Friends of the Library

19 things to discover about the McGill Library in 2019

Library Matters - Tue, 01/15/2019 - 15:47

It’s a brand new year and we are here for it. We’ve compiled a list of 19 things to discover about the McGill Library in 2019 (in no particular order). It’s just the tip of the iceberg of what the Library has to offer but a good starting place for new and returning students, faculty and staff. We’re wishing each of you a wonderful semester and year!

1. Library website

The Library website is the gateway to all of our resources, spaces and services. Search the catalogue, discover branch hours, resources and other helpful links. Consider this the dashboard where your Library experience begins:

2. Workshops and tours

We offer a wide variety of workshops and tours for all levels throughout the semester. Whether you want a tour of a specific branch, an introduction to research methods or a primer on citation software, you’ve come to the right place:

3. Ask Us

Get answers to your questions quickly by chat, email, text, over the phone or in person. We’re here to help!

4. Liaison Librarians

We’ve got subject-specific librarians designated for each field of study. From Accounting to Zoology, get to know your Liaison Librarian for expert tips, tricks and subject-specific resources:

5. Tranquility Zone

Did you know that there’s a new quiet space in the Humanities and Social Sciences Library dedicated to helping you recharge? The Tranquility Zone was created in response to user feedback. It is conducive to both learning and relaxation and differs from conventional study space. Made possible thanks to support of the Arts Undergraduate Improvement Fund:

6. Branches

You are welcome to use and study at any of our branches, regardless of your program. Each has its own individual feel so branch out and explore:

7. 3D printing 

Did you know that the Library has 3D printers! Attend a mandatory training session and be well on your way to creating your masterpiece:

8. Spaces

Did you know that we’ve got a wide range of study spaces for you to choose from? The list includes areas for groups, individual study and graduate spaces. Whether you work best in a silent, wood-trimmed traditional Library setting or bustling modern zones, we’ve got the perfect place for you:

9. Interlibrary Loan

The Interlibrary Loan service (ILL) permits you to borrow documents that are not part of our collection. This service is offered to McGill professors, current students and staff as part of their teaching, learning, research and work:

10. Fiat Lux

As McGill approaches its 200th anniversary, we have developed a bold vision to transform the Library into a cutting-edge nexus for teaching, learning and research in the digital age:

11. Friends of the McGill Library

Founded in the late 1980’s by a group of loyal Library supporters, the mission of the Friends of the Library is to nurture community interest in the Library, build awareness about its resources and cultivate long-term support for its collections. They do this through a range of programming, including three free signature annual lectures. Past speakers have included powerhouses such as Louise Penny, Anna Maria Tremonti, Tom McCamus, Chick Reid, Michael Ondaatje and many more:

12. Health and wellness

The McGill Library is your go-to destination for health, wellness, enlightenment, and enjoyment! McGill students, faculty and  staff members have access to millions of print items found in our catalogue as well as online resources, recordings, games, gadgets, and more. Alumni can borrow print books, journals, audio materials and scores using their free Library Borrowing Card and with their McGill email address can access e-resources for alumni. The Library also offers health and wellness spaces for users who want to keep active while working:

13. ROAAr

In 2016, the Library brought its four rare collection units—Rare Books & Special Collections, the Osler Library of the History of Medicine, the Visual Art Collection, and Archives & Record Management—together under one umbrella. Together, the unified “ROAAr” group helps showcase the unique holdings within each of the four areas through cross-unit collaboration, strengthening and distinguishing their rich collections and the Library as a whole:

14. News, exhibitions and events page

Your one stop shop for all announcements and special events at the Library. Here, you will find everything from exhibitions at all of our branches to therapy dog visits, lectures, updates and beyond:

15. Social media and blogs

Follow the Library on Social Media and blogs for news, events, behind-the-scenes glimpses and much more!

16. Computer Finder

A real-time listing of all available computers across the Library system. A great resource – particularly during mid-terms and final exams!

17. Student support of the Library

One of the ways that we grow services to meet user needs is by partnering with student societies, councils, and associations on numerous initiatives throughout the year. Student society support of the Library is often the driving force behind innovative pilot projects, much-needed facilities improvements, and expanded collections:

18. Multilingual guides to the Library

Get to know the Library in your mother tongue, with guides offered in English, Arabic, Chinese, French, Persian and Urdu:

19. Digital exhibitions and collections

Explore more than 80 digital projects covering a wide array of subjects including, art, architecture, history and literature, engineering, medicine, maps, music and urban design:

The Story of a Scroll

Library Matters - Mon, 01/07/2019 - 18:23
   Genealogy of English Kings from  Egbert (d. 839) to  Henry VI (1422‑1461).

The McGill Library has one of the best institutional libraries in Canada for medieval artefacts.  This medieval scroll  representing  a genealogy of the Kings of England up to 1461,  is one of four medieval-era artefacts that went on loan to the Canadian Museum of History for the travelling exhibition Medieval Europe – Power and Legacy. The latter exhibition was developed by the British Museum and includes 240 objects spanning the period AD 400 to 1500.  This venue allowed a prime opportunity for McGill University to showcase a few of its treasures to a wide North American audience, in particular a scroll, which had not been viewed in its full length in recent years. We collaborated with Curator Bianca Gendreau of the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau for the loan of this exceptional item. It is all the more special since the number of scrolls held in the Rare Books and Special Collections amount to less than a dozen.

Despite the fact that the scroll can be held in the palm of one’s hand, once unrolled, it measures an impressive 2.5 meters in length (2454 mm x 116 mm) or approximately 8ft. In fact, there are four membranes  to the scroll, and each are carefully sewn to each other by a cord contemporary to the date of manufacture of the scroll. For display purposes, we decided that the full view be made possible by careful conservation and framing, all of which is reversible. We are very grateful to the Conservators of the Canadian Museum of History who worked hard to mount the scroll.


Written by hand on parchment, this scroll traces the family history of Egbert, the first Anglo-Saxon king of a united England 802-869  to Henry VI, King of England from 1422 to 1461 and 1470 to 1471. We note the late  15th-century cursive writing in Latin, marked by the pointed character of the letters.  The main body of the text is in light brown ink. There are also numerous red ink two‑line initials; and all of the proper names are in red ink.

Like many of its illuminated medieval manuscripts, the McGill Library acquired this scroll in the 1920s, on April 1st, 1925 from Dobell (Cat. 42, 1925, no. 16). It was purchased for teaching purposes as  an exemplar of book history.  Eminent bibliographer, Seymour De Ricci (1881-1942) recorded this item in his Census of medieval and renaissance manuscripts in the United States and Canada  published in New York by  H.W. Wilson from 1935-40. The scroll is just one of well over one hundred items listed under McGill University in volume two as of 1940. Today, we have  doubled that count to more than 225 medieval manuscripts.

Once up on display, the outstretched scroll in a handsome black frame is imposing, and is one of the highlights of the show. Now our thoughts turn to how we will choose to store this piece upon its return from loan in February 2019 – as a scroll, or as text?   We welcome your feedback at




Arabic Collections Online

McGill Islamic Studies Library's blog - Fri, 01/04/2019 - 17:00

Arabic Collections Online (ACO) is a publicly available digital library of public domain Arabic language content.

ACO currently provides digital access to 9,587 volumes across 6,039 subjects drawn from rich Arabic collections of distinguished research libraries. ACO contributing partners are New York University, Princeton, Cornell, Columbia, American University in Cairo, American University of Beirut and United Arab Emirates National Archives. This project aims to feature up to 23,000 volumes from the library collections of NYU and partner institutions.

ACO mission is to digitize, preserve, and provide free open access to a wide variety of Arabic language books in subjects such as literature, philosophy, law, religion, and more. Many older Arabic books are out-of-print, in fragile condition, and are otherwise rare materials that are in danger of being lost. ACO will ensure that this content will be saved digitally for future generations.

ACO can be used by students, scholars, academics, researchers, librarians, and general interest readers. All out-of-copyright books from NYU and partner institutions are selected for ACO. These titles, in turn, have been collected over centuries by subject specialists at each respective institution for their academic quality and relevance to intellectual and literary inquiry.

ACO digital library website is presented in both Arabic and English side by side. There is no need to switch between Arabic and English. Before searching the collections, it is useful to read the tips in Arabic transliteration which were made to facilitate the search.

All digital imaging meets the Federal Agencies Digital Guidelines Initiative (FADGI), which was developed with wide review and consensus by the cultural heritage community’s digital experts.

Islamic Law Materialized : a Corpus of Arabic Legal Documents

McGill Islamic Studies Library's blog - Sat, 12/22/2018 - 08:27

A Corpus of Arabic Legal Documents (CALD) is a database of edited (transcribed) primary source materials from the pre-modern period (8th-15th century). According to the creators, CALD “is the first-ever collection of scattered editions of legal documents often [provided] with improved readings compared to earlier print versions”.

CALD is supported by the European Research Council (ERC), and results from the concerted efforts of individuals from several institutions among which the Institut de recherche et d’histoire des textes (IRHT).

CALD includes a great variety of documents, such as sales contracts, lease contracts, acknowledgements, charity aims, court attestations, etc., available in PDF with the original Arabic text in modern spelling as well as complete bibliographical data. In addition, images of original materials and/or URL links are provided when possible.

Example of an edited document

Visitors can browse documents either by location (city) or library inventory number, or search the database for legal terms in Arabic.For greater access to CALD’s functionalities, visitors can create an account: logging in allows to cross-search Arabic terms, document types, dates and keywords. The interface is available in French, English and Arabic.

