The Alcuin Society is a non-profit organization supported by people who care about the past, present and future of fine books. Founded in 1965, the society is the only organization in Canada dedicated to the entire range of interests relating to books: publishing, book design and production, bookselling, book buying and collecting, printing, binding, papermaking, calligraphy and illustration.

James (Jim) Arthur Rainer, May 19, 1932 – February 2, 2018

Everyone in The Alcuin Society feels a great sense of loss over the passing of an exceptional leader and an even more exceptional friend in the person of Jim Rainer who served as the Society’s chairperson for ten years. We plan to publish a series of memories in a future issue of Amphora but wanted to share the obituary prepared by members of his family with members of the Society.

Continue Reading…

Reminder: Illustration of books in the ancient Graeco-Roman world: Cillian O’Hogan

The Alcuin Society is pleased to announce its first lecture of 2018.  Join us for an evening with lecturer Cillian O’Hogan of the UBC Classics Department about the illustration of books in the ancient Graeco-Roman world.  This lecture will give an overview of the surviving fragments of ancient illustration and will explain how and for whom these lavish books were produced.  Dr. O’Hogan’s talk will be given Wednesday March 7 at The Post, 110-750 Hamilton Street in Vancouver in the StartUp East Room from 7:30 to 8:30 pm.

Space is limited, so reserve with EventBrite: Register.  For further information, please contact:


Old movie posters

Early movie theaters had to design and produce their own advertising and promotion. All they got from Hollywood was the films themselves. These posters from two theaters in Haverhill, Massachusetts are among the better examples of what was done in those days (the late 20s and early 30s) by local artists and printers. Probably these were done by a local sign painter whose main business was painting shop signs and decorating trucks. Only a sign painter would have all the type styles shown on these posters at his disposal, as they are similar to those found in books of the time that were used by sign painters. These posters are excellent examples of a type of 1930s graphic design that introduced the public to the earliest “talking” pictures. And what pictures—what stars! Continue Reading…

Robert R. Reid Exhibition at Massey College in Toronto

In May 1957, Carl Dair wrote to a colleague in the design profession regarding his decision to join the Typographic Designers of Canada. He also proposed in that letter setting up an Octovo Club of eight members who would comprise the pacesetters in the profession. He listed Robert Reid as being one of the eight. Reid had not turned thirty yet and was by far the youngest in the group. Continue Reading…

Howard Greaves, 1941 – 2018

It is with great sadness that we learned that Howard Greaves died January 23, 2018. Howard had a talent for bringing people together, a generosity of spirit that brought so much to our community, and enthusiasm that enriched the book arts in Canada.

Continue Reading…

The Great Book(s) of Nature: The Origins and Treasures of Bunny Mellon’s Oak Spring Garden Library

The Great Book(s) of Nature: The Origins and Treasures of Bunny Mellon’s Oak Spring Garden Library. Presentation by Spencer W. Stuart at Van Dusen Gardens. Saturday, March 24th at 2:00PM.

In a 1969 interview with The New York Times, Rachel “Bunny” Mellon (née Lambert, 1910 – 2014) made a statement of her approach to garden design that soon came to define her character as a whole, “nothing should be noticed”. This mantra, however, would prove to be difficult to maintain in at least one aspect of her life: her rare book and manuscript collection. Beginning in the 1920s with childhood gifts from family members, Mellon went on to build one of the most comprehensive collections related to botany and horticulture in private hands. In 1981 the Oak Springs Garden Library was founded on her 2,000-acre estate in Upperville, Virginia (an hour’s drive west of Washington, D.C.). Both the VanDusen’s Yosef Wosk Library and Resource Centre and Oak Springs are members of the Council on Botanical and Horticultural Libraries.

VanDusen Gardens Yosef Wosk Library and Resource Centre invites you to join Art and Collections Historian, Spencer W. Stuart, for a 45-minute presentation and discussion of some of the earliest treasures housed in this prominent 16,000 item collection amassed over an eighty-year period. The presentation will focus primarily on publications that offer early examples of horticulture such as the earliest book in the collection illustrating methods of grating and pruning, Bussato’s Giardino di Agricoltura from 1592, as well as Jean de la Quintinie’s Instruction pour les Jardins Fruitiers et Potagers posthumously published in 1690 and subsequently translated by the British writer and gardener John Evelyn in 1693. Of particular focus during the presentation will be the period of late 17th century publications, an area Mellon made sure to collect with great precision. This exciting period demonstrates a dynamic exchange between French and English practitioners with the support of a burgeoning popularity toward books related to the development and maintenance of gardens.

Spencer W Stuart holds a Masters in the History of Art from the Courtauld Institute, UK, receiving the Director’s Award upon its completion. He then went on to work with Bonhams Auctioneers, focusing on Rare Books and Manuscripts in both their Toronto and New York offices. Spencer currently resides in Vancouver where he operates a collection management practice.

Rudolf Koch exhibit, Port Moody Station Museum

Markus Fahrner would like to invite you to the opening of the Great War sketches of the famous typographer Rudolf Koch. For the first time outside Germany the Port Moody Station Museum exhibits the sketches Rudolf Koch drew as soldier in the trenches of WW1. Among many typefaces Koch created is Neuland, Prisma and Kabel.

Port Moody Station Museum, 2734 Murray St., January 14, 2pm, in collaboration with the Klingspor Museum, Offenbach, Germany.


Out of the darkest days in Germany during World War I came NOTGELD, the bright, utterly charming and exquisite accomplishment of German graphic art that will never be seen again. The days were indeed dark, as the Allies had blockaded Germany and vital materièl was in short supply—especially silver, nickel, and copper used to mint coins. Being in such short supply, German towns, cities, and states soon started issuing paper notes to replace the small denominations usually found in metal coinage.

Since “Notgeld” means Emergency Money, it was a singularly apt term and the paper notes proliferated from 1915 to1922 until 63,000 different notes had been issued by 3,600 sources. In the end, notes were produced by companies, steamship lines, shopkeepers, and even Prisoner-of-War camps. Continue Reading…