Empress of Russia menu

“Menu from the Empress of Russia,” 1930 from the Chung Collection CC-TX-225-56-7

Whether you prefer quick eats or fine dining, you’re sure to enjoy Bon Voyage / Bon Appétit: Menus from the Canadian Pacific Railway Company’s Ships, Trains, Planes, and Hotels, RBSC’s new exhibition of eye-catching and mouth-watering Canadian Pacific Railway Company menus dating from the 1890s through the 1980s from the renowned Wallace B. Chung and Madeline H. Chung Collection.

The exhibition, which will be on display until the end of December 2014, is free and open to the public Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Chung Collection exhibition in Rare Books and Special Collections, level one, Irving K. Barber Learning Centre.

Read more about the exhibition and its guest curator, historian Larry Wong, here!

Chateau Lake Louise menu

“Lunch menu from Chateau Lake Louise,” 1929 from the Chung Collection CC-TX-197-10-1



Art of the Book 2013

Destructors 2. Photo credit: Mike Scullen.

This Thursday, May 8, at 5:30 p.m., please join RBSC for an open house that offers a chance to view the delightful and surprising Art of the Book 2013 exhibition and to hear local book artists and members of Canadian Bookbinders and Book Artists Guild (CBBAG) discuss the works featured in the exhibition.

The open house will take place at UBC Library’s Rare Books and Special Collections, 1961 East Mall, in the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre, Level 1. Read more about the Art of the Book 2013 exhibition here!




We recently had the pleasure of adding a new group of unique and beautiful items to our collection of Charles van Sandwyk material. For those of you not familiar with his delightful body of work, Charles is a local artist, illustrator and author whose published books we have been collecting for many years. Each of these books is quite a treat. They are all designed, written and illustrated by Charles, who also oversees every step of their publication.

Life is Art broadside, 1997

Life is Art broadside, 1997. Signed.

Charles’ books are difficult to categorize – on first glance they appear to be meant for children, yet there is something about the imaginative world that Charles creates within them that equally, if not even more so, captures the attention of adults.

This latest accrual adds an exciting new layer to our Charles van Sandwyk collection by offering a glimpse behind the scenes of Charles’ work and showing his development as an artist since the age of 18.  It contains over 50 items – many one-of-a-kind – including printing proofs for his books, posters for exhibits of his work, original artwork, book prospectuses, broadsides, photographs, and banners he created for the village of Deep Cove, where he resides for much of the year.  This collection will be valuable to anyone interested in learning more about Charles’ work, about the Vancouver book publishing and art world, or about independent fine art and letterpress printing.

Parade to Paradise, original artwork, 1992

Parade to Paradise, original artwork, 1992. Signed and annotated by Charles, with notes about printing.

A full description of the items is available here.

The items were brought together by the Joyce Williams Gallery, with the assistance of Charles, in the hopes of creating a body of work that would illustrate Charles’ progression over the years.  It begins with material from his first exhibit in 1984 – including a drawing, a postcard invitation, and photographs of the young Charles – and progresses through 2012, with press proofs from his book I Believe: Two Poems & a Hidden Thought and a delightful hand drawn map of the small Fijian Island of Tavewa, where Charles spends his winters.

We are excited to be preserving this important piece of our local art and publishing history and hope that you will have a chance to come in and enjoy it for yourself!



Charles Spring

Charles Spring

Last summer, we processed a very interesting new fonds here at RBSC. The Charles E. Spring (1859-1938) fonds provides great insight into the sealing industry of British Columbia in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, as well as the on-going campaign of one man to receive restitution for the loss of his business. The son of a pioneering sealer and trader in British Columbia, Spring was educated in Victoria and worked for the Hudson’s Bay Company before taking over the family sealing business at the age of 24 upon the death of his father. Spring’s business suffered when, in 1885, United States cutters began seizing vessels caught sealing in the North Pacific in order to protect their sealing interests in Alaska. Later, in order to ease tensions between the United States and Great Britain over the Bering Sea controversy, a temporary agreement (the “Modus Vivendi”) prohibiting pelagic sealing in the Bering Sea was put in place for the 1891-1892 and 1892-1893 seasons. The resulting loss of revenue financially ruined Spring. Although Spring received a settlement for financial losses caused by the seizure of one of his ships and the “Modus Vivendi” during the 1891-1892 season, he continued to pursue claims for losses suffered due to the extension of the “Modus Vivendi” during the 1892-1893 season. He also became an active spokesman for other sealers in their claims.

Coasting license for the S.S. Mist

Coasting license for the S.S. Mist

The Charles E. Spring fonds contains records spanning the period 1888-1937 relating to the sealing industry and Spring’s claims for financial losses. A number of items from the Charles E. Spring fonds have been digitized and are now available through the Adam Matthew research database “China, America and the Pacific: Trade and Cultural Exchange”. The database is available to UBC students and faculty with a campus-wide login, or to the larger community by visiting a UBC Library and logging on to a UBC networked computer. Database users will be able to view high-resolution scans of a number of items from the Charles E. Spring fonds, including the ledgers of several schooners, crew agreements, petitions, memoranda and memorials, correspondence, court papers, log books, photographs, and more. We’re so happy to be able to share these materials and this fascinating look into B.C.’s sealing industry with all of you.

