The BSC Remembers William F. E. Morley

The Bibliographical Society of Canada celebrates the life and mourns the passing of William F.E. Morley. Bibliographer, author, and veteran, he left an indelible mark on our Society and on the field of bibliographical studies and librarianship in Canada.

William Felix Edmund (Bill) Morley, the elder of two sons to Felix Morley and Maud Williams, was born in London, England on September 25, 1920. A member of the RAF during the Second World War, he first came to Canada under the British Commonwealth Air Training Program. He served in the Air Force from 1940 to 1946 and returned to Canada in 1947, enrolling in the University of Toronto in 1948 on a veterans’ grant. He graduated with an honours B.A. in 1952. He then attended library school at the University of Toronto in 1952-53, graduating with a B.L.S. Fellow students included a future dean of the school, Brian Land, and Bill’s first wife, Mae. Some year later, when working in the United States, he started, but did not complete a master’s degree in literature; he achieved the degree at Queen’s University during an education sabbatical, shortly before his retirement.

His first positions were in Montreal, where he became a naturalized citizen in 1955. In 1959 the family moved to Providence, R.I., where Bill had been appointed to the position of bibliographer at the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University. He found the work stimulating but the family wished to return to Canada, and in 1964 he was appointed bibliographer, later curator, of special collections at the Douglas Library, Queen’s University, Kingston, where he remained until his retirement in 1985.

Bill’s deep and abiding interest in history, local history, geography and place-name nomenclature continued well into his retirement, and can be seen in some of his bibliographies and his membership in societies such as the Canadian Historical Association, the Ontario Historical Society and the Kingston Historical Society. His many bibliographical publications include: The Atlantic Provinces: Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island (UTP, 1967) La province de Quebec (with André Beaulieu, UTP, 1971), A Bibliographical Study of Major John Richardson (BSC-SbC, 1973) and Ontario and the Canadian North (UTP, 1978). Morley also edited a revised version of Freda Farrell Waldon’s Bibliography of Canadiana published in Great Britain, 1519-1763 (National Library of Canada, ECW Press, 1990).

He had strong views on education for librarianship, espousing the need for increased professionalism and favouring the role of the scholar librarian and “bookman” over mere bureaucratic manager. Fullest evidence of this is demonstrated in his own career and published work. His interest in promoting communication between librarians, researchers, and booksellers resulted in his founding Canadian Notes & Queries in 1968.

He shared these characteristics with those who worked for him or with whom he came in contact — librarians, bibliographers, researchers, booksellers, local historians, specialized publishers such as Nick and Helma Mika, and many others — giving praise where praise was due, advice as it might be needed, and often going out of his way to provide support and encouragement of worthwhile efforts.

Bill became a member of the BSC-SbC in 1957, and joined Council as book review editor in 1968. He was second Vice-President in 1968-69, first Vice-President in 1970-71, President in 1972-73, and served on Council in 1974 and 1975. He was the Society’s official delegate to the National Library’s Committee for Bibliographical Services for Canada in the late 1970s.

During his presidency he called for design changes to the Society’s logo and letterhead which are still used today, arranged for the archiving of the Society’s papers at Queen’s University, and steadily promoted the idea of a newsletter to keep members informed. The Bulletin was instituted in 1973.

He received the Tremaine Medal for services to bibliography in 1977, and was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal in the same year. In 2003, Bill and his second wife, Beth Watters Morley, created and endowed the Watters Morley Prize. He was made an honorary member of the Bibliographical Society of Canada in 2007.

Bill died peacefully in Kingston, Ontario on Tuesday, 19 December 2017 at the age of 97. A Memorial Reception will be held at the James Reid Funeral Home Reception & Celebration Centre on 20 January 2018. For more details, see:


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