It’s a Slam Dunk: Inspiring a Nation of Youth

Library Matters - Fri, 12/21/2018 - 10:50

– Written by Lori Podolsky –

How does a building with “unadorned simplicity of its exterior, the forbidding gloom of its interior, the patched condition of its flooring and the holey state of its roof” inspire a nation of youth? (Old McGill Yearbooks, 1899)

Interior of the old gymnasium on Burnside at the rear of the Montreal High School, circa 1890, McGill University Archives, 0000-0090.04.142

James Naismith (BA 1887) invented a good clean game to teach the youth confidence and to become good citizens.  He knew that the game would need to be skillful and lively, team-orientated, and move at a fast pace.  On December 21, 1891, the first basketball game was played in Springfield, Massachusetts.  Basketball quickly became popular and today is the most played sport among young people.

Inside the walls of the McGill University Gymnasium, James Naismith showed an avid interest in athletics.  Shortly after beginning his education at McGill in 1883, Naismith joined the Athletics Club.  He took part in ground gymnastics and played football rugby during his studies.  Athletics formed an important part of his education at McGill, and in 1886 he was elected to the Executive Committee of the McGill University Athletics Association in the position of Clerk, and three years later, he became an instructor of gymnastics.  Given his prowess and excellence in gymnastics, Naismith was the recipient of the coveted 1885 Silver Wicksteed and the 1887 Gold Wicksteed medals.

McGill University senior football team, including James Naismith, recipient of the 1887 Gold Wicksteed medal, photographer A.G. Walford, circa 1887, McGill University Archives, 0000-0090.04.26

From 1883 to 1890, when he left for Springfield College in Massachusetts, Naismith’s love of athletics and sports inspired all he met.  Graduates from the International YMCA Training Program in Springfield, spread the game wherever they went.  One such graduate was Archibald Lyman who came to St. Stephen, New Brunswick and introduced basketball in the fall of 1892.  The following year, Lyman also demonstrated the game in Hamilton, Ontario where it made rapid progress to become one of the largest basketball centres in Canada.  Forty-five years later, basketball made its inaugural medal game at the Summer Olympics in Berlin, Germany. Naismith was in attendance for the first match in which he threw the tip-off ball.

Sports has symbolic meaning for a nation, and basketball is no exception.  The grace, agility and strategy of the game has come to inspire millions.  When first invented, the game could be played between five and nine players on a team.  It was played “strictly [by] passing the ball from man to man” with the utmost importance of getting an uncovered position.  Unlike today’s game, the original game when played on a field, a player “may run with the ball if he continually throws it above his head and catches it again.”  The advent of the forward pass, “[b]asketball has become footballized and football has become basketballized.”  With the invention of basketball, Dr. Naismith became a benefactor of youth and inspired millions.


To discover more on James Naismith from the McGill University Archives Collection…

Dr.James Naismith_Info file

McGill Sports Hall of Fame_McGill News Fall 1996

McGill Sports Hall of Fame

Scrapbook 0000-0197

McGill University Archives, Record Group 30, Faculty of Education, file 254, Correspondence, Notes and Newspaper Clipping on the history of Basketball, 1928-1941.


Lori Podolsky, Archivist, McGill University Archives


Season’s Greetings: Vintage Martlet Style

Library Matters - Thu, 12/20/2018 - 10:45
  • McGill Winter Carnival Program from the 1950s, McGill University Archives.
  • McGill Winter Carnival Program from the 1950s, McGill University Archives.
  • McGill Winter Carnival Program from the 1950s, McGill University Archives.
  • McGill Winter Carnival Program from the 1950s, McGill University Archives.

For the last couple of years, McGill Library has upped our game when it comes to holiday greetings. Last year, we animated wintry scenes from our ROAAr collections. This year we took a different approach. While looking for content for our upcoming line of ROAAr products based on materials and beautiful images in the collection, we came across some amazing vintage martlets. Some are from McGill carnival programs, others are from the Old McGill Yearbooks – all are from the McGill Archive collection. What would happen if we brought these mythical birds to life?

Enjoy our Rare Wintry Martlet Remix! Happy Holidays!

Curatorial Snapshots: McGill’s Books of Hours

Library Matters - Tue, 12/18/2018 - 11:07

Richard Virr, Retired Chief Curator, Rare Books and Special Collections and co-curator of the Resplendent Illuminations exhibit currently running at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts has chosen 13 notable images from McGill’s holdings to give us a taste of this remarkable collection of devotional materials. Enjoy the slideshow and read more about the MMFA exhibit and our physical and digital collection below.

  • Books of Hours were sometimes personalized by inscribing in them the names of the owners' patrons. This personalized leaf marks the marriage of Jehan Drulhon, a citizen of Clermont in the Auvergne, and Antoinette Fayete. These names and the initials I A, linked by a love knot, are traced in black capitals. LVH.0013. 1-2 MS 105. Manuscript leaf of the Heures, dites de Drulhon-Fayete Master of Guillaume Lambert (and his workshop for the borders) About 1475-1480, Lyon.
  • This leaf was clearly very costly and is evidence of the assimilation by Norman artists of some models of the Italian Renaissance. The recto, Parisian in style, is framed by a gilt border line imitating wood that surmounts a pattern of knots and arabesques. The illuminated border on the verso consists of an ornamental repertoire from the Italian Renaissance. LVH.0015 MS 110. Litanies and Office of the Dead Jean Serpin (?) About 1510-1520 (?), Normandy (Rouen?)
  • Saint Helena and her son the emperor Constantine, both wearing crowns, gaze at a seated figure who has just been revived through the miraculous power of the True Cross. The legend of Saint Helena was important to the German states. Fragments of the True Cross and relics of the saint were supposedly preserved in Trier. LVH.0031 MS 162. Saint Helena and the Invention of the True Cross. About 1520, southern Germany.
  • For the Office of the Dead, the artist painted a corpse in a cemetery above which Saint Michael and the Devil are fighting for the soul of the dead man, traditionally depicted as a baby. LVH.0028 MS 102. Seven miniatures from a breviary Master of the Échevinage of Rouen About 1470,
  • The scene of the Adoration of the Magi is set in front of a décor of Burgundian architecture that includes dovecotes, and the three Wise Men, guided to the manger by the Star of Bethlehem, are wearing long pointed shoes in the fashion of the 1490s. LVH.0041 MS 154 Tabourot-Bernard Hours Master of the Burgundian Prelates and an assistant About 1480-1490, Burgundy.
  • This manuscript is notable for the remarkable beauty of the illuminations in semi-grisaille and the freshness of scenes taken from real life. This book was for the liturgical use of the founder of the Brothers of the Common Life, Geert Groote, who translated the Office of the Virgin into Dutch in about 1385 and was the instigator of Devotio moderna. LVH.0038 MS 100. Hours for the use of Geert Groote Masters of Hugo Janszoon van Woerden. About 1490-1500, Leyden.
  • Going by the text marks and the portrayal of the sponsor, seen kneeling facing Mary in the Annunciation scene, this manuscript was executed for a woman. She seems to take precedence over the angel Gabriel who flutters above her. LVH.0042 MS 155. Rhodes Hours. Two artists in the Circle of the Master of Coëtivy. About 1460-1465, Paris.
  • One of five images that illustrate the psalter of the breviary. This one shows David playing the harp (psalm 1). LVH.0022 MS102. Seven miniatures from a breviary Master of the Échevinage of Rouen. About 1470,
  • Saint Barbara became very popular in the 15th century and was invoked in the Suffrages against lightning and sudden death without the Sacraments. LVH.0016 MS 149. Suffrages of Saint Barbara Workshop in Paris (?) About 1475-1485
  • This intriguing leaf consists of two miniatures back to back but no text. The recto depicts the scene of the Arrest of Christ and the Kiss of Judas and the verso, almost entirely washed out, shows vestiges of the scene of Jesus before Pilate. LVH.0030 MS 161. Leaf from a manuscript psalter. Anonymous About 1235-1250, Augsburg. Recto featured above.
  • This intriguing leaf consists of two miniatures back to back but no text. The recto depicts the scene of the Arrest of Christ and the Kiss of Judas and the verso, almost entirely washed out, shows vestiges of the scene of Jesus before Pilate. LVH.0030 MS 161. Leaf from a manuscript psalter. Anonymous About 1235-1250, Augsburg. Verso featured above.
  • Christ has ordered the removal of the stone covering the tomb of his friend, who was buried four days earlier. The miniaturist has faithfully followed the gospel of Saint John the Evangelist but has added the orb in Christ’s hand and omitted the bandages that were used to tie the hands of the dead man. LVH.0020 MS 189. The Raising of Lazarus and the start of the eve of the Office of the Dead Member of the Masters of the Gols Scrolls, a disciple of the illuminator of ms. Grisebach 4 of the Kunstbibliothek of Berlin About 1450, Bruges
  • The images in this Book of Hours were painted by Cornelia van Wulfscherchke, a Carmelite nun in Bruges. Aware of the trends that were in fashion during her time, Sister Cornelia reproduced models but added her own touch, characterized by a certain liveliness and also by stocky figures with straight, flat noses and eyes reduced to black dots in a wide oval face. LVH.0040 MS 109. Officium beate Marie secundum usum Romanum Cornelia van Wulfscherchke (Carmelite) About 1500-1510, Bruges.

