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 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.
There are some excellent maps of London and Paris, as well as some regional plans of England and France. Louis Bretez's Plan de Paris (Paris, 1739) is a magnificent bird's-eye view. Joseph Nicolas de L'Isle's Atlas Russicus (St. Petersburg, 1745) exemplifies the French contribution to Russian cartography. Dmitriy Petin's [General map of the Russian Empire] (Moscow, 1785) is an important example of Russian cartography.
The European section of the Collection, consisting of over 2,000 prints, includes works by some of the most renowned figures in the history of prints, such as Albrecht Dürer, Jacques Callot, Giovanni Battista Piranesi, and Wenceslaus Hollar. Modern European printmaking is represented by works by Stanley Anderson, Seymour Haden, Albert Besnard, Edgar Chahine, Felix Braquemond, and others.
The strength of the collection is the discovery and exploration of North America. Among the earliest accounts of voyages to North America is Ramusio's Navagationi et Viaggi (Venice, 1556). Maps of discovery include Cornelius Claesz's Nova Francia (Amsterdam, 1594), Willem Barents Deliniatio Cartae trium navagationum (1598) and Hessel Gerritsz's Tabula Nautica (Amsterdam, 1612). Manuscript plans of New France by Jehan Bourdon dated 1635-1642, are also worthy of mention.
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 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 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 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. Specimens of early Arabic typography include 16 items published in the early 18th century in Constantinople (Istanbul) by the celebrated Turkish printer Ibrahim Müteferrika, and a sizeable number of Bulaq imprints.
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).