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Letter to the editor
To the editor:
"McGill University is a rich storehouse for rare, precious and unusual materials which have been collected over a century and a half by generous donors, librarians, archivists, curators, faculty and citizens." Thus began the editorial in the first issue, 1988, of Fontanus, a literary journal devoted to "The collections of McGill University," founded by Dr. Hans Möller, at that time, director of the McGill Libraries.
Volume I of Fontanus contained 10 articles — 130 pages — on subjects as diverse as Tudor and Stuart History, The Works of Moses Maimondes, language-teaching research and the Letters of Ernest Rutherford. Subsequent yearly issues increased steadily in size and scope, reaching a maximum of 244 pages in Volume V, 1992. Unfortunately, there followed a steady decline, down to 141 pages in Volume X, 1998.
An important feature of each issue, from Volume I onwards, is the "Chronicle" section, which lists and annotates the recent acquisitions of the McGill Libraries and Museums: books, documents, art, papers, cartoons, even a "complete bedroom suite in neo-renaissance style." (The latter was donated to the McCord Museum.)
Another feature, from Volume IV, 1991 onwards, is "Notes and Comments" on interesting and unusual items in the McGill collections, such as early children's books, a portrait of Mary Todd Ferrier and an extensive archive of the architect Moshe Safdie.
It is impossible to list here all the subjects that have been covered in the first few issues of Fontanus, but a few examples will provide some indication of the variety of interest in the journal: Antiquities (Egyptian and Nubian); Nazi-occupied Denmark; satirical fiction about McGill; human rights and cultural diversity; Montreal Veterinary College; the Redpath family; science and scientists at McGill; women in the universities.
A complete index of Volumes I - X, both subject and author, has been prepared and will be included in Volume XI, to be published — hopefully! — in the coming months.
I come now to the main point of this article. In his editorial in Volume II (1989), Dr. Möller wrote, "Volume II offers eight new articles on a variety of topics. Several other articles had to be held over for Volume III, which is already in preparation."
Alas, this is no longer the situation! Far from having a surplus of material waiting to be published, we find ourselves woefully short of new articles.
One feature which we are planning is a collection of short statements by the dean of each faculty and the head of each University service, setting out their hopes and wishes (not necessarily their realistic expectations!) for the new century.
So, please, dear reader, sit down at your desk, or your keyboard, and prepare an article for the next issue, Volume XI, of Fontanus. It would be a shame, indeed a disgrace, if the first year of a new millennium was allowed to pass without a special issue of McGill's literary treasure! Please send your contributions to me at the Rutherford Physics Building - I look forward to hearing from you!
Professor Montague Cohen