A “Book of Homage to Shakespeare” (with a Vancouver connection)

Posted on March 8, 2016 @3:43 pm by cshriver

Many thanks to guest blogger Matt Warner, a graduate student in the Department of English at UBC, for contributing the below post!

The Book of Homage to Shakespeare is a strange book. The product of a very distinct moment of British imperial history, it paints a picture of its subject that is at once generously expansive and narrowly possessive. Comprising contributions from some hundred and fifty-odd critics and poets from around the world, the book fits neatly into the category of what George Bernard Shaw once termed “Bardolatry”—over-the-top and hard to justify celebration of Britain’s informal national poet.

Published on the occasion of the tricentenary of Shakespeare’s death in 1916, the Book of Homage is a polyglot compendium of scholarly essays, bad poetry and personal reflection. It shows a Shakespeare who is, the contributors claim, “for all time” as Ben Jonson put it in one of the commendatory poems attached to the First Folio of Shakespeare’s work. Like that earlier poem, much of the verse (and prose) in the Book of Homage is dedicated to Shakespeare’s allegedly unique ability to transcend time and place to move his readers, whatsoever their language and whatsoever their circumstances. Contributions to the Book of Homage include Armenian, Japanese, Persian, Chinese, French, Old Norse, Russian and dozens of other languages. Translations are far from universal—for any reader, some fairly significant portion of this book is guaranteed to be behind a language barrier of one kind or another. (And sometimes, as Gordon McMullen has noted in the case of the Gaelic contribution of Douglas Hyde, the English translation hides a politically subversive original). It is the existence of these encomia that mattered to the editors; what any of them actually says is far less important.

From its origins at the centre of British Empire, then, the Book of Homage took its collected praises and shipped them around the world. 1250 copies were produced; UBC now owns three. Our first copy entered the UBC library catalogue on March 19, 1958, and still circulates—it’s currently checked out right now—and, having changed its fancy buckram binding (complete with the embossed coat of arms of Shakespeare) for a simple library binding, it’s the least interesting, but most accessible, of UBC’s copies. Our second copy lives in RBSC, and came to UBC as a part of Norman Colbeck Collection of Nineteenth-Century and Edwardian Poetry and Belles Lettres. This copy, evidently acquired somewhere in England, has a bit of history to it. From the Colbeck Catalogue description:

Inserted is an ALS [Autograph Letter Signed] of the editor to W. W. Greg~”My dear Greg”-on his Shoot-Up-Hill notepaper dated 6 March 1916: “I’m preparing a rather elaborate Book of Homage to Shakespeare . . .,” some 17 lines, also an ALS from Morton Luce (another contributor), with one of his printed Christmas Greetings, containing an original sonnet.

It’s not clear how either of these letters relates to the copy of the book that UBC owns—given that they represent two different ends to two different lines of communication, but they give an intriguing glimpse into the cultural milieu that produced the Book of Homage (and some might find Morton Luce’s original sonnet to be quite amusingly bad).

Far more interesting, at least here in Vancouver, than Luce’s poetry and the editorial correspondence of the Colbeck Collection’s Book of Homage, however, are the inclusions in our third copy of the Book of Homage. This book, one of RBSC’s latest acquisitions, previously belonged to Mrs. Jonathan Rogers, a prominent member of the Vancouver Shakespeare Society (VSS) in 1916 when the Book of Homage was published. Pasted into the back of the book are a photograph and a letter. The photograph is of Mrs. Rogers and the Vancouver Shakespeare Society, at the ceremonial planting of the “Shakespeare Tercentenary Oak” in Stanley Park, and the letter is from the Vancouver Archives to Mrs. Rogers, January 4th, 1945, responding to her inquiry about the location of the tree—it can, we are informed, be readily located from the telephone poles in the background of the photo. (The tree still exists today).

More than just a strange piece of Vancouver history, the VSS and its tree-planting habits show the “other end” of the imperial Shakespeare project undertaken by the Book of Homage. In this photograph, and the ceremony it documents, international, connected, timeless Shakespeare is reflected locally: from metropolitan London came the Book of Homage, but Vancouver made the tercentenary its own, too, ceremonial silver spade and all.

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Get to Know RBSC!

