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Page turners

To celebrate the reopening of the E.P. Taylor Library & Archives at the AGO, we scoured the stacks to uncover a new trove of books eager to be read.

Library lead image

Image courtesy of AGO

Toronto’s hidden gem — and one of Canada’s leading art research libraries — the Edward P. Taylor Library & Archives is once again open to the public, every Wednesday through Friday from 1  to 5 pm. With a collection of more than 380,000 volumes, including rare books, travel guides, magazines, auction catalogues, artist books, files and archives, it’s a cool quiet place to learn about art and artists, or to start that magnum opus. Did we mention it’s all free? 

So, pull up a chair, as we flip the pages on a few must-read titles. 

Ears eyes voice

Image courtesy of AGO

New on the shelf, and featuring photographs and interviews with artists Jules Elder, Eddie Grant, Diane Liverpool, Al Peabody and James Russell, as well as essays from Dr. Julie Crooks and Klive Walker, is Ears, Eyes, Voice: Black Canadian Photojournalists 1970s - 1990s. The first publication from BAND Gallery and Cultural Centre, it’s a richly illustrated introduction to an often-ignored legacy.

Dear Nani

Image courtesy of AGO.

From Toronto artist Zinnia Naqvi comes a deeply personal exploration of gender, colonialism,
photography and family history entitled Dear Nani. Published in 2022 by Anchorless Press, the book features photos of the artist's maternal grandmother, Rhubab Tapal, taken in Pakistan in 1948, alongside an essay by the artist, a poem and a glossary of Urdu terms. 

Known for her knowledge of historic ornament and a graduate of Cooper Union, Alice Cordelia Morse (1863-1961) was one of only a few women artists to find professional recognition as a book cover designer at the turn of the century. Between 1887 and 1905, she created no fewer than 83 covers for many of New York City’s preeminent publishers. The AGO is home to six examples of her groundbreaking artistry. 

Two Years in the French West Indies

Image courtesy of AGO. 

Bearing an oval gilt centrepiece featuring green vines surrounding orange fruit, Morse’s cover design for Two Years in the French West Indies published in 1890, reflects her intimate knowledge of art history and book design: it is decorated in the style of a 16th century French strap work binding.  As a correspondent for Harper's, the Greek-Japanese author Patrick Lafcadio Hearn spent two years in Martinique and in addition to his writings for the magazine, produced two books about the island. 

The Wrecker

Image courtesy of AGO.

Published in 1892, Morse’s cover illustration for Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Wrecker  features similarly intertwined stylized dolphins and plant-forms stamped in olive green, dark green and black inks. In the centre of the design, two dolphins surround the monogram 'RLS'. A classic bit of high seas adventure mixed with detection, the book features illustrations by Scottish artist William Hole and renowned American landscape artist W.L. Metcalf. 

Skip ahead six years, and reflecting the art nouveau style of the era and Morse’s own growing popularity, there are Morse’s initials conjoined in the centre of the cover design for Barbara Yechton’s 1898 young adult novel, A Lovable Crank, or More Leaves from the Roses

This book was the subject of a recent AGO Close Looking feature.

Travelers handbook

Image courtesy of AGO

Have you considered the road once travelled? The Library has a collection of some 1,000 historic guidebooks from the firms of Karl Baedeker and John Murray − richly illustrated texts from the 18th and 19th century filled with fascinating information about routes, transportation, accommodation, restaurants, sights to visit and of course, art, in major centres across Europe.

The Library & Archives is open free of charge to the public. Our collections do not circulate, but you can search the entire catalogue here:

To book an appointment for access to rare books, archives and special collections, please send an email to [email protected]

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