This is the very first exhibition at the MMFA dedicated to the Books of Hours in medieval and Renaissance art, offering a chance to discover an overlooked heritage through a remarkable selection of illuminations and bound manuscripts preserved in Quebec, dating from the 13th to the 16th centuries. Books of hours were created for lay people and were popularized by the Christian faithful. These manuscripts were, for the most part, personalized and illuminated with miniature paintings ― or illuminations ― illustrating the life of Christ, the saints or the Virgin Mary. They incorporated a calendar of holy and religious feasts, passages from the gospels and prayers. The fruit of in-depth academic research, this exhibition comprises more than 50 artifacts (leaves, complete manuscripts, prints), which offer an up-close look at these treasures gathered from seven collections.

An exhibition organized by the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, in collaboration with Université du Québec à Montréal and McGill University. – MMFA site

There’s still time to catch Resplendent Illuminations: Books of Hours from the 13th to the 16th Century in Quebec Collections as it runs until 6 January 2019. Click here for more information. if you can’t make it to the exhibit, visit our digital collection Horae: Collection of Books of Hours here.


What Happens When the Roof Catches Fire?

Library Matters - Mon, 12/17/2018 - 17:58

The short answer to that question is a lot of work, countless cardboard boxes, unimaginable reams of acid-free tissue paper, innumerable man-hours, and a long-term recovery plan. The long answer is, like so many stories, best told in photos.


On Friday, 13 July 2018, the terrace on the roof of the Osler Library caught fire (see footage of the fire here). Quick action by the Service de sécurité incendie de Montréal (SIM) prevented greater damage. However the roof was destroyed and its drains failed, causing water to enter the library below. The terrace of the McIntrye Medical Building is pictured here on 14 July after it was safe for first responders and McGill Library staff to enter the building.


Right below this terrace lies the Osler Library of the History of Medicine, one of the premier collections on the history of medicine in the world. Sir William Osler, noted doctor, educator, and bibliophile, collected widely in the history of western and eastern medicine. The Osler Room, designed by Architect Percy Nobbs, is pictured here. Mary Yearl is head librarian of the Osler library. Following the fire, she and the Osler staff have been serving the library community from the 4th floor of the McLennan Library building.


Since water leaked through the compromised drains, members of the SIM protected the circulating collection with tarps as soon as possible (see picture above right). Shelves and work surfaces throughout the library were protected with plastic sheets. As soon as it was safe to be on site, Library staff members Rare Books Librarian Christopher Lyons, Director of University Archives Yves Lapointe, and Director of the Visual Arts Collection Gwendolyn Owens were on site, working with the members of Premiere Action/First on Site to pack and freeze wet books to prevent further damage until they could be freeze-dried.


A true team effort followed that first response. Due to the water damage, the level of smoke smell, extraordinarily high temperatures during summer months when air conditioning had to be closed, and high humidity levels in the building after the fire, the entire collection needed to be moved out for safekeeping. After training from a conservator, teams from King’s Moving company, First on Site, and volunteers from the McGill Library packed and supervised moving the collection. The Osler room can be seen here in August as a select team packed the rare and valuable pre-1840 items and Osler’s own writings, in a climate controlled space with a dedicated HVAC system. This HVAC system helped protect the room (and those working in it!) from the high humidity and temperatures in the rest of the library. Teams of 12 worked 10-hour days from July through September to securely and safely wrap, pack, move, unwrap and re-shelve the collection in its new location.


Packing and moving the collection was a monumental project. Teams from McGill Facilities, McGill Library managers and librarians, and the movers and packers all worked together to free up 2 km of shelf space in Rare Books and Special Collections, in the McLennan Library Building. The elephant folios, the largest book format, and many anatomical atlases and artifacts like the one pictured above left, were a particular challenge to safely wrap and pack. The elephant folios were each individually wrapped by Rare Books staff. They sit (above right) awaiting final packing before being moved.


Some of the Library staff from Facilities, HSSL, Collection Services, Digital Initiatives, Archives, Rare Books, and the Osler Library for the History of Medicine demonstrating real interdisciplinary enthusiasm and terrible lifting technique. Don’t worry, we left the heavy lifting to the professionals!


After countless hours, boxes, pallets, and sheets of tissue paper later, the collection was safely installed on the fourth floor by the end of September. The materials were accessible to students, scholars and faculty by request, and the collection has been actively used throughout the term.


After being freeze-dried and passing sniff-testing at the First on Site facility, the remainder of the collection was ready for its new home in the McLennan library building. From September through November smaller teams worked alongside Rare Books, library, and Osler Staff to ingest the collection.


The Wellcome Camera, stripped to the terracotta for renovation after the water damage from the fire. While the building undergoes repairs, the Osler library has a home with Rare Books and Special Collections. Thanks to our colleagues in Collection Services, the collection is now reservable in McGill Library’s online library catalogue as well. The man-hours of moving the physical collection also required a huge effort on the digital side to make sure holdings information in the catalogue was accurate and up-to-date as the status of the collections changed.


Osler programming, exhibitions and events are now taking place in the McLennan Library building. In October, Osler and ROAAr welcomed Prof. Hélène Cazes for a lecture on the impact of Andreas Vesalius’ The Fabric of the Human Body, pictured here. A new Osler exhibition, curated by Shana Cooperstein, entitled Freaks and Monsters will be installed in the new year.


So what does happen when the library roof catches fire? A team of extraordinary people come together to safeguard the collection and to make it accessible to all. A heartfelt thanks to everyone who made it possible!


2018 Annual General Meeting & presentation of the Friends of the Library Award

Library Matters - Mon, 12/17/2018 - 12:25

By Kate Williams, member, Friends of the Library Committee

Ann Vroom, Chair of the Friends of the Library Committee welcomes guests to the Birks Heritage Chapel

The 2018 Friends of the Library annual general meeting, presided over by the Chair, Ann Vroom, and held in McGill’s historic Birks building, offered a brief summary of the year’s activities, a succinct treasurer’s report and a slate of committee members for 2018. The high point of the meeting came with the presentation of the 2018 Friend of the Year award, bestowed posthumously on an exceptional couple, Professor Blema Steinberg and her husband, Arnold Steinberg CM OQ, whose passionate attachment to learning and to McGill were an inspiration to all.

Preceded by Ann Vroom’s warm introduction, the tributes by Dean of Arts Antonia Maioni, and then by Colleen Cook, Trenholme Dean of Libraries,  elicited an enthusiastic reaction from the more than 70 people in attendance. On hand to hear the tributes were daughters Donna and Margot Steinberg, who had come from New York for the occasion.

2018 Friend of the Year Award recipients Blema & Arnold Steinberg

Described by Dean Maioni as “an outstanding academic and author, renowned in particular for her research and application of psychological theory in analyzing the behaviour of world leaders,” Professor Emerita Blema Steinberg was a double graduate of McGill and a member of the Political Science Department for over 40 years. In addition to her remarkable scholarship, which was matched by her teaching ability and her strong philanthropic spirit, Professor Steinberg also won praise from Dean Maioni for her disarming wit and thoughtful mentorship of students and colleagues “at a time when very few women held either PhDs or tenured positions in universities.”

Colleen Cook shares her memories of Arnold Steinberg with AGM guests

Leadership and mentorship were equally celebrated in a glowing tribute to Arnold Steinberg, chancellor of McGill, alumnus, philanthropist and lifelong learner.  Remarking on his ability to navigate what she wryly called “bureaucratic waters,” Dean Colleen Cook recalled him as a visionary and trusted advisor, a staunch supporter of McGill’s Visual Arts Collection, and a champion whose advocacy meant so much to her and her colleagues. His clearly-expressed view that a world-class university must have a world-class library such as the one reflected in Fiat Lux , the reimagined Library of the Future project, has been a  precious source of encouragement to Dean Cook.

From the accolades voiced by the speakers at the annual general meeting, it is evidently difficult to summarize what this year’s Friend of the Library award recipients have done for McGill.  For example, through the Blema & Arnold Family Foundation, the couple supported such noteworthy projects as the MNI Bilingual Brain initiative, the Ludmer Centre, the Global Health Fellowships, the Clinical and Surgical Education fund, Childhood Development (Medicine), and the groundbreaking Steinberg Centre for Simulation and Interactive Learning.

From L to R: Ann Vroom, Margot & Donna Steinberg, Principal Suzanne Fortier

Presenting the 2018 Friend of the Library distinguished award to the Steinbergs’ daughters Donna and Margot, Principal Suzanne Fortier concluded that their parents’ legacy in “governance, support, teaching, innovation, volunteering, and generosity, continues to permeate the Library and the University.” As the citation so succinctly and forcefully put it:

2018 Friends of the Year

Presented Posthumously to

Arnold Steinberg CM OQ and Professor Emerita Blema Steinberg

In recognition of their inspiring commitment and outstanding contributions to

McGill University and the McGill Library

December 10, 2018

Donna and Margot Steinberg

In response, Margot Steinberg, with her sister at her side, painted a lively and humorous picture of the intense McGill-centred conversations that occurred every evening around her parents’ dinner table and thanked the Library and the University for the posthumous honour.

Following the meeting and award ceremony, members and colleagues of the Friends of the Library adjourned to the Birks Reading Room where refreshments were served amid a remarkable display of treasured items from the McGill Library’s Rare Books and Special Collections, Archives, Osler and the Visual Arts collections.

Marc Weinstein, Vice-Principal of University Advancement says a few words during the AGM reception in the Birks Reading Room

A Walk Through “Books that Pop!”

