Speech for Opening of “For the Love of Books”

Laura Estill, Erin Kelly, Robie Liscomb, and others at the Opening of “For the Love of Books”

It is my great pleasure to be here today to both celebrate a wonderful collection of books and to acknowledge the Köster family for their support for both the library and students at the University of Victoria

It has been a great pleasure to work with the books in the Köster gift. Sandra Friesen (my co-curator) and I have spent many happy mornings in this Reading Room, looking at each of the books that were once in Pat Köster’s personal libraries. Many of these books were, as it turned out, old friends that I’ve been using in English 500 for many years. Others have sparked new research, teaching, and supervisory possibilities. Every one of them is intrinsically interesting, but what you will see today represents only about 20% of the entire collection. As you might imagine, it was very hard to have to reshelve the other 80%.

We have chosen to display books that represent Pat’s teaching and research life, although her book collection as a whole suggests capacious and wide-ranging interests in history, law, biography, religion, philosophy, and foreign languages.

Her primary interest was the literature of the long eighteenth century. On the first table andKoster_ 021 on the display cart, you’ll see books from this period, including the second impression of the first edition of Alexander Pope’s Works, and a wonderful subscription copy of the first edition of Dryden’s translation of Virgil.  Also well represented in her collection are Dr. Swift, Dr. Arbuthnot, Laurence Sterne, and many other canonical writers.

Pat was one of the first scholars to become interested in eighteenth-century women writers, and you’ll also find books by Delariviere Manley, Susannah Centlivre, and Sarah Fielding on the first table. As feminist scholars, we were thrilled – but not surprised – to discover that Pat was one of the earliest scholars – the fourteenth, in fact – to use the word “feminism” in the title of a published essay. Her interest in women writers led her to conduct books, gossip, and women’s lives, which you’ll find on our second table.

Some of her other books speak to interest in religious writing. One real treasure of her collection – and indeed of UVic’s collection as a whole – is a 1526 Latin Vulgate Bible, which we’ve displayed alongside Greek and Gaelic Bibles. On the fourth table, we’ve displayed a selection of books on science, mathematics, secret lore, astronomy, and learned societies. In the display cases and on the front desk, you’ll find Classics.

Karl Köster and Janelle Jenstad

We are also here today to celebrate Pat’s family, Karl Koster in particular. Karl has been an excellent steward of Pat’s books, and made it possible for us to have Meadland Bindery conserve many of the volumes so that the texts will be available for research and teaching for many centuries to come.  On our fifth table, we’ve set out some “before and after” examples that show what good book conservation looks like. I’d encourage you to talk with Lorraine Butler, the Conservator, and have her show you her craftsmanship.

Finally, Pat was also a keen bibliographer and long-time teacher of the bibliography course. It was a thrill for me, as one of the current instructors of the bibliography course, to find Pat’s textbooks in the collection, with her own holograph notes in the margins and signature on the flyleaf of the book.

I was one of Pat’s last undergraduate students. It was because of her … and Tom Cleary and a few other people gathered here today … that I went off to graduate school to study eighteenth-century women writers. As luck would have it, I became a Shakespeare specialist, although I’ve never lost my love for those very long, juicy novels of society. And so, I happily agreed to advise on this exhibition.

As many of you know, Danielle Forster was going to curate this exhibition and write a catalogue. Her own untimely death in September jeopardized our plan. I, for one, have felt her absence very deeply this year, and was sorry not to learn the art of exhibit curation from her. However, Pat was a wonderful teacher, and the best lesson she taught me was to learn by doing. So I jumped in, and I hope that I’ve honoured Pat’s spirit in the process.

The current holder of the Köster Scholarship, Sandra Friesen, stepped forward to provide current expertise in eighteenth-century studies. As co-curator, she has worked tirelessly alongside me. I’m happy to say that she has earmarked (metaphorically, of course) many books that will serve her research projects. I extend my heartfelt thanks to her for sharing this project with me.

I also want to thank Jillian Phillips, Alexandra Coates, and Kevin Elliott for their help in setting up the exhibition, and the undergraduate students who are posted at each table.

Thank you all for coming to honour Pat and Karl Köster today!