Bookends

1990s

Bookends

Era: 

  • 1982 - 2000
  • jewelled standing globe with black background

    The Great Globe from the book, The Crown Jewels of Iran

  • book jacket

    The beautiful book - "Homage to Heaven; Homage to Earth"

A quarter of a century after leaving the ROM, I realised a dream that began soon after I arrived there. It was to publish at last the beautiful and informative book the Museum's stupendous Chinese collection deserves. In 1990 or thereabouts, I approached the staff of the Far Eastern Department with a plan. Henry Trubner had left long before to take up a position in Seattle. The new curator waas Doris Dohrenwend. She and her colleagues greeted the idea enthusiastically. From then on the carried the ball, first selecting the most appropriate or important objects in each class, a task made difficult by competing claims within a necessarily limited number of illustrations. At the same time they secured a grant from the Polaroid Company for photography. For each object the curators provided a full technical cataligue description. And for each  of the 140 colour plates they prepared a general text for a general public, setting each object in the social and historical context within which it was created. Patty Proctor, for example, did an outstanding job of describing, in thirty-six pages of text and illustrations, the entire history of Chinese ceramics. I acted simply as impresario and cheerleader in monthly meetings with the authors, and as editor as each sectioon of the main text was completed. My colleagues at the [University of Toronto] Press dealt with the technical descriptions and endnotes. "Homage to Heaven, Homage to Earth: Chinese Treasures of the Royal Ontario Museum" was reviewed as "a surprise and a joy," "a regal treatment" with an "outpouring of interesting information...staying free of museological mustiness while sustaining a respectably serious tone throughout."

By the time it was formally launched, I had retired from the Press after twenty years as editor-in-chief and was out of the country, That was the last book I edited there. The first one I had edited at the Press was the "Crown Jewels of Iran". I had cut my book publishing teeth at the Royal Ontario Museum in the 1960s. It was fitting that beautiful publications from the ROM should be the bookends of my subsequent career.

Copyright Ian Montagnes 2013

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