Monday, February 19, 2007

Bookmark of the Week: No. 2

Hector de Saint-Denys Garneau (1912-1943)
This important modernist poet of Quebec was the great grandson of the historian Francois-Xavier Garneau, the grandson of the poet Alfred Garneau, and the cousin of Anne Hebert. Literature was very much a familial affair.

These images seem to capture two facets of his character. The pensive and sensitive visionary poet, and the handsome, urbane artiste.

During his short life time he published but one collection: Regards et jeux dans l'espace, 1937. Interestingly enough, 1937 was the year the publishing house, Editions Fides, started. This bookmarker advertising the poet's complete poems (277pp., $2.50) was probably issued around 1957. On the reverse of the bookmarker is a list of their suggested titles, including the complete poetry of Emile Nelligan, complete poetry of Robert Choquette, and the wonderful memoir, Testament of my Childhood by Robert de Roquebrune. The bookmarker on the extreme left was issued by Villeray Musique to promote a recording of 18 of the poet's poems set to music by 12 invited musicians.
Posthumously there came his journal, additional poems and prose.
The following poem comes from the collection Les solitudes, first issued in 1949. It is unusual for him, for it does make use of rhyme.

Leur coeur est ailleurs
Leur coeur est ailleurs
au ciel peut-etre
Elles errent ici en attendant
Mon coeur est parmi d'autres astres parti
Loin d'ici
Et sillonne la nuit d'un cri que je n'entends pas
Quel drame peut-etre se joue au loin d'ici?
Je n'en veux rien savoir
Je prefere etre un jeune mort etendu
Je prefere avoir tout perdu.
Pour chapeau le firmament
Pour monture la terre
Il s'agit maintenant
De savoir quel voyage nous allons faire.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Bookmarker: Special Number: Happy Chinese New Year

This delicate bookmarker depicts the extraordinary landscape of the Lijiang River with its unusual mountains rising up to the sky. The pagoda in the foreground seems to organically emerge from the rock in this aesthetic blend of man-made architecture and the wonders of nature. The Tang Dynasty author Han Yu, is often quoted when referring to this river:

The river is a beauteous winding ribbon,
The mountains are as emerald hairpins

This image may very well be an early depiction of the city Guilin, which translates as "the forest of sweet osmanthus." Certainly makes me want to reacquaint myself with Chinese history and description.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Bookmark of the Week: No. 1

Between the years 1910 and 1914 was the period that Insurance Companies began to advertise using bookmarkers. The Scottish Widows' Fund was originally conceived in an Edinburgh coffee house in 1812, and its object was to secure the financial stability of female relatives who lost loved ones in the Napoleonic wars. It was officially founded in 1815 and has continued to this day with marketing much removed from this rather classic and conservative bookmarker. Today, using a woman in a black cloak as the marketing image, the Scottish Widows' Fund is the most recognized brand of all the financial services in the UK. This seems to work most effectively as can be seen by the rather romantic, if not gothic photographs of the most recent advertising campaign with Hayley Hunt as the woman in black, and David Boni, photographer.

It is well known that Sir Walter Scott was one of the first investors, but what is less known, perhaps, is that a friend of his, a member of that extraordinary Clerk Maxwell family, also had a fairly important connection with the Scottish Widows' Fund. John Clerk, later Lord Eldin, was the son of James Clerk Maxwell's great uncle. He became a a well known and successful advocate and was instrumental in helping the SWF by serving on a committee which saw that the first bonus distribution of 1825 was made proportional and fair. The Scottish Widows' Fund and Life Assurance Society presented John Clerk with a gold snuff box in appreciation for his advice. Upon John Clerk's death, the snuff box came back to the Society and is now part of their much treasured, no doubt, archival history.

An unfortunate occurence, however, also connects John Clerk with the Scottish Widows' Fund. John Clerk was a connoisseur and collector of art and rare books, and upon his death his collection was sold. In fact it was sold in his very own house where close to 150 avid buyers crowded together for the chance at acquiring art work from his collection. So many people, in fact, that the floor collapsed killing a banker by the name of Mr. Alexander Smith. John Clerk's old friend, Mr. McKean, the Manager of the Scottish Widows' Fund, was also in attendance, but wisely chose to stand on the hearth stone. As it was left standing, so was he.
This bookmarker was designed by Walter Crane for the Society. These issues are fairly common and the amount of the funds provides a clue as to the year it may have been printed. This one is probably from the 1920s. Walter Crane designed a more collectible set of bookmarkers for the Society when he was commissioned to create one for each month of the year. These were issued between the years 1910 and 1912 I believe.