Rare Books and Special Collections

Specialized staff help users locate, identify, consult and evaluate materials held in Rare Books and Special Collections.


McGill began acquiring antiquarian books and other special collections materials as early as the 1860s. Gifts and purchases over the years have formed the Rare Books and Special Collections Division’s present holdings of over 280,000 printed books, 12,000 prints, 6,000 maps, 1,000 manuscripts and 500 linear metres of archives and private papers. The collection focuses on the humanities and social sciences, particularly history, literature, the history of ideas, travel and exploration, and the history of the book. Scientific works in the Blacker-Wood and Macdonald College Rare Book collections are also held in the Division. The oldest items in the collection are the Babylonian and Assyrian tablets dated between 2275 B.C. and 548 B.C. Medieval and other manuscripts, incunabula and printed books of the 16th-19th centuries, as well as maps and prints form the core of the collection. Works from the 19th and 20th centuries include the papers of a number of Canadian authors, and modern Canadian prints.


Humanities and Social Sciences Library
4th floor, McLennan Library building


Rare Books and Special Collections




Christopher Lyons 
Head Librarian


christopher.lyons [at] mcgill.ca


Dean of Libraries

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