“This book belongs to …” this is the standard phrase used in order to indicate ownership of a book, with these words usually found very meticulously and even lovingly copied out on the flyleaves of treasured printed possessions. In order to shorten things up a little, owners often opted for the Latin phrase “ex-libris”. All of these phrases offer us a glimpse into a former owner’s relationship with his book. There may be other indications of ownership present in items which may be less evident but they serve just as well in signalling that a book is one person’s very specific piece of property. Being the owner of a text could be seen as the final link in a long chain of events where a number of people have left their marks and consequently parts of themselves, figuratively and even somewhat literally, between the covers, between the pages, and within the leaves, of a book.
From the author who imagines a text and drafts his ideas into words, to the printer who literally puts these words to paper by means of his types and press, to the papermaker who presses the fibres out of old linen, scoops his mould into this odd mixture of fibre and water, pressing out the moisture in order to fashion sheets of paper by a process to which few are privy, to the binder who not only has to ensure pages of text are kept together but may also be called upon to decorate his work as richly or plainly as his patron demands, to the tanner who will prepare the leather for the outer binding, to the marbled papermaker who will fashion the endpapers, to the gilder who will brighten the exterior with great passion or reserve: the final result, the book, belongs to each and every individual who has given of himself to ensure its creation.
This exhibition was presented at the Archives and Special Collections, University of Ottawa Library, from October 2016 to April 2017.
En français: Ce livre appartient à...
Exhibition curators, research and writing: Alexandra Gregory and Julie Roy, Web and photographs: Catherine Lachaîne and Julie Roy; Graphic: Marie Noël