Library Matters - Thu, 12/13/2018 - 19:59

Guest Post by Prof. Jacqueline Reid-Walsh, Penn State University, Department of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies

Coming back to McGill University after being away for a couple of weeks, I got off the elevator at the fourth floor and spied the display “Books that Pop: Historical Children’s in Rare Books and Special Collections.” Truth be told, in the intense but pleasurable period leading up to the November 21st talk, (see the event page for details and video), I did not have the time to walk around and gaze at the objects.

Now that I am home for the winter break, I can look anew at the display with fresh eyes. The well-chosen and beautifully displayed objects highlight the topics of illustrated books and movable books in multiple interesting ways.  The display features items from the Sheila Bourke Collection in the flat display cases, and puppets from the Rosalynde Stearn Puppet Collection, in the high wall cases behind.

Papier-mâché glove puppets created for a play, “Punch and Judy of Long Ago.” [ca. 1950].
P53 Rare Books/Special Collections – Rosalynde Stearn Puppet Collection
A colourful collection of 11 characters brought to life by the puppeteer and puppetry historian, Rosalynde Stearn, whose collection of puppets and puppetry related books is amongst the most unique collections housed at Rare Books and Special Collections.

In the display cases there are also a few items from the children’s collection and related collections such as that devoted to the artist Arthur Rackham. There is the reproduction of the spectacular Lothar Meggendorfer circus panorama standing up in a long three-dimensional strip in the centre of the left case (see below).

Lothar Meggendorfer’s popup Circus. Meggendorfer, the 19th-century artist is widely considered the greatest innovator in the field of moving picture books.

The spatial logic of the display highlights how the strengths of the Bourke Collection materials complement the materials in other collections. I was struck by one theme that cross-cuts the collections –that of Gulliver’s Travels. In the Bourke collection, there are both 19th century and 20th-century examples—an American McLaughlin brothers picture book and an impressive Bookano book pop-up from the 1930s of a giant Gulliver sitting contemplatively in the centre of the two-page spread of the book.  There is also a French picture book from the 1920s illustrated by Job in a cloth pictorial binding.  These books contrast with the delicate but eerie watercolours of Arthur Rackham in an early 20th-century edition from the Rackham collection.

Bookano Gulliver content on a two-page spread.

My favourite items change as I walk around.  I am a fickle viewer since each time I have new ones. My passion remains with the interactive books since gazing at them compels me to want to touch them and examine them.  The display highlights the accordion-fold books particularly well since the width of the flat cases allows the horizontal spread of the panoramas to be revealed. These include the Meggendorfer I referred to above and five others from the early to late 19th century that show the cross-cultural nature of the McGill collection. These are: a French-Canadian spelling book (1810) from the Lande Canadiana Collection; a colourful German picture alphabet and phrase book (circa 1828); a tiny panorama of Beasts with 15 delicate, hand-coloured engravings, including the quagga, an extinct kind of zebra  (1850), and a spectacularly long wordless panorama depicting Queen Victoria’s coronation procession (1838) that stretches out to 18 feet, all in the Bourke Collection.

A German accordion format alphabet book with hand-coloured illustrations. Neues Bilderbuch für Kinder = Nieuw prentboek voor kinderen. Mayence : Joseph Scholz, [1828?]. PE1155 N54 1828 [By Consultation] Rare Books/Special Collections – Sheila R. Bourke Collection

The tall wall cabinets effectively display the depth achieved by two modern tunnel books. Since the books are close to eye level, a viewer can appreciate the design by looking down and out at the objects. These are two modern books,  Space Colony by Joe Burleson (see the video below) and the droll Tunnel Calamity by Edward Gorey, the title playing off the technical term for the format and also evoking the 19th-century rage for peep show/ tunnel books about the sometimes unbuilt Thames tunnel. These are all in the Bourke Collection.

I encourage visitors to McGill libraries to come up to the fourth floor and take a couple of turns around the lobby exhibit to see what their favorite books are. Be sure to return when the display is finished to come to the Reading Room to look closer and play with a few.

The collection can be consulted in the Rare Books Reading room Monday to Friday, 10 AM to 6 PM. Contact Liason Librarian Elis Ing for reference guidance.

The Exhibition runs until February 22, 2019.



Persuasive Maps: P.J. Mode Collection

McGill Islamic Studies Library's blog - Tue, 12/11/2018 - 11:21

Persuasive Maps is a collection of more than 800 maps collected by P.J. Mode housed at Cornell University library. This collection holds maps dating from the 1800s to the present day and covers various geographical areas of the world.

….While this map provides a reasonably accurate view of the world as known in 1681, it was intended primarily for religious education, bound (folded) into copies of English-language bibles and other religious works of the 17th and early 18th centuries (Shirley 1983, #457). The seven days of creation are illustrated in the panels at the top of the map. Below are the expulsion from Paradise, the Flood, the Tower of Babel, God speaking to Moses, the Ten Commandments, the Crucifixion and the Ascension. The voice of God is represented by Hebrew characters…The map is centered on Eden.

Persuasive Cartography seeks to communicate more than geographical information and intends to influence opinion or to send a particular message. Since maps represent a subject viewpoint, cartographers needed to decide what information to include or exclude.

Maps sit somewhere on the spectrum between science and art and subjectivity and objectivity. The maps of this collated collection are chosen because they communicate messages beyond geographical information. For instance, they illustrate a whole range of human concerns from religious, political, military, commercial, moral and social.

On May 3, 2016 P.J. Mode in a presentation to The Grolier Club of New York and New York Society, gave an interesting talk entitled “Deconstructing Persuasive Cartography”, in which he elaborated on the concept and idea of Persuasive maps and discussed different examples of maps from his collection. Link to the video


…Lady Liberty, wearing a cape labeled “Votes for Women,” stands astride the states (colored white) that had adopted suffrage. She holds aloft her torch, bringing “enlightenment” to women in those states still in the dark. The faces of these women are turned up to the light, and some reach out in hope. (Many have fashionably short hair and hats, reflecting the middle and upper class core of the suffrage movement. Dando 2010, 224)….

Along with developments in technology and communications, the methodology of persuasive cartography has also developed. “The collection reflects a variety of persuasive tools: allegorical, satirical and pictorial mapping; selective inclusion or exclusion; unusual use of projections, color, graphics and text; and intentional deception.”

The collection can be searched or browsed by subject, posted date or the entire collection. Each item provides more information about the item such as title, subject, date, creator, size/extent, and collector’s note. The collector’s note are the result of P.J. Mode research and analysis.



70 candles for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Library Matters - Mon, 12/10/2018 - 15:15

By Lori Podolsky

John Peters Humphrey, 1930, by Blank & Stoller
McGill University Archives, John Peters Humphrey fonds (MG4127), 2002-0086.04.10

“That there can be peace unless human rights and freedoms are respected” (John Peters Humphrey, 1947)

John Peters Humphrey, the first Director of the Human Rights Division at the United Nations, and along with Eleanor Roosevelt (Chair) of the United States, Charles Habib Malik of Lebanon and Peng Chun Chang of China, formed the initial drafting committee to create the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).  Quickly the committee expanded to include five additional members – William Roy Hodgson (Australia), René Cassin (France), Hernán Santa Cruz (Chile), Alexander E. Bogomolov (Soviet Union) and Charles Dukes (United Kingdom).   The Universal Declaration of Human Rights codified the basic rights for all persons, regardless of gender, ethnicity, class or religion, at an international level.

In December of 1948, after eighty meetings and sixty-eight countries voting to adopt the articles of the UDHR received consensus.  Initially, Canada voted to abstain, then changed its vote, allowing the Universal Declaration to be adopted on December 10, 1948.  Today, the UDHR stands as a pillar document recognizing the rights of life, education and employment, housing, religion, peaceful assembly, and political affiliation, to name a few, and to protect against discrimination.

First Handwritten version of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. McGill University Archives, John Peters Humphrey fonds (MG4127).

First handwritten version of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. McGill University Archives, John Peters Humphrey fonds (MG4127).

First handwritten version of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. McGill University Archives, John Peters Humphrey fonds (MG4127).










The McGill University Archives holds the John Peters Humphrey fonds (MG 4127).  The fonds includes the original and annotated drafts of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and related materials relating to Humphrey’s tenure at the United Nations, his lecture notes as a professor of law at McGill University and his personal papers and correspondence.  Related fonds on employment equity, civil rights, and the United Nations include the Madeleine Parent fonds (MG 4269), Paul-André Crépeau fonds (MG 4271) and Tamer Oppenheimer fonds (MG 4267), respectively.


Written by Lori Podolsky, Archivist, McGill University Archives

Women’s Worlds in Qajar Iran Digital Archives

McGill Islamic Studies Library's blog - Fri, 11/30/2018 - 12:35

Women’s Worlds in Qajar Iran (WWQI) is a digital archive of materials related to the lives of women during the Qajar era, inclusive of the period immediately preceding and following the dynastic period (1786 -1925). The goal of WWQI is to address a gap in scholarship and understanding of the lives of women during the Qajar era.

“Given the dearth of available primary-source materials related to women in the Qajar era, it is not surprising that, to date, the vast majority of Qajar social histories have focused almost exclusively on the struggles, achievements, and day-to-day realities of the men of that period. This is in part a matter of expediency; while men’s writing have been easily accessible in various national archives for decades (and many have in more recent years been published in edited volumes), most women’s writings, photographs, and other personal papers have to date remained sequestered in private family hands.”

WWQI aims to open up the documented social and cultural histories of Qajar women, thus allowing for the examinations of broader patterns of life during this era.

