OTD: Great Canadian novelist born in Thamesville, Ont.

On today’s date in 1913, Canadian novelist, playwright, critic, journalist, and professor William Robertson Davies was born in Thamesville, Ont.

Issued 100 years after the date of his birth, a 63-cent stamp (Scott #2660) celebrates Davies life, during which he rose to become a prominent author and founder of master of Massey College. Printed by Lowe-Martin on Tullis Russell paper using six-colour lithography, one foil stamping and embossing plus varnish, this stamp has simulated perforations and general tagging along each side. Issued in booklet panes of 10 stamp, this issue had a print run of two million.

When Davies’ father purchased the Kingston Whig-Standard in 1925, the family made the move to Kingston, Ont. Davies attended Toronto’s Upper Canada College and then Queen’s University before receiving his Bachelor of Literature from the University of Oxford’s Balliol College in 1938. While in the U.K., he met and married stage manager Brenda Mathews.

The stamps were issued in booklet panes of 10.

The stamps were issued in booklet panes of 10 (SC #2660a).


In 1940, Davies returned to Canada as literary editor of Saturday Night, and in 1942, became editor, and then publisher, of the Peterborough Examiner. He published 18 books, produced several of his own plays and served on the board of the Stratford Festival.

By the 1960s, Davies was teaching at Trinity College. In 1961, he became the founding master of Massey College, which opened in 1963.

In 1970, Davies published his best known novel, Fifth Business, which appeared on the Toronto Star bestseller list for nearly a year. It was followed by The Manticore (1972) and World of Wonders (1975), which became known as The Deptford Trilogy.

“The typography is based on Carl Dair’s Cartier, acknowledged as Canada’s first typeface. Dair’s important type archive and a press donated by Davies’ father are housed in the Robertson Davies Library at Massey College,” said designer Steven Slip. “As a cultural luminary who helped to form the Canadian identity, a portrait of him by Yousuf Karsh was essential. The stamp frames an all-knowing academic figure, with his trademark beard worthy of a mythic god.”

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