-invasion of privacy. And so it is not catastrophic. We can turn it off if we choose, if we wake up to the fact that the faucets of change are inside the ark of society, not outside.”
Travel Exhibition: Seasons & Directions
Curated by Manuela Büchting
“When I lived in the Rocky Mountains hiking up the hill every morning to work, Literary Arts at the Banff Centre, I felt an incredible connection to all the nature around me. Almost every day, I saw the deer walking up and down the path. This energy gave me incredible inspiration for the arts and publishing. Meeting so many creative people from all over the world, I came up with the idea of starting my own little artist book press: deer press. The project of the Travel Exhibition started. The first Cycle of the Exhibition is about the Seasons, the cycle of a year, repeating life patterns, stories that we experience. The second Cycle is about the Directions: North, East, South, and West. The artists in the Cycle come from one of those directions, have a connection to it or just tell a story of what they experienced.
By now, 32 artists from Canada and Europe are sharing ideas, feelings and thoughts with their artist books, some stories are very personal, some universally connect us.” – Manuela Büchting, May 2017
Disjecta membra: medieval manuscript fragments
Curated by Julia King
See more here
The Robertson Davies Library is home to a small number of medieval manuscript fragments. In the 19th and 20th centuries, antiquarians and booksellers circulated and sold detached leaves to libraries as examples of different styles of manuscript production. These fragments were often cut out of complete manuscript codices, since a bookseller could make more money selling 50 individual leaves than a fully bound book. Similarly, manuscript leaves were sold at a lower price point, making them more financially accessible to the amateur collector. This exhibit showcases the Gurney collection of manuscript leaves at the Robertson Davies Library, which span a wide range of styles, genres, and national origins.
Flora & Fauna: Nineteenth century colour printing
Curated by Andreea Marin
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This exhibit features nineteenth-century colour printing of flora and fauna. Studying herbs, plants, animals, birds, eggs, and collecting them was a widely sought out practice in 19th century England. Several of the books featured include female authors such as Anne Pratt who was a botanical and ornithological illustrator from Kent. Although Edmund Evans and Benjamin Fawcett had their own cases in the exhibit as they focused mainly on printing and designing art related to the natural realm, this exhibit also includes artists and engravers: Walter Crane, Randolph Caldecott, Elizabeth Twining, F. O. Morris, G. Pearson, William Dickes, Harrison Weir, T. and A. Constable, and John Absolon.
An exhibition showcasing books constructed by Faculty of Information students as part of their final projects for a workshop course
Curated by Dr. Greta Golick
This exhibit showcases books constructed by Faculty of Information students as their final projects for a workshop course “De/Constructing the Book” taught by Dr. Greta Golick during the Winter 2016 term. Students examined books at the Fisher library highlighting the formal elements of the traditional codex such as paper, printing, and binding and artists’ books experimenting with format, text, and image that engage the reader in new ways. In the workshop, students constructed a variety of book structures: accordion, meander, pop-up, flag, and pamphlets in two styles: saddle stitch and stab stitch.
With minimal bookmaking experience and equipment, students have created books embellished with calligraphy, drawing, and pop-up elements and incorporating folding, cutting, collage, and printing techniques to add further dimensionality and functionality to their books. Book. Art. engages readers and viewers to question their own experiences with the form and the function of books in their lives.
At the Sign of the Umber Chicken: Poole Hall Press
Curated by Kristine Tortora
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This exhibition honours one of the most significant persons in private press printing in Canada. Bill Poole taught industrial design at OCA (now OCADU) in Toronto. His printing began prior to 1967 and the Poole Hall Press dates from 1972. In 1979, Bill Poole convinced the Grimsby Public Library to host the first Wayzgoose and he convinced private press printers from Toronto and elsewhere in Ontario to make the trek to Grimsby. This provided an opportunity for printers to meet each other, exchange work and sell some items to the public. It was well received by all and continues to this day. In 1981, the first Wayzgoose Anthology brought together signatures from the participating printers. This is a second aspect of Bill Poole’s legacy. The third aspect is what is on display here – his own work – at the Poole Hall Press.
On the Fringe (and in the Margins)
Curated by Timothy Perry
for the 2015 BHPC Graduate Student Colloquium
To be at the edge of things is, paradoxically, both precarious and empowering. What is on the fringe can be easily effaced or ignored. But the fringe also offers opportunities for creativity and critique. Coach House Press has been at the centre of fringe publishing in Canada since its founding in the 1960s and specializes in experimental works in a variety of genres.
Margins not only provide a physical border for the text of a book, they also provide a space for communication. Authors and printers have used margins to imprint information about the text to readers, and readers have used the same space to respond to the text.
Seals of Approval: The Material Culture of Early Modern English Indentures
Curated by Elisa Tersigni
This exhibit featured indentures and other legal documents from the library’s palaeography collection. Most documents were from sixteenth- to seventeenth-century England and provide valuable insight into the legal and material culture of the early modern period.
Printing Shakespeare for the Cold War
Curated by Alex Somerville
In 1965 typographers, book artists, and illustrators – many of them from Socialist states in Eastern Europe – celebrated the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth with a design competition at the Leipzig book fair. Entries included type settings of sonnets, excerpts from plays, and the best in graphic design that many countries had to offer. The contest spoke to both the timeless appeal of Shakespeare and the rivalry between East and West that characterized the cold war.
The exhibits feature a selection of the entries to the competition in Leipzig, held by the Robertson Davies Library. The exhibit also features some material borrowed from Canadian graphic design scholar Dr. Brian Donnelly.