The materials included in the archive are not only those contained in private archives and manuscripts but also published materials from the Middle Eastern Collection in Widener Library and other institutions. They consist of:

  • Writings: letters, prose, poetry, travel writings, essays, periodicals, and diaries
  • Legal documents: wedding contracts, dowry documents, settlements, endowments, powers of attorney, wills, sales, and other financial contracts
  • Artworks: calligraphy, painting, embroidery, weaving, other handicrafts, music, and film
  • Photographs
  • Everyday objects
  • Oral histories


You could begin your search either by clicking on “Collections” or on “Browse”. All roads tend to lead to the search engine, where you can refine your search with keywords and filter selection.


The website uses Elastic Search full text search engine which supports both English and Persian language-specific searches. While the results should be consistent, the results may vary slightly in terms of relevancy ranking.


The website also includes a research platform which put students and scholars in collaborative conversations, and generate innovative scholarship on the cultural history of the Qajar period focused on lives of women and issues of gender and sexuality.

To learn more about how the Archive generates the digital holdings, see the documentary essay by Nicole Legnani, Commissioned by the Office of the Digital Arts and Humanities at Harvard University.

The Harvard University Library (HUL) central infrastructure accommodates all image, text, and audio materials collected for this archive. All WWQI materials can be accessed through the following Harvard University Library catalogues as well: Visual Information Access (VIA) system and HOLLIS Catalog.

An Exceptional Day of Mourning

Library Matters - Fri, 11/30/2018 - 11:00

By Julien Couture, Assistant Archivist at McGill University Archives

On November 30, 1933, Canada lost one of the greatest war heroes of its young history.

On this centennial of the end of the Great War, it is important to look back and reflect on our university’s heritage in wartime. McGill’s involvement during wartime has been crystallized around one central figure: Sir Arthur Currie.  He left a lasting imprint on Canadian Military history by leading the Canadian forces to victory in World War I. Currie also showcased his management and academic skills as McGill University’s Principal from 1920 until his death in 1933. Being ill for months, Sir Arthur Currie, suffered a deadly stroke at the age of 57 in Montreal. According to Robert Borden, Prime Minister of Canada from 1911 to 1920, his funeral that took place on December 5th was by common consent: the most impressive ever seen at Montreal.

We are lucky here at McGill University Archives to hold Sir Currie’s archival fonds which contains material about both his military and academic career.

Guts and Gaiters’ Legacy


Sir Arthur Currie in 1917 – McGill University Archives, PN000369

Guts and gaiters. What an intriguing nickname for a man who has been described as one of the best tacticians in Canadian military history. His cold-thinking, rational, pragmatic attitude has been one of the Allied forces most valuable asset during the Great War. Currie began his military career in 1897 as a gunner with the 5th Field Artillery Regiment in British Columbia. He worked his way up in the Canadian army until the Great War broke out in 1914. His command of the Canadian troops as a brigade officer during the Battle of Ypres in 1915 (where poison gas was first used) earned him widespread recognition.

In 1917, he rose to the rank of Commander of the Canadian Corps where he would lead the Hundred Days Offensive, a series of battles that would help the Allies win the war and subsequently give credibility to the Canadian corps.

However, there is controversy about the necessity of the attack on Mons (France) which costs hundreds of Canadian lives at the very end of the war. This affair put forward by Sir Samuel Hughes and supported by the Port-hope Evening Guide newspaper will escalate in a libel suit that Currie will win against Hughes in 1927. Even with this contentious matter in mind, it seems clear that Guts and Gaiters’ legacy will remain one of abnegation and tactical genius.


Assuming Leadership

Principal Arthur Currie giving a speech at McGill ca.1930 – McGill University Archives, PR000364

Sir Arthur Currie held the position of McGill’s principal from 1920 to 1933. During his tenure, he established himself as an extremely competent manager and a true leader. Under his influence, McGill University established various faculties (Music, Graduate Studies and Research), and largely increased its income. Currie himself travelled extensively across the country to raise money for the University. He also made donations and Cparticipated in various philanthropic institutions, like the Montreal Anti-tuberculosis league or the General Health League.



Currie’s declining health

A message from Arthur Currie to his sister a few months before his death – McGill University Archives, RG2,C205,19295

Sir Arthur Currie’s health declined over a few months before leading to his death in November 1933. In his fonds there is abundant correspondence of friends, university colleagues and members of the Canadian Officers Training Corps wishing him a speedy recovery. There is also a letter written in 1932 by Currie to his sister about his health concerns. We know that Arthur Currie suffered a series of strokes that left him weakened. This letter confirms that one year and three months before his death, Currie’s health began to decline substantially even by his own account.







Day of Mourning


Ceremony on the Mount-Royal in 1933 – McGill University Archives, PR001547

Arthur Curries’ procession leaving Christ Church Cathedral in 1933 – McGill University Archives, PR000361









Organizing Canada’s greatest national funeral

The funeral of Arthur Currie was unlike any other funeral the country had seen at the time. Of course, Currie was well-known to the Canadian population but he also had  important academic, military, business, diplomatic and philanthropic ties worldwide. The list of the attendees to his funeral is long, diverse and frankly impressive. Consul generals, ambassadors, university principals, high-ranking army officials from across the globe (including New Zealand and Japan!), Canada’s governor general, mayors from all across the country,  and the list goes on and on.

The funeral procession started at McGill University, stopped at Christ Church Cathedral in downtown Montreal where the funeral service was held and finally ended at Mount Royal Cemetery. The organization of the ceremony was handled by T. H Matthews, the head of Registrar, who went at great lengths to achieve an efficient and functional international event. According to Melissa Davidson in “Acts of Remembrance: Canadian Great War Memory and the Public Funerals of Sir Arthur Currie and Canon F.G. Scott”(2016), thousand of Montrealers swamped city streets to follow the procession and the Canadian Radio Broadcasting Commission broadcasted the ceremony over the radio. Many documents highlight the tremendous efforts deployed by McGill University staff in organizing Canada’s greatest funeral.


Everything had to be carefully planned. Here is a plan of the seat distribution for the ceremony at Christ Church Cathedral – McGill University Archives, RG7,C52,957

A detailed list on the conduct of the procession for November 30th, 1933 – McGill University Archives, RG7,C52,957

One page of the list of guests – McGill University Archives, RG7,C52,957












A Beloved Colleague

Also, a tribute from his fellow colleagues speaks eloquently of Sir Currie’s legacy at McGill University. This remembrance booklet can be found here at McGill University.

We recall with gratitude and pride his career of unprecedented activities and the wide horizon of his interests; his long record of laborious and eminent services in a relatively brief life; his many tasks of different kinds performed with ceaseless zeal and high distinction; his distinguished role as our Canadian Corps Commander and leader of men in dark days; the tireless energy, dignity and intelligence with which he gave himself to his onerous new duties as our Principal after his return from his splendid world service…(continues)

Illuminated Resolutions – McGill University Archives, RG4,C294,11128












Footage From the Past

McGill University Archives has collected and secured many films of the University’s history. We happen to hold a reel-to-reel tape film of the procession of Arthur Currie’s funeral in 1933 which is a very rare, fragile and valuable document.

To discover more…

Visit the MUA website homepage:

Consult the McGill University Archival Collections Catalogue:

Contact us at : for more information.

A Hyakumanto Dharani – among the earliest surviving examples of printed text

Library Matters - Tue, 11/27/2018 - 12:24

In 1968, McGill acquired a copy of the Hyakumanto Dhāraṇī (百萬塔陀羅尼經), one of the earliest surviving examples of printed text, along with the miniature wooden pagoda within which it was stored more than a thousand years ago.

The Hyakumanto Dhāraṇī ( 百萬塔陀羅尼經) scroll with original miniature wooden pagoda. Photo: Greg Houston

A dhāraṇī can be described as a charm used in Esoteric Buddhist rituals. It was believed that by chanting and copying a dhāraṇī, an individual or a state would be protected from harm. The Hyakumanto Dhāraṇī was commissioned by the Empress Shotoku of Japan during the eighth century to appease the Buddhist clergy and honour the souls lost in a recent revolt. According to historical sources, one million copies of this dhāraṇī were made and distributed across Japan around 770 CE.

Each of the Hyakumanto Dhāraṇīs was housed in a miniature wooden pagoda, a tiered tower with multiple eaves, such as those commonly seen in the Asian architectural tradition. The most important religious function of pagodas is to store the relics of Buddha and receive worship. The body of this pagoda is made of hinoki wood, a species of cypress,and painted with white lead. The top, or spire, is made from cherry wood.

The pagoda spire, closing the scroll within the pagoda. Photo: Greg Houston

The dhāraṇī text is printed in twenty-three columns of five Chinese characters on a small paper scroll about six centimeters across and forty-six centimeters long. Based on the reported number of copies made and the visible features of the printed characters, there remains debate about whether wooden blocks were used or if – more surprisingly for that time – metal may have been used to print the characters. In either case, this scale of production was not seen again for centuries.

The practice of printing dhāraṇīs and housing them in this way was widespread across Northeast Asia from the eighth through the twelfth century. When McGill acquired its copy in the 60s, the Hyakumanto Dhāraṇī was believed to be the earliest surviving printed text in the world. However, similar examples have since been discovered in South Korea and some scholars have dated them to a few decades earlier, though still in the eighth century. Some one hundred miniature pagodas containing dhāraṇī  scrolls have also been discovered in Inner Mongolia, China, dating from the early eleventh century.

