04 January 2013

Mr. Steven Against Company Policy

Thanks goes out to Jim B. for helping to identify the artist behind the handsome jacket to Philip Child's Mr. Ames Against Time, the subject of Wednesday's post. He is Arthur Steven, who from 1947 to 1970 served as Art Director of Ryerson Press. Mr Steven's illustration is wider than previously pictured, stretching from the spine to just inside the front flap. Clicking on the cover below will bring a nice-sized image.

Captured is the novel's opening scene:
The court-house clock boomed five times and Mr. Ames performed the rite of taking out his watch. It never failed to give him a small satisfaction to find that his watch was exactly on time, for he was a man who liked things in order: watch in order, clothes however shabby in order, conscience neatly in order.
   A dog chased a cat across Mr. Ames' path...
At the right, we can see the Urania Burlesque Theatre, at which Mr. Ames serves as doorman.

Randall Speller has written a very fine piece on the artist, "Arthur Steven at the Ryerson Press: Designing the Post-War Years (1949-1969)" (Papers of the Bibliographical Society of Canada/Cahiers De La Société Bibliographique Du Canada, Fall/Automne 2003), in which we find this:
In opposition to company policy during these early years, Steven was able to discreetly insert his name or an initial on the occasional dust jacket or illustration, something that appears to have been easier in the early 1950s. The jackets for Philip Child's Mr. Ames against Time [sic] (1949), J.V. McAree's Cabbagetown Store (1953), and William Arthur Deacon's The 4 Jameses (1953), among others, are signed "Steven" in very small letters; Isabelle Hughes' The Wise Brother (1954) and the map endpapers of Marjorie Freeman Campbell's Niagara: Hinge of the Golden Arc (1958) are signed with a very small 'S' in the lower right corner. These "signatures" are the first indicators of a consistent design presence at Ryerson in the post-Thoreau MacDonald years.
This, of course, has sent me running to the bookcase. Sure enough, I found "STEVEN" by the side of the road on the cover of Cabbagetown Store.

On the jacket he produced for Ryerson's The 4 Jamesesa favourite, "STEVEN" can be seen near the bottom right-hand corner.

And, also bottom right, there's that "S" on the cover of The Wise Brother.

I found no other jackets signed "STEVEN" or "S" in my modest collection of Ryerson Press books – just forty-two in all – but that doesn't mean I won't keep looking.

Related post:


  1. Hi Brian, Great to see this. You might like to know that Arthur Steven, my dad, is still alive (at 94) and in fact has a new painting exhibition coming up in Toronto. It will be at the Edward Day Gallery (952 Queen West) opening on Sat. May 3d. I have a very basic Facebook page that will carry more details as the date approaches. Needless to say I also have a fairly large collection of Ryerson books, by no means complete, alas. Cheers, Peter (Steven)

    1. Wonderful news, Peter. I'm certain to visit. Best regards to your father, from an admirer!