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Visual History of Canada (Signed)
FINE ART PRINTS. New York, 1946. First edition lithograph of the history and heraldry of the great North American nation. From the Visual History of Nations series.
Arthur Szyk presents the heritage of Canada with a verdant collage, resplendent with deep red, green, brown, and golden hues evocative of its national symbol, the maple, and rich with icons of Canada’s European ancestry.
At top center, to the left of the central shield, a lion holds a lance flying the Royal Union Flag (the Union Jack). The lion and Union Jack stand for the United Kingdom. To the right, a lance bearing a blue flag with 3 gold fleurs-de-lis represents France. That lance is held by a unicorn symbolizing Scotland. The central shield carries four additional national symbols: three gold lions passant on a red background (England), a gold harp on blue background (Ireland), a red lion rampant on gold background (Scotland) and fleurs-de-lis (France). Beneath them three maple leaves represent Canada.
Under the shield in Latin is Canada’s motto: A Mari usque ad Mare (From Sea to Sea). It is surrounded by flora further referencing Canada’s cultural past: the red Tudor rose, the purple Scottish thistle, the green Irish shamrocks, and the French gold and white fleurs-de-lis. They also appear throughout the illustration, in the other provinces’ shields and in the borders.
Clockwise from top right are shields of arms for Canada’s (then) nine provinces: Nova Scotia, Alberta, Ontario, New Brunswick, Quebec, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Prince Edward Island. They each bear a European marker (e.g., the lion passant, seen in the shields for Prince Edward Island, Quebec, and New Brunswick). The red cross on white background is the Cross of St. George (England); the blue cross on white background is the Cross of St. Andrew (Scotland). Furthermore, the shields give testimony to the regions’ natural resources such as bison (Manitoba), agricultural fecundity (wheat in the shields of Saskatchewan and Alberta), and water (New Brunswick and British Columbia).
On the far left is a portrait of General James Wolfe; opposite him is the Marquis de Montcalm. During the final French and Indian War (which became part of the Seven Years War, the first global conflict), both generals led forces against the other in the Battle of the Plains of Abraham (September 13, 1759). The battle removed Quebec City from French control and strengthened the pathway of British rule over Canada. It also ended Wolfe’s and Montcalm’s lives.
A member of the Royal Mounted Police (the “Mounties”) and a Native American are prominently displayed at center bottom. The beavers below them are a longtime symbol of Canadian economic and national development.
Visual History of Canada. First edition lithograph [Visual History of Nations series]. New York, 1946. Publisher: K. Bileski; Printer: Herman Jaffe. SIGNED by Arthur Szyk. Image measures: 6 inches x 8½ inches. Sheet measures: 10 inches x 11½ inches. Fine condition.
Note: The left margin of this lithograph is wider than the right. All lithographs in the Visual History of Nations series were printed in this fashion, as they were commissioned as frontispieces for bound stamp albums. A wider margin on the edge closest to the binding allows both margins to appear equal when matted.
Publishing History: Arthur Szyk's Visual History of Nations series consists of highly illuminated and brilliantly designed visual histories of individual founding and member countries of the United Nations. This series of images was commissioned in 1945 by Canadian philatelist and entrepreneur Kasimir Bileski and was originally referred to as The United Nations Series. Each print was created as an exquisite frontispiece and title page for a unique international stamp album. All images reflect the artistic genius of the 20th century’s greatest miniaturist illuminator and painter.
Of the approximately 60 colorful and highly detailed images commissioned by Bileski, only nine countries were completed (plus the History of Flight) and printed prior to Szyk’s sudden death in 1951.
Identification of the Graphics and Symbols of The Visual History of Canada (see below for key):
1. Imperial Crown
2. Coat of Arms of Canada with the British lion, the Scottish unicorn, the Canadian maple leaf, and the Arms of England, Scotland, Ireland, and France
3. The Union Jack, flag of Great Britain
4. The fleur-de-lis, symbol of France
5. “From sea to sea,” the motto of Canada
6. Arms of Prince Edward Island
7. Arms of Manitoba
8. Arms of Saskatchewan
9. Arms of British Columbia
10. Arms of Quebec
11. Arms of New Brunswick
12. Arms of Ontario
13. Arms of Alberta
14. Arms of Nova Scotia
15. Native Indian
16. Mounted policeman
17. The beaver, symbol of economic development in early Canadian history
18. The maple leaf, the national emblem
19. The British General James Wolfe
20. The French General Marquis de Montcalm
21. From left to right, the Irish shamrock, the French fleur-de-lis, the English Tudor rose, and the Scottish thistle