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Alcuin Society (Canada)

Last modified: 2011-08-20 by rob raeside
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[Alcuin Society (Canada) flag] image by Ivan Sache, 3 August 2010

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Alcuin Society

Quoting the Alcuin Society's website:
"The Alcuin Society is a voluntary association of people who care about the past, present and future of fine books. Founded in 1965 by Geoff Spencer and six other Vancouver bibliophiles, and maintained by the current board, it is the only non-profit organization in Canada dedicated to the entire range of interests related to books and reading. These interests include authorship, publishing, book design and production, bookselling, book buying and collecting, printing, binding, papermaking, calligraphy and illustration.

The Society’s two main goals are to promote a wider appreciation of books and reading and to support excellence in book design and production. In support of these goals, it sponsors educational programmes, publishes a journal, offers a prestigious award known as the Alcuin Society Awards for Excellence in Book Design in Canada, and the Robert R. Reid Award and Medal to recognise lifetime achievement, or extraordinary contributions, to the Book Arts in Canada.

The name “Alcuin” honours the memory of Alcuin of York (c. 735 to 804 A.D.), Abbot of St. Martin at Tours, a man who cared deeply about books and literacy. As Charlemagne’s "Minister of Culture", and a respected teacher, Alcuin encouraged the study and preservation of ancient texts, contributed to the development of the lowercase alphabet and helped establish numerous schools and libraries."

The Grant of Arms, Supporters, Flags and Badges to the Alcuin Society appears in the Public Register of Arms, Flags and Badges of Canada, 15 June 2007, Vol. V, p. 145.

The flag is a square banner of the arms.

The coat of arms is described as follows:

Per chevron Azure and Argent in chief two open books Argent edged Or and in base a handpress Azure;

Issuant from a circlet of maple leaves Or and dogwood flowers Argent, a demi-sixteenth-century pressman affronty proper habited Azure holding in the dexter hand a composing stick and in the sinister hand a punch Or;

Two owls Or each gorged with a collar Azure pendent therefrom a hurt, that to the dexter charged with a quill and a knife in saltire Or, that to the sinister charged with a rose Argent, standing on a rocky mound proper above barry wavy Azure and Argent;


The chevron division represents an "A", referring to the initial letter of the Society’s name and the scholar and scribe after whom it is named. The hand press symbolizes the production of fine books, while the books themselves refer to writing, publishing, reading, book collecting, book binding and the encouragement of the arts associated with literature.

The maple leaves and dogwood refer to the Society’s foundation in Vancouver and its outreach in Canada. The compositor is a version of an emblem that the Society has used for many years and refers to the complex intellectual work required in the early period of hand press printing.

The owls represent wisdom and learning. The quill and the knife are the traditional tools of the calligrapher and refer to Alcuin’s pivotal role in the creation of new letterforms that are the basis of good communication. The rocks symbolize the firm foundation on which the Society is built, and the wavy bars the waters around Vancouver, where it was established, as well as a principal medium for the creation of fine papers.

This means "Good books well made", a summary of key elements of the Society’s philosophy: the beauty of good books and all the crafts and arts which are involved in their creation and production and the many pleasures books give."

The original grant is shown on the Society's website. (with a clickable image)

Ivan Sache, 3 August 2010