Local land trust to benefit from rare book auction

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Jane Topping was well known in the Gananoque and Leeds Township and Thousand Islands (TLTI) area as an environmentalist. She volunteered for the former Leeds and Grenville Stewardship Council and was involved in many organizations. As a member of the Rideau Lakes Artists’ Association, his art was appreciated and was also found at the VAGA gallery in Gananoque. Upon his death, his farm property, home, and buildings were donated to the Thousand Islands Watershed Land Trust (TIWLT), to be forever preserved and protected as a natural area.

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“Jane Topping was a woman from Athens who had a long history of supporting nature,” said Calder Schweitzer, executive director of TIWLT. “She was a member of TIWLT and a general nature supporter. She has been involved with many organizations whose goals are close to TIWLT, including serving on the board of directors of the Cataraqui Region Conservation Authority, Friends of Lake Charleston Park, and Biosphere of the Arch of Frontenac. She was also president of the Ontario Federation of Naturalists, now known as Ontario Nature.

“(Topping)’s legacy is long and storied – she was a champion of nature. She touched many environmental projects in her life, but with TIWLT, her legacy lies in the property she donated shortly after. time before her death. The property covers 111 acres of provincially significant forest and wetlands, with a historic farmhouse and barn also on the property. As part of this gift, she also created the Jane Topping Environmental Legacy Fund, which funded the work we did to turn the property into a nature education center and will continue to fund the maintenance and use of the property.

Her legacy included the contents of buildings she asked to sell to help provide funds to support TIWLT. The buildings contain many items of interest, including antiques and books. Among them is an exciting and rare volume of art prints titled Solstice by Roy Henry Vickers.

A rare copy of Roy Henry Vickers' ÒSolstice' book has been donated to the Thousand Islands Watershed Land Trust as part of the Jane Topping Estate.  This solid maple box was designed to house and protect the volume.Lorraine Payette/for Postmedia Network
A rare copy of Roy Henry Vickers’ ÒSolstice’ book has been donated to the Thousand Islands Watershed Land Trust as part of the Jane Topping Estate. This solid maple box was designed to house and protect the volume.Lorraine Payette/for Postmedia Network Photo by Lorraine Payette /for the postmedia network

“The book is honestly unlike anything I’ve seen before,” Schweitzer said. “The construction, the quality and its limited nature make it a real treasure in my eyes. From the first time I saw it, I knew it was an important piece, and everyone I’ve shown it to since has had the same reaction. This is remarkable.

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“The book is truly extraordinary and amazing – just amazing,” said Dennis O’Connor, owner of the O’Connor Gallery. “This book in particular was made entirely with a West Coast bent. The cover itself is not only covered in beautiful grained leather on the spine, but the top of the book is actually salmon leather, something I had never heard of, but obviously it becomes even more obvious they were talking about the west coast when you see this. The cover of the book is quite thick – they actually carved into the book and made an indentation where they could mount this medallion. The locket is real gold designed by the artist (Vickers). The medallion has been minted and each of the books in this limited series has one of these medallions. The onion papers between each image are all premium quality and acid free. The images are amazing – everything traditional. Haida drawings, illustrations and paintings that the artist created himself with quite a few beautiful colors. It is an absolutely inspiring book. To top it off, it’s kept in a solid maple case with the title engraved on it. It’s what’s protected it all these years, because whoever bought it obviously didn’t open it – there’s no sign of any turned pages or cracked spine.

O’Connor said he’s unsure of the true value of such work, but believes $5,000 is a good starting point. It is duly signed by the artist in pencil and is numbered 76 out of 1,000 copies.

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“Vickers was born in 1946 and is a recipient of the Order of British Columbia and the Order of Canada,” Schweitzer said. “His work has been the official government gift to foreign dignitaries such as Bill Clinton, Boris Yeltsin and Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. An engraver, sculptor, painter and designer, consignment pieces of his work have sold for up to $4,800 Her work reflects her mixed heritage.While her work has many elements of (the) traditional art of Pacific Northwest First Nations, it is quite distinctive.

A rare copy of Roy Henry Vickers' ÒSolstice' book has been donated to the Thousand Islands Watershed Land Trust as part of the Jane Topping Estate.  A gold medallion designed by the artist is mounted on the cover of the book.Lorraine Payette/for Postmedia Network
A rare copy of Roy Henry Vickers’ ÒSolstice’ book has been donated to the Thousand Islands Watershed Land Trust as part of the Jane Topping Estate. A gold medallion designed by the artist is mounted on the cover of the book.Lorraine Payette/for Postmedia Network Photo by Lorraine Payette /for the postmedia network

The book is a collaborative piece containing over 100 high quality prints created by Vickers. All craftsmen who participated in the production of the printing and binding are fully acknowledged and credited. Although it would be of interest to art collectors around the world, O’Connor believes it has special significance for Canada’s west coast and hopes it will be purchased and enjoyed there as an important part of their heritage.

“We’re going to do some further research on this and I have a call from the National Archives,” O’Connor said. “A Canadian auction is more likely to jump on it than anyone else. Especially one from the West because it’s from there and it’s their culture, their heritage.

“The cause of land trusts is incredible, and this sale would be a win-win situation for everyone. Whoever buys it will have something that is truly a treasure. And the money they put into it will go to an absolutely wonderful organization that is actually working to preserve the lands as well as the islands that we have here in the St. Lawrence. I don’t think anyone can be generous enough.

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“There are other things that you know might not be as beautiful or as valuable. It means it feels good and brings something back to the earth. I think that’s great.

The book is not on public display and arrangements would need to be made with TIWLT to view it. However, the opportunity to see such a magnificent piece is more than worth the difficulty involved.

“TIWLT is doing so many incredibly good things for the community as a whole and for the country,” O’Connor said. “It’s a wonderful thing and it’s an organization that’s always on the lookout for money, so if anyone has more treasures like this to share, they’d be honored to have them. I really think this particular item should fetch a pretty good dollar, which would be even more beneficial for the organization to continue its good works. I’m really happy to be able to help them in any way I can.

To learn more about TIWLT and how you can help, visit tiwlt.ca/.

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