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Dora Ridout, daughter of George and Elizabeth Ridout, was born in Toronto on January 23, 1885. She received a private education in Canada and England and graduated from Havergal College in 1905. Dora travelled extensively until her marriage to physician Frederick C. Hood on December 2, 1918. Her son Wharton and daughter Mary Glen were young children when she became a widow in 1927.
Dora Hood found a practical means of supplementing her income in 1928 by purchasing a small mail-order book business from a friend and opened the Book Room, located in her home at 730 Spadina Avenue in Toronto. She quickly mastered the details and intricacies of antiquarian bookselling by utilizing her love of books, her meticulous research skills, retentive memory, natural business acumen and understanding of human nature. Dora Hood was one of the first bookdealers in Toronto to specialize in rare and out-of-print Canadiana. Her first catalogue of Canadiana and Americana was printed in 1929 and her business flourished as her reputation grew in the Canadian book trade. She was agent for twelve major American libraries and her clientele included large academic and public libraries, private collectors and the general public. Dora Hood began compiling an extensive card catalogue in 1948 and became a charter member of the Canadian Retail Booksellers Association in 1951. Dora Hood's Book Room obtained a royal warrant from Buckingham Palace to acquire Canadiana. Dora retired in 1954, selling her thriving business to Dr. William S. Wallace, retired chief librarian at the University of Toronto. The Book Room moved to 34 Ross Street in 1963 and subsequent owners included Julia Jarvis, Jean Tweed and Lawrence Cooper until its closure early in 1982.
Dora Hood provided an intimate view of her experiences as an antiquarian bookseller in her book, The side door: twenty six years in my Book Room, published in 1958. Her book is interspersed with many colourful and lively anecdotes about famous authors, book collectors and collections as well as famous events. She wrote candidly about her apprenticeship to the book trade, how and why she acquired collections of books, how she learned to evaluate and accurately price volumes and gave insightful details about her colleagues and clients. In 1964, her second book, Davidson Black : a biography, was published. Her aim was to shed light on the life and scientific career of this relatively obscure Canadian anatomist and anthropologist, heralded worldwide as the discoverer of Peking man in 1929. Her brief biography is well written, collecting the scattered records of Black's life and full of scientific and human interest. She later wrote essays and conducted historical research.
She was an active member of the Ontario Historical Society, the Architectural Conservancy of Ontario, the Royal Ontario Museum and the Canadian Hearing Society until her death on March 8, 1974 in Toronto. Dora Hood will be long remembered as a pioneer bookseller specializing in Canadiana, for her contributions to Canadian bibliography and especially for her unique book highlighting the antiquarian book trade in Canada. Many of her publications enrich the Canadiana collection of the National Library and a nearly complete run of her catalogues is also held by the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library of the University of Toronto.