Happy holidays from everyone here at Rare Books and Special Collections! As an early Christmas gift, we offer the final student dictionary report from the course English 320: History of the English Language. As I mentioned in last week’s post, the exhibition, The Road to the OED, has been extended until the end of January, so please feel free to stop by to see it when we open on January 2 after the winter break. Hope to see you then!

Walker, John. A Critical Pronouncing Dictionary and Expositor of the English Language. London: G. G. J. and J. Robinson, 1791. PE25 .R62 V. 315

A Critical Pronouncing Dictionary and Expositor of the English Language

A Critical Pronouncing Dictionary and Expositor of the English Language

Written by elocutionist / lexicographer John Walker and released in 1791, A Critical Pronouncing Dictionary and Expositor became renowned as the ‘statute book of English ortheopy’ that ‘settled all doubts’ on issues of English pronunciation (Beal). Born in 1732, Walker was an actor who performed in Bristol, Dublin and London with various acting companies. He married a fellow actress, Sybilla Minors, and after his marriage he converted to Catholicism. After 1768 he retired from acting and became a successful teacher of elocution. He became a popular lecturer frequently invited to give private lectures at various Universities including Oxford and Dublin. He wrote many books on elocution but it is his dictionary for which he is most famous. Walker continued to publish books on the English language until his death in 1807.

What makes his dictionary unique is that it features a section tailored for different speakers on proper pronunciation. There are articles dedicated to rules that Irish and Scottish people should observe for correct pronunciation of English, an article for foreigners in learning English, and an article pointing out the faults of pronunciation of London speakers. There is also a section entitled “Principle of English Language,” containing over 558 rules on proper English pronunciation. In the dictionary proper, some words contain numbered parenthesis which refer to different rules of the “Principles.” Each word in the dictionary contains a definition, a pronunciation guide and sometimes a note which addresses controversies on the pronunciation of the word. Unlike modern dictionaries which employ the IPA system of writing pronunciation, this dictionary follows Thomas Sheridan’s 1780 dictionary system. This system syllabifies words and indicates variations of vowel pronunciation with a superscripted number.

A Critical Pronouncing Dictionary and Expositor of the English Language

A Critical Pronouncing Dictionary and Expositor of the English Language

To situate this work within the history of English lexicography, Walker’s preface gives credit to predecessor dictionaries of Johnson (1747), Kenrick (1773), and Sheridan (1780) among others. According to Walker, each dictionary is “greatly superior to every other that preceded it” (Walker, iii). However, he is critical of the all the various inconsistencies in these dictionaries. Therefore the purpose of Walker’s dictionary was to provide an authoritative and elaborative work that addresses these inconsistencies. On the spectrum of linguistic prescriptivism and descriptivism, Walker is unabashedly prescriptive. He points out that Sheridan is Irish, and that his dictionary pronunciations lean towards an Irish accent which is incorrect in Walker’s view. His “Principles of the English Language” and various guides for “Just Pronunciation” effectively demonstrate his inclinations towards linguistic prescriptivism.

—        Anthony Bigornia (English 320: History of the English Language, 2012-2013)

With the holidays just around the corner, I know you are all worried about making time (in between shopping, baking, wrapping, packing, cleaning, etc.) to visit The Road to the OED exhibition at Rare Books and Special Collections before it closes on December 24. Well, worry no longer! The exhibition has been extended until the end of January, so we look forward to seeing you all in the New Year!

In this week’s student dictionary report from the course English 320: History of the English Language, we learn about etymologist George Lemon and his study of the roots of the English language.

Lemon, George William. English Etymology; or, A Derivative Dictionary of the English Language. London: Printed for G. Robinson, 1783. PE25 .R62 V. 215

English Etymology

English Etymology

Born in Middlesex in 1726, George William Lemon led a life of various interests; he graduated from Queen’s College Cambridge with a BA, became an ordained priest in East Walton, and was high master at Norwich grammar school, until he resigned after controversy over his management of the school. His scholarly publications included a new Greek grammar to be put into use at the Norwich school, as well as a history of the War of the Roses. English Etymology; or a Derivative Dictionary of the English Language: in Two Alphabets was Lemon’s main lexicographical work, a 12,000 entry-long endeavour to chronicle the etymological roots of words in the English language, printed in 1783.

Whereas most modern dictionaries include a succinct account of each entry’s etymological background, Lemon’s etymological dictionary is formatted with a wider organizational scheme in mind. His dictionary is in two major parts, the first and larger section an alphabetized dictionary of words he determines as having Greek or Latin roots. The second, much smaller section, is a list of those words he considers as having been derived from Saxon and other “Northern dialects”. This division by etymological background functions to demonstrate what Lemon thought was “the whole force and power of the English language [to] know how much the greater part of it has been constructed on the Southern than on the Northern tongues”; that is, his belief that the English language’s apparent familial connections to the languages of antiquity, especially Classical Greek and Latin, was an expression of the language’s refinement and status as an internationally superior language.