McGill’s Hyakumanto Dhāraṇī ( 百萬塔陀羅尼經). Photo: Greg Houston

The scroll and its pagoda are, as direct material links from such a distant past, truly remarkable artifacts. There are an estimated 1,700 surviving copies of the Hyakumanto Dhāraṇī located in personal and public collections, most of which are stored in the Hōryū-ji, a Buddhist temple in Nara, Japan. North American Institutions such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, and the Art Institute of Chicago also hold examples.

Article written by Mengge Cao and Jillian Tomm, following a seminar by Professor Gwen Bennett on “The Silk Roads” in Rare Books and Special Collections. Originally posted July, 2015:

Small wonders tell big stories at Rare Books & Special Collections

Library Matters - Fri, 11/23/2018 - 14:22

La version française suit

By Elis Ing, Liaison Librarian, Rare Books and Special Collections

RBSC Z1033 M6 C6x 1900

Before delving into the trove of tiny books at McGill’s Rare Books & Special Collections, it’s worth asking a few questions. To start with, how tiny is tiny? The Miniature Book Society offers this definition: a miniature book is usually considered one that is no more than three inches (~7.6 cm) in height, width, or thickness. So-called “micro-minis” are increasingly popular, with a .9 millimeter square edition of Chekhov’s A Chameleon currently laying claim to the title of world’s smallest book.

Why are tiny books made? Historically, many were produced so that they could be easily concealed, thus protecting the reader from possible persecution. The Museum of Miniature Books in Azerbaijan houses miniature volumes produced to support the covert dissemination of pro-democratic ideas during the Soviet era.

Portability is another major motivation. The Hebrew tradition of miniature books, for example, stems from the traveling lifestyle adopted by 16th-century Jewish merchants who wanted access to spiritual texts without adding weight to their loads. A third motivation is an opportunity for individual craftspeople to show off their prowess. Dr. Linda Young, Senior Lecturer in Museum Studies at Deakin University, recently wrote about the allure of miniatures, explaining that “a tiny book is a virtuoso printing job; to enhance its magic, bindings have often been produced in fine and precious materials”.

There’s also that special feeling of holding something very small. The essayist Lia Purpura recently waxed poetic on the appeal of the tiny, “It’s why we linger over an infant’s fingers and toes, those astonishing replicas: we can’t quite believe they work. . . .miniatures are the familiar, reduced to unfamiliarity.”

Pictures of English Literature in Miniature, 1815.

Anecdotes abound about the peculiarities of working with such small works. The conservator at Harvard’s Houghton Library, charged with preserving tiny books made by the Bronte sisters, describes having to hold her breath to keep pieces from blowing away. Miniature book curators at the University of North Texas were recently found on hands and knees searching for a misplaced book measuring less than 1 millimeter square, false alarms sounding over crumbs and other debris.

At McGill, tiny treasures include several 19th-century works produced by Darton & Harvey, British publishers that specialized in miniature volumes, now housed in Sheila R. Bourke Collection of children’s books. Amongst these is an ambitious two-volume set chronicling 2000 years of British history in books each measuring 6 by 7 centimetres. The detailed engravings, done by Alfred Mills well before the era of digital reproductions, are the hallmark of a truly masterful miniaturist.

A Familiar Introduction to Botany, 1800. RBSC uncatalogued.

Another piece packing a lot of information into a very small package is a botanical guide published in 1800. Its worn cover and weathered pages hint at a past life lived in the pocket of a keen amateur botanist.

Elsewhere in our collection, there are miniature books in the Hebrew tradition. Marked with holes left by centuries-old bookworms is a Shovavim Tat (a book traditionally read aloud during winter months, often accompanied by periods of fasting), published in 1740. As before, its well-worn pages suggest that it traveled close to the heart of its original owner.

Also adorning the shelves of Rare Books and Special Collections are quaint editions of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Alice in Wonderland, and others. As with all of our holdings, you are welcome to come admire these tiny treasures in person in our reading room. We’ll even provide a magnifying glass!

Our MUA colleague Julien Couture engrossed in a tiny tale.

Petites merveilles et grandes histoires à la division des Livres rares et des collections spécialisées (RBSC)

Par Elis Ing, bibliothécaire de liaison, Livres rares et collections spécialisées

RBSC Z1033 M6 C6x 1900

Avant de fouiller dans les trésors des livres minuscules de la division des Livres rares et des collections spécialisées de l’Université McGill, il convient de se poser quelques questions. D’abord, qu’entend-on par « minuscule »? La Miniature Book Society propose la définition suivante : il s’agit d’un livre dont la hauteur, la largeur et l’épaisseur ne dépassent généralement pas trois pouces (environ 7,6 cm). Les microlivres gagnent en popularité. À l’heure actuelle, l’édition carrée du Caméléon de Chekhov, avec ses 0,9 millimètre, est l’aspirant au titre du plus petit livre du monde.

Pourquoi des livres minuscules? Dans le passé, nombre d’entre eux ont été produits parce qu’ils étaient facilement dissimulables et, de ce fait, protégeaient le lecteur contre une persécution éventuelle. Sis à Azerbaijan, le Musée du livre miniature abrite des volumes minuscules imprimés pour diffuser en secret des idées prodémocratiques au cours de l’ère soviétique.

La facilité de transport est certes un autre motif important de motivation. Par exemple, la coutume hébraïque de miniaturiser des livres remonte au XVIe siècle, alors que les commerçants juifs qui se déplaçaient désiraient des textes religieux sans pour autant surcharger leurs cargaisons. Ajoutons comme troisième motif l’occasion offerte aux artisans de faire valoir leurs prouesses. Dernièrement, traitant de l’aspect de ces publications, Linda Young, Ph. D. et professeure principale en muséologie à l’Université a fait valoir que : « un livre miniature est l’œuvre d’un virtuose de l’imprimerie et que, pour ajouter à leur magie, leur reliure est souvent constituée de matériaux fins et précieux ».

Ajoutons la sensation particulière que procure la manipulation d’un très petit objet. L’essayiste Lia Purpura s’est récemment faite poétesse pour décrire cet attrait, « Ces répliques fascinantes nous attirent comme les doigts et les orteils du nourrisson : on a peine à croire qu’elles sont fonctionnelles… les miniatures sont l’habituel réduit à l’inusité. »

Pictures of English Literature in Miniature, 1815.

Les anecdotes sur les particularités de la consultation de si petits ouvrages foisonnent. Mandatée pour préserver des œuvres minuscules des sœurs Brontë, la conservatrice de la Bibliothèque Houghton de Harvard, dit avoir retenu son souffle pour éviter de les désagréger. Dernièrement, on a vu des conservateurs de livres miniatures de l’Université du nord du Texas se déplacer à quatre pattes pour retrouver un livre mal classé de moins de 1 millimètre carré et lancer de fausses alarmes à la vue de miettes et d’autres débris.

À l’Université McGill, les trésors minuscules comprennent plusieurs œuvres du XIXe siècle attribuables à Darton & Harvey, éditeurs britanniques spécialisés dans les livres miniatures, que recèle la Collection de livres pour enfants Sheila R. Bourke. On y trouve une histoire de l’Angleterre relatée sur 2000 ans dans une publication ambitieuse en deux tomes qui font chacun 6 centimètres sur 7. Les gravures détaillées qu’a réalisées Alfred Mills bien longtemps avant l’ère des reproductions numériques sont la marque d’un véritable miniaturiste accompli.

A Familiar Introduction to Botany, 1800. RBSC uncatalogued.

Un guide botanique publié en 1800 figure au nombre des ouvrages qui entassent une foule de renseignements dans un format ténu. Sa page couverture usée et ses pages vieillies évoquent une vie passée dans la poche d’un botaniste amateur passionné.

On trouve également dans notre collection des livres miniatures issus de la coutume hébraïque. Des rats de bibliothèque ont grugé au fil des siècles des trous dans un shovavim tat (livre traditionnellement lu à haute voix au pendant les mois d’hiver et souvent au cours d’un jeûne) publié en 1740. Une fois de plus, ses pages usées donnent à croire que ce livre a voyagé près du cœur de son propriétaire initial.

Des éditions pittoresques, entre autres œuvres, de La Légende de Sleepy Hollow et d’Alice au pays des merveilles viennent orner les rayons de la division des Livres rares et des collections spécialisées. Comme c’est le cas pour l’ensemble de notre collection, tous sont bienvenus pour admirer ces trésors minuscules en personne dans notre salle de lecture. Nous fournissons même les loupes!

Our MUA colleague Julien Couture engrossed in a tiny tale.

And though she be but little, she is fierce: Miniature engravings of musical instruments in Shakespeare by Gerard Brender à Brandis

Library Matters - Fri, 11/23/2018 - 14:22

La version française suit

By Vanessa Di Francesco, Assistant Curator, McGill Visual Arts Collection

Figure 1: Gerard Brender à Brandis, Rebec, from the series Concord of Sweet Sounds: Musical Instruments in Shakespeare, 2006-2009, hand-tinted wood engraving, 6 x 7 cm. Visual Arts Collection, McGill University Library 2018-020.22.

Tiny is trending, big time. From micro-homes and minimalist design to microbreweries and small-batch production, the downsizing wave is cresting. But tiny has been a persistent trend, especially in art. For centuries, artists and artisans have been creating miniature masterpieces that astonish in their careful attention to detail and engage a close, even intimate viewership. You cannot glimpse in passing at a tiny picture; rather, it demands closer scrutiny. The famous, intricately painted miniature portraits of the early modern period, for example, beg to be looked at up close and examined, to be picked up and measured against one’s hand.

