The Sir William Dawson Pamphlet Collection was acquired in 1901 with the rest of his library. Dawson (1820-1899) was an eminent nineteenth-century geologist and Principal of McGill University (1854-1893). The collection consists of some 1762 items in thirty-one bound volumes and fifty-one pamphlet boxes. It includes off-prints and pamphlets on scientific subjects a substantial number of which bear presentation inscriptions. Sixteen pamphlet boxes contain items by Dawson himself and one box material about him. There are a few letters bound in.
The David Hume Collection has its origins in the chance discovery by Professor Raymond Klibansky of Hume's own copy of the Olivetus edition of Cicero's works (Paris, 1740-1741) in a cupboard at the Faculty Club in 1946. (See: Raymond Klibansky, "Hidden Treasures at McGill", Fontanus vol. II (1989), 79.) Professor Klibansky also describes in this article some of the other books from Hume's library held by McGill and some of the manuscript letters in the Hume Collection (79-82). Following this discovery, Professor Klibansky with Professors J.W.A. Hickson and Charles W.
The collection constitutes part of the personal library of the Canadian poet Ralph Gustafson (1909-1995). He began to collect seriously during the Second World War as part of his work on an anthology, the Penguin Book of Canadian Verse. The collection was acquired in 1991 and has been kept as a unit. It consists of volumes of Canadian poetry covering the century, or so, from roughly 1880 to 1980. It is rich in presentation and association copies and contains most of the rarest books of Canadian verse since the time of the Confederation poets.
The Division has some 1100 guidebooks. One of the earliest Canadian guidebooks is Gideon Miner Davison, The Fashionable Tour: A Guide to Travellers Visiting the Middle and Northern States, and the Provinces of Canada 4th edition (Saratoga Springs: 1830). There are many nineteenth century guidebooks for Great Britain, such as: Oxford University and City Guide (Oxford: Munday and Slatter, 1818); Ludlow Guide, 4th edition. (Ludlow: H. Procter, 1831); Black's Picturesque Tourist of Scotland, 8th ed. (Edinburgh: Adam and Charles Black, 1850).
The collection was purchased in 1954 and includes over four hundred books on Shakespeare, his plays and the Elizabethan theatre; and some two hundred pamphlets, reviews, transcripts of lectures, magazine articles and brochures, for the years between 1850 and 1950 from Chamber's library. There is the Jahrbuch der Deutschen Shakespeare-Gesellschaft (1865-1929) and the fifteen facsimiles of the Shakespeare Association. (1931-1938).
Rare Books holds some 140 incunabula, the earliest being Paulus de Sancta Maria Scrutinium scripturarum (Strasbourg: Johann Mentelin, not after 1470). The first incunabulum acquired by the McGill library was a copy of Jacobus de Voragine, Legenda aurea (Basel: [Michael Wenssler], 1490). It came with the bequest of the library of John Robson, M.D. of Warrington, England in 1877. Italian and German printing is particularly well represented as are theology, the classics and Italian literature.
In 1991 Rare Books acquired this Thomas Chatterton Collection containing books by and about the English poet Thomas Chatterton (1752-1770). The collection of forty-nine items includes first editions of The Auction: A Poem (1770), The Execution of Sir Charles Bawdin (1772) and The Revenge (1795); and a copy of the second edition of the Poems, Supposed to Have Been Written at Bristol, By Thomas Rowley (1778 — the first and third were already among holdings of Rare Books).
The Indic manuscripts cover a variety of languages and traditions of India and Southeast Asia. There are approximately two hundred texts in Sanskrit, Pali and other languages. Both Hindu and Buddhist religious texts are represented as well as some secular texts. Almost half of the collection is composed of palm leaf manuscripts (olas).
The cookbook collection was formed in the late 1960s and concentrates on Canadian, American and British material. It now contains over 1700 titles. The core of the collection is primarily twentieth-century material, but there are significant nineteenth-century holdings including a long run of editions and revisions of Mrs. Beaton's Book of Household Management (first published in 1859). As well, there are a few eighteenth century books.
The collection holds a number of interesting Italian manuscripts from the late fifteenth to the early nineteenth centuries. These include literary, historical and theological works and some archival material (primarily of the sixteenth century).
The children's books collection is composed of some 3,000 volumes. While these are primarily nineteenth- and twentieth-century books, there is a small number of eighteenth-century items. The collection encompasses a wide diversity of material including alphabets, fiction, poetry, education, science, annuals, moral instruction and examples of horn books. There is a long run of variant issues and editions of the books of G.A Henty. The collection also includes some 342 Soviet children's books from the 1920s to the 1940s that are of particular interest for their graphic design.
