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 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 rarities include W.W.E.
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.
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.
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'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.