A more recent example of this miniature tradition in art, printmaker Gerard Brender à Brandis’ series, Concord of Sweet Sounds: Musical Instruments in Shakespeare, includes 24 meticulously hand-tinted wood engravings that are often no bigger than a Canadian loonie (Figure 1). Each engraving depicts one of dozens of instruments alluded to in Shakespeare’s plays and poems. The series of tiny prints was also the subject of a short book, with the same title, featuring text by F. David Hoeniger, Professor Emeritus of English at Victoria College, University of Toronto.[1] McGill’s Visual Arts Collection recently acquired the series by way of a generous gift from the Collection of Freda and Irwin Browns.

Figure 2: Gerard Brender à Brandis, Positive Organ, from the series Concord of Sweet Sounds: Musical Instruments in Shakespeare, 2006-2009, hand-tinted wood engraving, 13 x 10.5 cm. Visual Arts Collection, McGill University Library 2018-020.14.

Brender à Brandis’ pictures are fine in every sense: small and delicate, they are almost jewel-like in their precision, intense colouring, and rich texture, revealing the work of a skilled and steady hand. The artist, born in Holland, and based in Stratford, Ontario, is one of few wood engravers working in Canada today. A member of the Wood Engravers’ Network, Brender à Brandis studied at McMaster University and honed his practice by traveling Europe and visiting master engravers. Most of his work, examples of which can be found in collections throughout North America, is rendered on a small-scale. In fact, tiny is a way of life for the artist, whose home and studio, a popular tourist destination in Stratford, is affectionately described as “so small” that it can only accommodate a few people at a time.

There is something especially enchanting about representing in miniature something monumental: the engraving of the organ (Figure 2), whose big sounds Shakespeare referred to in The Tempest as “deep and dreadful,”[2] is perhaps the most detailed work in the series. Even here, though, the artist has “downsized,” choosing to represent the smaller, one-manual pipe organ (or “positive organ”) that would have been familiar in Shakespeare’s time. To consider each print in the series is also to consider in this way the relationship between music, literature, history, and art, making the series uniquely appropriate for a University collection.

Figure 3: Gerard Brender à Brandis, Tambourine, Positive Organ, Bells, and Hornpipe, from the series Concord of Sweet Sounds: Musical Instruments in Shakespeare, 2006-2009, hand-tinted wood engravings, 40 x 35 cm (mat). Visual Arts Collection, McGill University Library 2018-020.13-020.16.

As an example, especially, of the strong and storied relationship between music and art, the series also speaks to the continued collaboration between McGill’s Visual Arts Collection and the Schulich School of Music, where the prints, beautifully matted (Figure 3) and framed, will soon be on display. Another collaboration between the two units is anticipated for spring 2019 during Montreal’s annual Nuit Blanche. As with last year, an art and architecture tour of historic Redpath Hall will be followed by a performance on McGill’s celebrated (and not so tiny) French classical organ. Stay tuned on the Visual Arts Collection’s website for more information!

[1] Gerard Brender à Brandis and F. David Hoeniger, Concord of Sweet Sounds: Musical Instruments in Shakespeare (Erin, Ontario: Porcupine’s Quill, 2009). A copy is available in the McGill University Library.

[2] See pgs. 54-55 of Brender à Brandis and Hoeniger for the representation of the organ in Shakespeare’s works.


Et toute petite qu’elle est, elle est féroce : Lithographies d’instruments de musique dans l’œuvre de Shakespeare par Gerard Brender à Brandis

Par Vanessa Di Francesco, conservatrice adjointe, Collection des arts visuels de l’Université McGill

Figure 1: Gerard Brender à Brandis, Rebec, tiré de la série Concord of Sweet Sounds: Musical Instruments in Shakespeare, 2006-2009, gravure sur bois teinte à la main, 6 x 7 cm. Collection d’arts visuels et les Archives de l’Université. 2018-020.22.

Le minuscule se taille une place énorme dans les tendances. De la minimaison au design minimaliste en passant par les microbrasseries et la production en petits lots, la vague de la réduction atteint une crête. Cela dit, le minuscule est une tendance qui persiste, et ce, surtout dans le domaine des arts. Depuis des siècles, artistes et artisans créent des chefs-d’œuvre miniatures stupéfiants par l’attention soignée portée à leurs détails qui appelle une observation rapprochée, voire intime. Impossible de jeter un œil rapide à une image minuscule plutôt que de se livrer à un examen minutieux. Ainsi, les fameux portraits miniatures à la facture complexe du début de la période moderne demeurent dans l’attente d’un examen rapproché, de leur manipulation et de leur comparaison avec la taille de la main de l’observateur.

Plus près de nous, la série Concord of Sweet Sounds: Musical Instruments in Shakespeare du graveur Gerard Brender à Brandis comprend 24 gravures en bois méticuleusement teintées à la main qui, bien souvent, ne dépassent pas la taille du huard canadien (Figure 1). Chaque lithographie dépeint un instrument parmi les douzaines évoqués dans les pièces et les poèmes de Shakespeare. De plus, cette série a inspiré un court ouvrage éponyme de F. David Hoeniger, professeur d’anglais émérite au Collège Victoria de l’Université de Toronto[1]. Grâce à un don généreux de la Collection de Freda et Irwin Browns, la Collection des arts visuels de McGill a acquis cette série dernièrement.

Figure 2 : Gerard Brender à Brandis, Orgue positif, tiré de la série Concord of Sweet Sounds: Musical Instruments in Shakespeare, 2006-2009, gravure sur bois teinte à la main, 13 x 10,5 cm. Collection d’arts visuels et les Archives de l’Université. 2018-020.14

Les images de Brender à Brandis expriment la finesse dans toutes leurs facettes : petites et délicates, elles atteignent presque la précision d’un travail d’orfèvre. Leurs couleurs intenses et leur riche texture dénotent le travail d’une main habile et stable. Né en Hollande et établi à Stratford, en Ontario, l’artiste est un des seuls graveurs sur bois en activité au Canada de nos jours. Membre du Wood Engravers’ Network, Brender à Brandis a étudié à l’Université McMaster et a affiné son art à l’occasion de voyages en Europe et de visites à des maîtres-graveurs. La plupart de ses œuvres, dont des exemples figurent dans des collections partout en Amérique du Nord, sont produites à petite échelle. L’artiste, qui a fait du minuscule un mode de vie, possède une maison-studio, destination touristique populaire à Stratford, décrite affectueusement comme étant « si minuscule », qu’elle ne peut accueillir que quelques personnes à la fois.

La représentation en miniature de quelque chose de monumental suscite un enchantement particulier : la lithographie de l’orgue (Figure 2), dont Shakespeare a décrit le son puissant dans La Tempête comme étant « lourd et redoutable[2] » est peut-être la pièce la plus détaillée de la série. Cela dit, même dans ce cas, l’artiste a réduit l’ampleur pour représenter l’orgue manuel le plus petit et doté d’un seul clavier (« orgue positif ») qui eut été courant à l’époque de Shakespeare. Pour juger de chaque lithographie de cette série, il faut tenir compte de la relation entre la musique, la littérature, l’histoire et l’art qui rend cette œuvre parfaitement indiquée pour une collection universitaire.

Figure 3: Gerard Brender à Brandis, Tambourin, Orgue positif, Cloches, et Hornpipe, tiré de la série Concord of Sweet Sounds: Musical Instruments in Shakespeare, 2006-2009, gravure sur bois teinte à la main, 40 x 35 cm (passe-partout). Collection d’arts visuels et les Archives de l’Université. 2018-020.13-020.16.

À titre d’exemple, notamment, de la relation solide et documentée entre la musique et l’art, soulignons à propos de cette série la collaboration continuelle entre la Collection des arts visuels de McGill et de l’École de musique Schulich, où les lithographies, magnifiquement serties dans des passe-partout (Figure 3) et encadrées, seront bientôt exposées. Une autre collaboration entre les deux établissements est prévue pour le printemps 2019 à l’occasion de la tenue annuelle de la Nuit blanche de Montréal. Tout comme ce fut le cas l’an dernier, une visite guidée mettant en vedette l’art et l’architecture de la salle historique Redpath sera suivie d’une prestation à l’orgue classique français (pas si petit que ça). Demeurez à l’affût des renseignements supplémentaires dans le site Web de la Collection des arts visuels!

[1] Gerard Brender à Brandis et F. David Hoeniger, Concord of Sweet Sounds: Musical Instruments in Shakespeare (Erin, Ontario: Porcupine’s Quill, 2009). Exemplaire disponible à la Bibliothèque de l’Université McGill.

[2] Consulter les pages 54 et 55 de la publication de Brender à Brandis et Hoeniger pour voir la représentation de l’orgue dans l’œuvre de Shakespeare.

A rainbow of microscopic specimens in McGill University Archives

Library Matters - Fri, 11/23/2018 - 14:21

La version française suit

By Frédéric Giuliano, Archivist, McGill University Archives

What is the first image that comes to mind when you think of the word “archive”? A dusty old yellowish manuscript paper or maybe a box of old black and white photographs? Archives are the fragments of life; the objects, documents, medals, memorabilia that document a career or institution or movement. Archives are made of many different formats, from paper to digital, big to small. They could include the most unusual materials such as rock, textiles, jewelry, glass, ceramics or even tree bark.

One of forty-eight slides given to MUA by Dr. Thomas Primrose in 1975.

