There is a great variety of material—Canadian, English and European—in the collection documenting the history of the book. In addition to a number of single items and small collections including a copy of the will of Thomas Bewick's daughter Isabella (1883), a letter of Jean Baptiste Bodoni (1792), a letter of Fleury Mesplet (1789), and two letters of Brown and Gilmour (1768), there are a number of large archival collections. Of particular interest are the papers of the English book designer Christopher Sandford (c.
The bookplate collection comprises more than 6000 Canadian and non-Canadian bookplates. The bookplate collection of the Montrealer Philippe Masson (1911-1944), including both personal and institutional plates, contains the major portion of the Canadian bookplates, over 3000, and is arranged alphabetically. It was acquired in 1972. There are indexes to the Masson collection including ones for names, designers and mottoes and quotations. The rest of the bookplate collection is divided between armorial and non-armorial plates with the Canadian plates arranged separately.
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.
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 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 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 includes a large number of ephemeral items produced by flour mills, sugar refiners and manufacturers that include recipes.
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 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).
The collection of Crébillon fils (1701-1777) was acquired from a private collector in 1995. To this were added some titles and editions already held by Rare Books. The collection includes over sixty editions of Crébillon's various books, many of which are quite scarce. The collection is particularly rich in variants. For example, Le Sopha is present in three distinct issues of the first edition of 1742 as well as a separate edition of the same year. There is also an unrecorded 1782 edition of Le Sopha.