It’s not often that you get the chance to purchase a part of B.C. history.
With the addition of a signed first edition of Klee Wyck, Emily Carr’s first book, to their annual fundraising auction, that’s what the Penticton Art Gallery is offering.
“It is rare enough to find one with its cover on, but to find one with its cover on and an early signature in it is even harder to find,” said curator Paul Crawford.
The gallery has drawn elements from across Canada to put together a one of a kind package. The book comes from a Victoria rare books dealer, and it is being paired with the printing block used to print the cover, acquired from a collection in Ontario.
“Brian Gibson, who teaches at Princess Margaret Secondary, is also a master printer and he has actually been able to pull a print off the block,” said Crawford. “So you actually get a framed copy of the print as well. You get the printing block, the print and you get the signed book.”
Crawford points out that since this is a first edition, published by Oxford University Press in 1941, it is the complete book.
Though the original won the 1941 Governor General’s Awards for Literary Merit in non-fiction, 2,300 words were cut from the 1951 publication, removing several passages critical of the actions of European missionaries, as well as a story about a mixed race family.
This became known as the educational version and was the basis for all later publications until Douglas & McIntyre’s 2004 edition restored the text.
The provenance of this copy is impeccable, according to Crawford, coming from the library of Madge Hamilton, who was an art student and close friend of Emily Carr, as well as being the assistant B.C. provincial archivist from 1934 until her retirement in 1953.
A number of the artifacts in Emily Carr house in Victoria came from Hamilton’s estate, including a bed which originally belonged Carr’s parents and in which, it is claimed she was born.
Hamilton was born in Victoria in 1894 and was the youngest child of Lieutent-Colonel Richard Wolfenden, a connection which provides even more links to B.C. history.
In 1858 Wolfenden was one of 150 who sailed on the Thames City, captained by Col. R.C. Moody, to maintain peace during the Cariboo gold rush and ended up building roads, developing trails and surveying the City of New Westminster.
He was also in charge of the Royal Engineer’s printing press, and later received the title of the first Queen’s and King’s Printer for B.C., a position he held until his death in 1911.
“It is such a touchstone to the very genesis of B.C.,” said Crawford, referring to the gallery’s copy of Klee Wyck. “People don’t seem to get bored of her story and her life and her work.”
Crawford estimates the value of this copy of Klee Wyck at $5,000 and said the printing block should have a similar value.
“We have an estimate on it of $5,000 to $7,000,” he said, adding that an Emily Carr painting recently sold for $2 million at a Vancouver auction.
This original edition of Klee Wyck also includes four colour plates of Carr’s paintings, including a portrait of her close friend, Sophie Frank.
In addition to this Klee Wyck, the gallery has a vast number of contemporary and historic items they will be offering up as part of the annual fundraising auction. Items will be added as they are catalogued and number of items are on display at the gallery now with the entire auction up for preview by June 16.