Posted on February 28, 2017 @2:32 pm by cshriver

RBSC-tours-croppedHave you ever been curious about what we do or what we have at RBSC? Join our weekly tour of Rare Books and Special Collections at the University of British Columbia Library for an introduction to our space and our unique materials and collections. Tours are free and open to the general public, as well as the UBC community. No need to RSVP, just drop in to learn what RBSC is all about!

Every Wednesday at 11 a.m.

1st floor, Irving K. Barber Learning Centre

1961 East Mall, UBC Vancouver campus

For more information, please contact Rare Books and Special Collections at (604) 822-2521 or

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Congratulations, Jessica!

Posted on December 18, 2015 @2:48 pm by cshriver

Prize winner Jessica Zheng; Christina Sylka, David Lam Management Research Library Head; Kalenne Thors, Canaccord Learning Commons Manager

Prize winner Jessica Zheng; Christina Sylka, head of the David Lam Management Research Library; Kalenne Thors, manager of the Canaccord Learning Commons

Congratulations to the winner of our Harry Potter and the Rain City exhibition scavenger hunt prize drawing: Jessica Zheng!

Jessica was one of about 30 visitors to the the Harry Potter and the Rain City exhibition to complete a scavenger hunt for information provided in the exhibition labels. Completed scavenger hunt forms were added to a cauldron, and a prize winner was chosen on December 16. Jessica won a special edition Harry Potter box set with cover illustrations by Kazu Kibuishi, just in time for some winter break reading!

Thank you to Christina Sylka, head of the David Lam Management Research Library, for picking the winning entry from the cauldron.





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ASTU 100 field trip to RBSC: Part One

Posted on February 28, 2017 @2:33 pm by cshriver

RBSC is located in IKBLC, 1st floor. Come visit!

RBSC is located in IKBLC, 1st floor. Come visit!

We were happy to host several sections of the Co-ordinated Arts Program’s ASTU 100 class at RBSC this past term. ASTU 100 introduces students to the academic community and how its practices of scholarly reading, writing, and research produce knowledge. Instructors work closely with UBC librarians to offer CAP students specially designed workshops that introduce students to the UBC library system and train them how to do effective research for assignments and projects.

While all of the ASTU 100 students read Joy Kogawa’s historical novel, Obasan, and then visited RBSC to explore archival materials in the Joy Kogawa fonds, each section had a slightly different assignment. Professor Moberley Luger’s students were asked to write a blog post about their research experience at RBSC, and they have graciously allowed us to link to some of them here. Here is a sampling of the reactions that students in Professor Luger’s class had to their RBSC field trip:

I’ll be linking to more ASTU 100 blog posts next week. In the meantime, enjoy!

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Farewell, Harry!

Posted on February 28, 2017 @2:35 pm by cshriver

we_1Thank you so much to everyone who came out to see our exhibition, Harry Potter and the Rain City, over the course of the fall. The exhibition came down at the beginning of this week, but the love for the Wizarding World continues (as evidenced by the release today of the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them movie trailer)!

As we bid farewell to Harry (for now), a graduate student from UBC’s School of Library, Archival and Information Studies wanted to update us about a couple of Harry Potter-themed programs he coordinated. The student, Hiller Goodspeed, completed a professional experience with RBSC this term that included working on the design components of the exhibition (including the awesome Marauder’s Map) and developing programming, including two programs for the Vancouver Writers’ Exchange at Queen Alexandria Elementary School in East Vancouver.

we_2Here’s what Hiller had to say about the programs:

The Writers’ Exchange regularly runs in- and after-school literacy programs at elementary schools around the city as well as at the Writers’ Exchange in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

In one of the programs, younger students were challenged to write their own book of spells and decorate colourful wands to cast them with. By the end of the day, the classroom of Muggles had been transformed into spell-zinging magic folk.

we_3In another program run with the Comic Book Club, students created comics which were derivative of the Harry Potter book series. Students were asked to fit in as much content as they could onto a single page, in the style of illustrator Lucy Knisley’s a-page-a-book Harry Potter posters.

Both programs were successful and well-received by the students and volunteers.

Thanks so much, Hiller!

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Vast Ocean, Vast Heaven celebrates UBC’s Nitobe Memorial Garden

Posted on December 5, 2015 @1:03 pm by cshriver

Nitobe Memorial Garden exhibition poster imageAs part of the Nitobe Memorial Garden Concepts and Prospects symposium, the research curators of the Collective for the Advanced and Unified Studies in the Visual Arts (CAUSA) present, Nitobe Memorial Garden: Vast Ocean, Vast Heaven, a multi-site exhibition at UBC from December 3, 2015 to January 31, 2016. Locations include:

Developing from affiliations with the 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 scholarly analysis and interpretation of visual culture (including problems of intelligibility) 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.