Stealing Time: Design Bindings and Artist's Books
Curated by Don Taylor
“In the past 30 or so years, seemingly whether time has permitted or not, I have occasionally caught myself taking this precious commodity away from my work as a bookbinder and restorer to produce what I have always called “my own” work. This has usually taken the form of design bindings, i.e. interpretative fine bindings of an existing text, and artist’s books in which I have acted as creator of both text and binding.
…In recent years, I have had to sneak periods of up to a few weeks on the trot to take part in shows conceived and executed within the small community of letterpress printers, binders, calligraphers, and others committed to the book arts. These are my friends and colleagues … These moments of stolen ‘me time’, as much as they are challenging and even infuriating, are as wonderfully luxurious and satisfying as an extended bubble bath.
Nevertheless the market for such work lies in the range between small and non-existent. So what is the point of this kind of larceny? Love of the materials, respect for collaborators, and the desire to ‘make’ – that’s what makers do – all in the name of keeping books, in all their incredible variety, giong strong. After all the book is of course incomparably civilization’s greatest achievement. Let’s not forget that. – Don Taylor, March 2014
Stuff & Snuff: Fifty Years of Massey College
Curated by Elisa Tersigni
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Massey College celebrated its fiftieth anniversary in 2013; this exhibit celebrates half a century of college life and history.
Sports et divertissements
Curated by Andrea Stewart
“This publication is made up of two artistic elements: drawing, music. The drawing part is represented by strokes – strokes of wit; the musical part is depicted by dots – black dots. These two parts together – in a single volume – form a whole: an album. I advise the reader to leaf through the pages of this book with a kindly & smiling finger, for it is a work of fantasy. No more should be read into it.
For the Dried Up & Stultified I have written a Chorale which is serious & respectable. This Chorale is a sort of bitter preamble, a kind of austere & unfrivolous introduction. I have put into it everything I know about Boredom. I dedicate this chorale to those who do not like me. I withdraw.” – Erik Satie
The Most Satisfying of Pastimes: 50 Years of the Aliquando Press
Curated by Kristine Tortora
This exhibition marks the 50th year of the Aliquando Press. Displayed here are a selection of books and personal papers spanning five decades of private presswork by Will Rueter – including the very latest, dated 2013. The quotes were plucked from the printer’s own words over the years – a record of Will’s enduring love of letterforms and his deep respect for the traditions associated with all aspects of bookmaking (not to mention his sharp wit, humble spirit, ongoing enthusiasm, and unwavering dedication to hard work). The Aliquando Press collection housed here at Massey is part of a living legacy of craftsmanship and forms an invaluable addition to the archive of Private Press History in Canada.
50 Manuscript Leaves: An Exhibition of Selected Leaves from Otto F. Ege's "Fifty original leaves from Medieval Manuscripts"
Curated by Brian Maloney
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“These fifty manuscript leaves were selected to illustrate the art of the manuscript during the period of its greatest development and influence. They have been taken from books written in various European scriptoria by Benedictine, Franciscan, Carthusian, Dominican, and other orders of monks. Many are enriched with handsome borders, initial letters, and line-endings rendered in color, and twenty-five are illuminated with burnished gold or silver. The texts include the Bible, various church service books, the writings of the Church Fathers, and some of the classics.” – Otto F. Ege
Material Narratives: The Book That Was
Curated by Matt Schneider
With each passing year the shadow of the growing ebook industry falls further across the world of print, and the rumblings of print’s demise grow in intensity and severity. The proliferation of inexpensive ebook readers and the development of ebook reading apps for cellphones and tablet computers have helped bring ereading into the mainstream, filling subways, buses, and streetcars with readers hunched not over a paperback volume, but rather an electronic device with an LCD or eInk display. Newspapers continue to print articles on the death of print, but these articles are as likely to appear on newspaper websites as in print. It is in this atmosphere that we must seriously consider the future of books as one in which electronic texts are the norm and print is the exception.
Fighting the Giant & Fighting Death: An Exhibition of Bible Illustrations from the Robertson Davies Library Collection
Curated by Elizabeth Klaiber
What is particularly exciting about having so many images from so many different types of books to observe at one time, is that one is able to compare and contrast the depiction of the figures and scenes. Such observations as examining the interplay between text and image within these books, whether text is even present and how that lack of text calls us to think about the strength of a reader’s memory of a Bible story, what kinds of movements or stances are used by the artists, how different techniques of engraving and printing affect the aesthetics of an illustration, and what audience these books and images were intended for, may all be explored through this exhibition.
Illustrating Illustration, 1733-1930
Curated by Jessica Duffin Wolfe
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This exhibit of books that illustrate illustration aims to turn the eye of the medium on itself. The two display cases, On Drawing, and On Printing, trace a perspective on illustration through the development and modernization of mass visual culture between 1733 and 1930.
Displaying rare books from the Robertson Davies Library, this exhibit accompanies Illustrating Illustration: Towards a Graphic Criticism, the interdisciplinary colloquium held by the University of Toronto’s Book History & Print Culture Program at Massey College on February 12, 2011.
Nineteenth-Century British Literary Annuals
Curated by Lindsey Eckert
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Literary annuals had a massive influence on the British publishing market from the mid-1820s through the 1840s. Published in the fall before Christmas and New Year gift-giving season, the volumes were marketed as beautiful and respectable presents that were especially appropriate for young ladies. Typically between three and four hundred pages, annuals contained a mixture of prose and poetry by famous authors or the Romantic and Victorian periods and their aristocratic contemporaries. William Wordsworth, S. T. Coleridge, Mary Shelley, Walter Scott, Robert Browning, Countess Blessington, Lady Caroline Lamb, and Lord Morpeth were among the contributors.