English Etymology

English Etymology

As a dictionary whose focus is mainly on the etymological aspects of words, English Etymology does not include several of the features of modern monolingual dictionaries now considered standard; none of his entries include pronunciation or other basic information like part of speech, and most entries also do not provide a definition of the word beyond what can be understood from the forms he cites as etymological evidence. Also notable is his dependence on other etymologists, whose work Lemon compiled, edited, and disputed within many of the entries in his dictionary.
“Who shall be able to account for the origin of language; or who shall say which was the original of all? Such an attempt would be a task too difficult for mortal man to accomplish”, says Lemon in his preface. His etymological dictionary, however, does attempt to draw connections between English and the languages of antiquity as it endeavours to support the English language as one worthy of extensive study and appreciation. As such, it certainly works within a tradition of lexicographical curiosity that continues to characterize the writing of dictionaries today.

—        Kai Ying Chieh (English 320: History of the English Language, 2012-2013)

First edition of Pride and Prejudice

First edition of Pride and Prejudice

Today, December 16, is Jane Austen’s 238th birthday! I have quite a soft spot for our Jane, so I was too excited when a generous private donor gifted a first edition of Pride and Prejudice to Rare Books and Special Collections last year. We are also fortunate enough to have a first edition of Emma, Austen’s fourth novel and the last published before her death in 1817. In addition, we have some Victorian-era editions with lovely illustrations by Hugh Thomson and Charles E. Brock, as well as all kinds of other Jane Austen goodies.

Hugh Thomson's illustration from Austen's Persuasion

Hugh Thomson’s illustration from Austen’s Persuasion

Speaking of Hugh Thomson’s illustrations, the British Library has just released a number of scanned images on Flickr Commons for anyone to use, remix, and repurpose. Included in this amazing selection are Thomson’s illustrations of Austen’s novels, including this one of the famous scene in Persuasion when Captain Wentworth gives Anne Elliot “the letter.” If you don’t already know about “the letter,” you really should.

If you’d like to celebrate Jane’s birthday by coming down to Rare Books and Special Collections to see some of our Austen holdings in person, we’d love to see you in our reading room any time during our open hours! Remember that you do not need to be affiliated with UBC to use our resources.

So happy birthday, Jane! Thank you for sharing your considerable talent and for continuing to give the world so much pleasure through your enduring works.


Please join us for a talk sponsored by Rare Books and Special Collections at UBC Library.

The Oxford English Dictionary, the Grimm Brothers, and Miley Cyrus
On the Changing Expectations of the OED: Past, Present and (Possible) Futures

Stefan Dollinger, assistant professor of English language at the University of British Columbia and editor-in-chief of The Dictionary of Canadianisms on Historical Principles

Friday, November 15, 2013
12 p.m.
Dodson Room, Irving K. Barber Learning Centre
University of British Columbia

The Oxford English Dictionary is one of the longest-running academic projects in history. Commenced in the early Victorian period and funded by Oxford University Press since its inception, it represents a grand achievement in English letters. As such, the OED commands a lot of prestige: when completed in 1928, no less illustrious personage than the British prime minister was the guest of honour, and Oxford University bestowed honorary degrees upon its publishers. As with any large-scale project, fair criticism can be hard to come by—one may take for granted that the OED is the apex in the field. While such claims may be hard to defend today, due credit must be given to a project that has navigated any and all rough seas for over one and a half centuries.

Professor Stefan Dollinger will offer a brief social history and criticism of the OED. Contextualizing its origins, he will consider how perceptions and expectations of the OED have changed over the decades. Today, the OED is popularly considered to list all English words, from William Shakespeare to Miley Cyrus, though such comprehensiveness was never its goal. While Miley Cyrus has as yet little to contribute to word coinage, her current notoriety and media exposure creates the possibility that she may one day popularize concepts, words, and phrases that could find entry into the OED: or shouldn’t they? This potential exemplifies the colloquialization and popularization of the OED that has already commenced. Beyond the impact of individual celebrities, the major question concerning the OED today revolves around how to conceive of the dictionary in the 21st century. Now that English is spoken by (far) more second language speakers than first language speakers, will the OED adapt to the new realities?

Free and open to the public.

For more information, please contact Rare Books and Special Collections at 604 822-2521 or rare.books@ubc.ca, and visit the exhibition The Road to the OED: A History of English-Language Dictionaries from November 7-December 24, 2013.

The Oxford English Dictionary, the Grimm Brothers, and Miley Cyrus

The Oxford English Dictionary, the Grimm Brothers, and Miley Cyrus

Due to a facilities issue, the reading room for Rare Books and Special Collections and University Archives will be closed on Friday, August 30. We apologize for any inconvenience and look forward to seeing our patrons when we resume reading room open hours.

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