Nitobe Garden Exhibition imageIn its affiliation with the University of Manitoba Asian Studies Centre, CAUSA sustains a continuative 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 a 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.”

For more information, visit or email

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Have your cake and read it, too

Posted on February 28, 2017 @2:36 pm by cshriver

The creativity and sense of humour of our students at UBC never cease to amaze me! Yesterday we were happy to host a small group from Professor Melissa Funke’s Classical Studies course, Women in the Roman World of Republican and Imperial Times, to look at our Roman-age Egypt papyri. During their visit, I got to hear about a very cool presentation that some of the students did for the class this term.

The students—Susan Bahaduri, Jova Chan, Jeneba Kamara, Jaymie Orchard, and Pauline

While this cake looks delicious, RBSC patrons are discouraged from eating actual papyri.

While this cake looks delicious, RBSC patrons are discouraged from eating actual papyri.

Villegas—were tasked with looking at the letter from a son to his mother here at RSBC, as well as other similar papyrus letters either to or from women in Roman Egypt. The students, aware that presentation audiences are always more receptive when they get treats, decided to bake a papyrus cake! It looks as amazing as I’m sure it tasted. We’re delighted that the papyrus letter was able to inspire both great scholarship and culinary adventure. Congratulations Susan, Jova, Jeneba, Jaymie, and Pauline on a job well done!

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Remembrance Day: Remembering Hugh McLennan (1887-1915)

Posted on November 10, 2015 @12:22 pm by cshriver

In honour of Remembrance Day, we here at RBSC wanted to share a few letters that a young man named Hugh McLennan wrote to friends and family during the First World War, as well as a final letter, written by his cousin Durie McLennan, giving an account of Hugh’s last days.

Hugh McLennan was born in Sydney, Nova Scotia, on 21 January 1887, the third child of John Stewart McLennan and Louise Bradley McLennan. He earned a degree in architecture at McGill University between 1905 and 1907 and also studied at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris before enlisting for service in World War I in 1914. He served as sergeant in the 5th Battery, 2nd Brigade of the Canadian Field Artillery and was killed in action near Ypres, Belgium, on 26 April 1915. He is buried in Ypres Town Cemetery. In 1928 the Hugh McLennan Memorial Travelling Scholarship in Architecture at McGill University was established in his memory.


Happy Harry-ween!

Posted on February 28, 2017 @2:37 pm by cshriver

Photo 2015-10-30, 12 16 15 PMThank you so much to everyone who came out for UBC Library’s Harry Potter-themed Halloween Party!

The party kicked off with sweet and salty snacks, hot drinks, and a get-to-know-your-classmates scavenger hunt game. Prizes, including an Alivan’s wand and a gift certificate donated by Just Imagine Fun Clothing, Costumes, and Dance Gear, were awarded for the most authentic and the most creative costumes. Prizes were presented by Associate University Librarian for Research Services Lea Starr (a.k.a. Bellatrix Lestrange). Guests enjoyed board games, a puzzle, and a “make your own wand” craft station, as well as a popular “Have You Seen This Wizard” photo booth. Guests were also able to add to a “What Does Harry Potter Mean to You?” mural. Here are some of the contributions:

“The 3rd book was the first book I can remember reading and falling in love with and it made me want to become an author.”
“A tale of belonging and love”
“A love for libraries”
“A lifelong love of reading”
“Overcoming life’s obstacles”
“Figuring out who you are and how you fit within the world”
“Hogwarts will always be there for those who need it.”

You can see more photos of the event on Twitter at #harrypotterubc.

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Harry Potter LibGuide

Posted on February 28, 2017 @2:38 pm by cshriver

HP-FacebookIn honour of UBC Library’s Harry Potter related exhibition and events this fall, Irena Trebic, Reference Librarian David Lam Management Research Library, has created a wonderful LibGuide for the Harry Potter series. The guide explores the connections between themes in the books and the collection at the David Lam Library (books, articles, and theses). The guide also has a link to a video recording of our recent colloquium Harry Potter, Brands of Magic. Enjoy!

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