||Black ink on cream paper. Crest features a beaver lying on a crest-wreath. There are maple leaf branches extending from both sides of the beaver. The beaver is surrounded by a half-circle border with the motto in black, capitalized sans-serif font written across the arc. The shield is divided per fess, with the top half being further divided per pale and the upper left hand portion is divided into three horizontal sections. The topmost left hand section is argent with sable dots charged with two fleurs-de-lis. The middle left hand section is argent with sable stripes charged with a lion passant. The bottom left hand section is argent with sable dots charged with three maple leaves connected at the stem. The upper right hand side is argent charged with two pieces of equipment, one atop the other, and a pair of scissors below. The equipment has a small curved bottom with two long, curving handles on top with a spike pointing through the lower end of the handles. Below the top half is a thin black banner with white capitalized sans-serif text. Below the banner is an image of a natural forest and coastal landscape with a ship with two tall masts in the water. On the coast, there are people, possible colonizers, interacting. A large cross has been erected on the coast on the right hand side of the image. The dexter supporter and sinister supporter are moose standing a curling ribbon with text in capitalized black sans-serif font; Heraldic; Ownership
||Philéas Gagnon was a tailor, book collector, politician, and author. He was born on May 6 1854 in Quebec to Charles Gagnon and Hortense Caron. He married Annie M. Smith on January 29, 1883 and the couple had ten children.
Before attending Académie Commerciale Saint-Jean Baptiste, Gagnon studied with Charles Dion and Honoré Rousseau at Quebec. He apprenticed to become a tailor at age 15 and opened a business five years later at Rue Sainte-Marguerite and Rue Anne (Rue de la Chapelle). Around this time, he entered an exclusive and aristocratic book collector circle that also included Louis-Édouard Bois, Henri-Raymond Casgrain, Pierre-Joseph-Olivier Chauveau, and Narcisse-Henri-Édouard Faucher de Saint-Maurice.
Despite his limited schooling and modest income, Gagnon managed to build up a collection that came to be recognized by many as one of the best and most complete in the country. In 1885, Gagnon issued an annotated, systematic catalogue of his collection entitled Essai de bibliographie canadienne, which revealed the result of his passion for book collecting over the previous 20 years. Before this publication, the extent of Gagnon’s collection was only known to his closest friends. The publication revealed that Gagnon’s collection contained a huge and diverse range of materials, including manuscripts, books, pamphlets, newspapers, periodicals, prints, engravings, and portraits, that were published in or related to Quebec from the beginning of colonization to the late 19th century. The catalogue enhanced Gagnon’s reputation as an excellent scholar, researcher, and historian and resulted in his appointment to curator of the judicial archives of the Quebec district on February 18, 1898. On February 25, 1909 he became the assistant protonotary of the district’s Superior Court.
In addition to being a bibliophile, Gagnon also became interested in municipal politics. He was a councilor for the Jacques-Cartier ward from 1888-1892 and served as alderman from 1892 to 1896.
Additionally, Gagnon also regularly contributed to many historical magazines, particularly after the publication of Essai in 1895. He frequently wrote for Le Bulletin des recherches historiques and when not writing, was often cited. He also served on the editorial staff of the Quebec weekly L'Union libérale from 1888 to 1890, during which time he wrote a historical column under the pseudonym Biblo. Unsurprisingly, he belonged to several associations, including the Literary and Historical Society of Quebec, for which he held the position of museum curator from 1907. In 1908 he became an active member of the Geographical Society of Quebec and joined the board of directors in 1910. Gagnon also authored Québec il y a cent ans in 1909.
The question of what would become of his collection worried Gagnon greatly. In 1885 he began considering selling his collection, as evidenced by his decision to send sale catalogues to American libraries inviting them to borrow and examine his catalogue. He approached Quebec’s legislative library five years later, but later decided to go to the library of Pierre-Joseph-Olivier Chauveau instead. Gagnon’s library remained unsold and he increased his efforts. In 1905 he made an offer to the federal government that was rejected. Ultimately, the city of Montreal purchased Gagnon’s library in 1910 thanks to the offices of Abbé Nazaire Dubois, the principal of the École Normale Jacques-Cartier.
Gagnon’s collection was kept in storage until 1917, when a building for the Civic Library was erected. However, in 1913 a municipal librarian, Frédéric-Edmond Villeneuve used Gagnon’s bibliographical cards to complete the second volume of the Essai.
Before he could see his collection opened to the public, Gagnon died in Quebec on March 25, 1915. He was buried in Notre-Dame de Belmont cemetery at Sainte-Foy, Quebec on March 29.
Gagnon’s collection is now in the Archives de Montréal and the Bibliothèque et archives nationales du Québec. The Philéas Gagnon Fonds can be found at Library and Archives Canada.