Treasures of the Library

Beaver fleuron

The Library of Parliament’s preservation laboratory has been providing bookbinding services for over a century. Some records suggest the bindery service began around the time of binder Thomas C. W. Lynton, who was employed by the Library from 1885 to 1922.

Today, the laboratory has an impressive range of tools, including finishing tools, engraved ornamental tools (also called fleurons), gilding rolls and an extensive catalogue of typefaces for gilding.  It also has machines such as a cutter, a guillotine and presses. These tools and machines, which can handle both craft and industrial binding, mostly date back to the early days of the laboratory and are still used today.

Since the 1920s, one of the most-used tools has been the beaver fleuron. This special stamp is applied to the spines of books bound by the Library of Parliament’s preservation laboratory. The beaver is imprinted on the binding by gold tooling. This process uses heat and pressure to apply gold leaf with the fleuron.

The beaver fleuron has evolved over time. At least five versions of the design have been used, each during a different period. All versions share certain features, such as elements of the beaver’s natural habitat.

Details

  • The fleurons are made of bronze or brass. Some versions also have a wooden handle.
  • There are two sizes: the one with a 1.5-cm diameter is used for smaller books and the one with a 2-cm diameter is used for larger books.
  • Before the industrial era, bronze fleurons were engraved by hand. Imprints were done with 24-carat pure gold leaf. Nowadays, fleurons are industrially engraved by laser, and the gold leaf is made of an aluminium-based compound.
  • The beaver has been an iconic symbol of Canada for several centuries because of its role in the country’s development and history.

 

Engraved ornamental tool: The beaver fleuron
Beaver fleurons
Various versions of beaver engravings on books
Various versions of beaver engravings
Hot press used for stamping  the beaver. When imprinting, the beaver fleuron must be placed upside down
Hot press used for stamping the beaver. When imprinting, the beaver fleuron must be placed upside down.