The Rare Books Collection (now housed in Rare Books and Special Collections, McLennan-Redpath Building, 4th floor) contains many early printed books and lithographs, as well as 226 volumes of manuscripts. Among the early printed books published in Europe there are at least six dating from the 16th century, 36 titles printed in the 17th century and some 144 from the 18th century.
The 52 titles in this collection include many first and early editions of Burton's works. A number of the volumes have the bookplate of the Canadian financier Sir George Stephen, Bart (Lord Mount Stephen, 1829-1921). Other titles and editions of Burton's works are in the general rare book collection.
Records for the holdings are in the McGill Library on-line catalogue.
The Islamic manuscripts fall into three groups: Arabic, Persian and Turkish. The Arabic manuscripts, some thirty-three codices, are mostly Korans and tracts on Sufiism and Shiite sects. In addition, there is a collection of over two hundred pieces of Arabic calligraphy. There are some thirty-five Persian codices, primarily poetry, and about a hundred separate leaves, many containing miniature paintings. Among the latter is one leaf dated to the thirteenth century and a leaf from the Demotte "Shahnama", c. 1350.
The collection holds three large archives of British political papers and a number of smaller collections and single manuscripts covering the period from the late Middle Ages to the early twentieth century. Some of these materials are copies of official documents and others are private papers, and there are a number of interesting eighteenth-century collectanea containing material from earlier periods.
The collection of the American designer, illustrator and author Edward Gorey (1925-2000) consists of books by and/or illustrated by him. The books, of which there are eighty-eight volumes, are mostly first editions and date from the period ca 1950 to 1980. As well, there is a small body of ephemera including book jackets by and articles about Gorey.
The collection was established ca 1969. It includes examples of the wood engravings of Thomas and John Bewick of Newcastle, England, from the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Both monographs (89) illustrated by them and scrapbooks of examples of their work are present. Of particular interest is the recently acquired 1826 edition of A History of British Birds. It is heavily annotated throughout, with notes on the impression of the plates, the descriptions of the birds and the order of the entries on almost every page.
The collection's holdings of English literary papers are diverse. The earliest item is four leaves from a fifteenth-century copy of John Lydgate's translation of Boccaccio's The Fall of Princes. The rest of the material is of a much later date, primarily of the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Poetry, including some anonymous collectanea, is especially well represented. For example, there is an interesting early eighteenth-century manuscript containing a version of Yarico to Inkle: An Epistle attributed to Edward Moore.
The collection was established in the late 1970s. Books with decorated cloth bindings were gathered from uncatalogued materials, including donations. The collection has been added to subsequently by purchase and donation. The collection is composed of some 1100 volumes significant for their decorated (pictorial or lettered) cloth bindings published between 1850 and 1950. The bulk of the collection falls between approximately 1890 and 1920. The collection is arranged chronologically and access is through card files of main entries and illustrators.
Rare Books has significant holdings of eighteenth-century French literature including thirty-seven original and later editions of many of the works by Nicolas-Edme Restif de la Bretonne. For Louis Sébastien Mercier there are four eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century editions of L'an deux mille quatre cent quarante as well as two English translations from the same period and other works. Other authors represented include Crébillon Père (1674-1762), Jean-Baptiste Rousseau, Bernard de Fontenelle, Mme.
Rodolphe Joubert donated his collection to the library in 1979. It consists of over 3000 books, pamphlets and periodicals, almost entirely in French. The collection documents the history of Quebec mainly from the 1860s to the 1970s and includes material on French Canadian politics, economics and cultural life. There are some eighteenth-century items as well. Of particular note are the Quebec parish histories. Records for the holdings are in the McGill Library on-line catalogue.
This collection was acquired in 1969. The collection comprises some 687 items dating from the 1920s to the 1960s. Much of the material is from the United States including a long run of pamphlets by the American Communist Earl Browder. Other material comes from China, the former Soviet Union (including a series of pamphlets by Joseph Stalin), India and other countries. There are numerous reports of Communist Party meetings from various countries. All of the material is in English.
The Print Collection includes approximately 1000 Canadian prints. Historical prints include Hervey Smyth's Six Views of the Most Remarkable Places of the Gulf and Rivers St. Lawrence (published in 1760), Richard Short's Twelve Views of the Principal Buildings in Quebec... (1761), a hand-coloured set of twenty-three lithographs, Sketches in the Canadas, (1840) after drawings by Coke Smyth, and a set of four Montreal street scenes, drawn by John Murray and engraved and published by Adolphus Bourne in the early 1840s.
A representative selection of the papers of nineteenth and twentieth century Canadian authors is held among the private papers and archives. This material includes single items, small bodies of private papers and a number of large archives for both major and minor figures. The holdings are particularly strong in poetry.
The holdings of private papers and archives relevant to Canadian history are extensive. They can be grouped under a number of subjects: the fur trade and early business papers, family papers, politics etc.
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