9 November 2015

J. M. W. Turner and Turning Pages...Very Carefully

First premiered at the Tate Britain in 2014, this exhibit of J. M. W. Turner's work, completed during the last fifteen years of his life, has arrived at the AGO.  The art gallery was also hosting The Toronto Antiquarian Book Fair this past weekend.  With the wonderful worlds of art and books colliding in one stellar location there was only one thing for it....go!

I'll confess straight away that I knew next to zero about Turner before watching the brilliant film Mr Turner in 2014.  Twentieth-century art warms my heart and Hogarth's vignettes fascinate; Turner: Painting Set Free was a chance to see some of the art depicted in the film, just an arm's length away.  The muted tones and swirling, atmospheric seas and sky are stunning but so repetitive in style that thankfully the collection was broken up a few times by works of other artists as palette (pardon the pun) cleansers.  My favourite piece from the exhibit is The Angel Standing in the Sun (exhibited 1846).  

Reaching the end of the Turner exhibit we took the elevator up to the third floor to the book fair.  With books ranging from hundreds of dollars to tens of thousands, I wasn't planning to carry a bagful home - this was strictly to entertain a case of awe.

I've quoted from Hannah Glasse's book for my Friday's Literary Feast post several times...this complete work, a first edition, is on sale for an eye-watering $50,000.

There is quite a glare from the lights but I took a quick photo of this book, published in 1935, for the charming cover art by Vanessa Bell.

A delightful exhibit compiled by the proprietor of Monkey's Paw, a bookshop in Toronto, displays bits of paper in various forms found in second-hand books.

My husband and I enjoyed the memory of Wintario Lottery tickets, handwritten cash receipts, and old-fashioned memo slips. 

Candy wrappers work every bit as well.  Much more pleasing than the very occasional square of toilet roll we find in books returned at the circulation desk at the library....ugh.

There were also several punch cards that mysteriously made computers configure information back when the machines were the size of a medium-sized vault.  Vintage illustrations quickly drew my eye away.

A gentleman from Peter Harrington Books in London occupied a booth and kindly gave me a catalogue full of treasures. Flipping through the pages I wondered about the most expensive book on my shelf - probably a first edition of E, M, Delafield's Love Has No Resurrection that I found for three dollars at an antique sale, and worth much more.  Then I wondered where my books would end up once I'm long gone.  Putting things away once we were back at home I pulled our ticket stubs for the Turner exhibit out of my purse.  I handed one to my husband and we went our separate ways to find a book, any book, on one of the shelves...and we tucked the stubs inside.  


  1. I loved this post! I haven't seen the firm but it's on my DVR... glad to hear that it is brilliant. :)

    My book-owning claim to fame was a very battered cheap copy of an Angela Thirkell (fairly modern paperback) for which a similar copy was selling on Amazon for several hundred dollars...not anymore, because the book has been reprinted and is more widely available. On the other hand, no one was buying that other person's battered old copy either...

    1. I visited a second-hand bookshop this past summer and finally discovered a copy of Mollie Panter-Downes' 'London War Notes'. It started off at $15 and was then marked down to $5. I wondered if the reduced price was because of Persephone's reissue. Then the internal debate started....'is two copies too much?',
      The pricing on amazon can be a bit suspect sometimes....

  2. Replies
    1. It really was, Claire....but such a day full of precious items and being so careful can be very trying on the nerves! It was nice to get home, flop in a chair, and manhandle my own literary collection. No white gloves necessary!

  3. Darlene, if you go before I do ... I promise I'll give that EM Delafield a good home!

    1. Consider it bequeathed, Mary. If you go first, may I please have Chatterton Square? Or was that a library copy?