One pocket-sized example was found recently while looking through items in preparation for McGill’s 200th anniversary coming up in 2021. Forty-eight glass microscope slides measuring 7.5 cm each were found in a fragile original wooden box. The slides, manufactured during the first quarter of the twentieth century, are breathtaking in their design and rich colour. They are finely decorated specimens in and amongst themselves and at first glance overshadow their primarily scientific purpose. The specimen featured on the slides are also fascinating. They include things like ooze from Atlantic bed 2000 fathoms, asbestos fiberized, horn of American bison, pollen of hollyhocks and the purple sea fan also known as gorgonia ventalina. Given to the McGill University Archives in 1975, these slides were used for teaching by Dr. Thomas Primrose an associate professor of the department of obstetrics and gynecology who started his career at McGill University in 1946 as a teaching fellow.

The use of microscopes and slides for teaching obstetrics and gynecology was widespread, as can be seen when exploring the successful history of James W. Queen (1811-1890), a son of Irish immigrants whose company would rise to become the largest and most successful producer of scientific apparatus in the United States. However, the Philadelphia 924 Chestnut street manufacturer never fully recovered from the early 1890s depression and completely ceased his activities in 1920s.

These slides and other educational equipment are part of a large collection of teaching materials no longer in use but preserved by McGill University Archives. Their existence tells a story bigger than their size may initially suggest. Looking at these objects is like jumping into a time machine. Almost instantly, one can imagine how the class was organized with microscopes on every table. The tinkling of the glass can be heard as students slid them into place. Touching the slides in the here and now, one can begin to understand how fragile and complex manipulating these tiny specimens were. These slides were objects of study, exploration, and beauty. It is of no wonder that they are so ornately decorated.

For almost two centuries, McGill University has provided service to society by carrying out teaching, research, and learning activities. As the guardian and historical memory of the institution, McGill University Archives acquires and preserves any documents or artifacts that help to tell McGill’s story throughout time. These slides, though small in stature, exemplify the spirit of discovery, the splendour connected to learning and the scientific breakthroughs valued by the community.

Les Archives de l’Université McGill abritent un arc-en-ciel de spécimens microscopiques

Par Frédéric Giuliano, archiviste, Archives de l’Université McGill

Quelle est la première image qu’évoque le mot « archive »? Un vieux manuscrit jauni et poussiéreux ou encore une boîte renfermant de vieilles photos en noir et blanc? Véritables fragments de vie, ce sont les objets, documents, médailles et souvenirs qui documentent une carrière, la vie d’un établissement ou d’un mouvement. De petite ou de grande taille, sur papier ou sur support numérique, les archives revêtent diverses formes. Pierres, tissus, bijoux, verre, céramique ou encore écorces d’arbres, elles sont parfois constituées des matériaux les plus inusités qui soient.

One of forty-eight slides given to MUA by Dr. Thomas Primrose in 1975.

À titre d’exemple, à l’occasion de la recherche d’articles menée pour préparer la commémoration du bicentenaire de l’Université, en 2021, 48 lamelles de microscopes de 7,5 centimètres ont été retrouvées dans leur fragile boîte en bois originale. Les images et les couleurs riches de ces lamelles fabriquées au cours des 25 premières années du XXe siècle sont époustouflantes. Elles contiennent des spécimens finement décorés qui, à première vue, éclipsent leur vocation scientifique première. Et les spécimens mêmes sont tout aussi fascinants : vase recueillie dans l’Atlantique par 2000 brasses de fond, fibres d’amiante, corne d’un bison d’Amérique, pollen de rose trémière et éventail de mer, alias gorgone pourpre. Le Dr Thomas Primrose, professeur agrégé rattaché au département d’Obstétrique et de Gynécologie, qui a amorcé sa carrière à McGill en 1946 en qualité de moniteur d’enseignement, a donné ces lamelles aux Archives en 1975.

Le recours aux microscopes et aux lamelles pour enseigner l’obstétrique et la gynécologie était une pratique largement répandue comme en témoigne l’histoire jalonnée de réussite de James W. Queen (1811-1890), fils d’immigrants irlandais, dont l’entreprise s’est élevée au rang de principal et de plus florissant fabricant d’appareils scientifiques aux États-Unis. Cela dit, ce fabricant établi au 924, Chestnut Street, à Philadelphie, n’a jamais pu se relever tout à fait de la dépression du début des années 1890, de sorte qu’il a dû fermer ses portes dans les années 1920.

Les lamelles et d’autres articles à vocation éducative appartiennent à une vaste collection de matériel didactique délaissé, mais que préservent les Archives de l’Université McGill. Ces objets nous racontent une histoire dont, à première vue, la portée n’a aucune commune mesure avec la taille. Leur observation équivaut à une excursion à bord d’une machine à voyager dans le temps. On peut imaginer presque sur-le-champ les salles de classe dont chaque table est dotée d’un microscope. Et entendre les lamelles tinter alors que les étudiants les glissent à leur place. Toucher à ces lamelles nous ramène à l’instant présent et nous aide à comprendre à quel point la manipulation de ces spécimens minuscules et fragiles était complexe. Comme les lamelles étaient à la fois objets d’étude, d’exploration et de beauté, il ne faut pas s’étonner de la richesse de leurs ornements.

Par son enseignement, de même que par les recherches et les activités pédagogiques qu’elle mène, l’Université McGill sert la société depuis presque deux siècles. En qualité de gardien et de mémoire historique de l’institution, les Archives de l’Université McGill acquièrent et préservent tous les documents et les artéfacts qui contribuent à relater l’histoire de McGill au fil du temps. Quoique minuscules, ces lamelles illustrent l’esprit de découverte, la splendeur rattachée à l’apprentissage et les percées scientifiques chères au cœur de la collectivité.

Pretty in Pink: Montreal’s role in the history of reproductive health

Library Matters - Fri, 11/23/2018 - 14:21

La version française suit

By Mary Yearl, Head Librarian, Osler Library of the History of Medicine

Among the recent arrivals at the Osler Library of the History of Medicine are a set of three lapel pins decorated with an accurately sized replica of the Ortho 1 birth control pill. That the decoration is supposed to represent a pharmaceutical product is easy to miss. These lapel pins might also be considered tiny in that few would have thought to keep them. They are seemingly insignificant pieces of advertising, which were stashed among the belongings of a Montreal gynecologist.

Ortho 1 lapel pins

There is a lot about the Ortho 1 pins that is tiny. Clearly, its size: the replica pill measures 5mm in diameter, while the artifact itself stretches to 55mm in length. The amount of information we have about them is arguably even more diminutive. We know who their owner was, but can only state publicly that he was a Montreal gynecologist. All other information about the pins is speculative. How did the doctor come across these pins? Were they in a bowl on a table at a conference? Were they brought into his office by an Ortho Pharmaceuticals representative? We leave it to others to imagine or to investigate.

For all that we do not know about these tiny treasures, we do know that they present an opportunity to open up a much bigger – and undeniably significant – conversation about Montreal’s place in the history of reproductive health. The pill lapel pins provide a taste of larger treasures that reside at the Osler Library. For instance, the library’s collections include several editions of the Birth Control Handbook, co-edited by McGill students Donna Cherniak and Allan Feingold. Our holdings (editions 4-6 and 8-12, published in the years 1970-1974) have been used for discussion in many McGill classes over the years.

Birth Control Handbook, 1968

This small handbook was an instant success when it was published in 1968, selling millions of copies in Canada and the United States. It was part of a movement, one of the first of its kind, and provided information about reproduction, sexuality, relationships, birth control, and abortion, in a time when it was illegal to provide much of that information. Significantly, Cherniak and Feingold’s Birth Control Handbook predated the Boston Health Collective’s Our Bodies, Ourselves (1971), an expanded work that ultimately gained greater international prominence.

Pregnancy test kit developed by Margo Crane

Complementing both the pill lapel pins and the Birth Control Handbook is another recent acquisition, whose historical significance far outshines its physical size or appearance. Thanks to a connection made at a history of medicine conference, the Osler recently purchased a home pregnancy test kit from its creator, Margaret Crane. Though she developed the kit in New York while working as a graphic designer for Organon Pharmaceuticals, it was first test-marketed in Montreal in 1971 by Chefaro Labs. The test kit was beautifully simple, taking its design from a clear plastic paper clip container. There were early objections to the kit: some feared that allowing women to test for pregnancy themselves would alienate commercial labs who profited from doing the tests themselves; others’ objections were moral, believing that home pregnancy tests would result in abortions. Ultimately, the prospect of good sales prevailed for both pregnancy tests and the little pink Ortho 1 pills and the demand for the production and dissemination of reproductive health information grew rapidly, morphing into something more.

Le rose vous va si bien : le rôle de Montréal dans l’histoire de la santé reproductive

Par Mary Yearl, bibliothécaire en chef, Bibliothèque Osler d’histoire de la médecine

Au nombre des pièces parvenues dernièrement à la Bibliothèque Osler d’histoire de la médecine, on trouve un ensemble de trois épinglettes ornées d’une réplique à la taille exacte de la pilule contraceptive Ortho 1. À première vue, on ne remarque pas nécessairement que cette décoration est censée représenter un produit pharmaceutique. On peut aussi considérer ces épinglettes comme du menu fretin puisque rares sont ceux qui ont songé à les conserver. Apparemment, il s’agit d’articles promotionnels sans importance enfouis parmi les biens d’un gynécologue montréalais.

Ortho 1 lapel pins

Les épinglettes Ortho 1 sont menues à bien des égards. Certes, il y a leur taille : la réplique de la pilule fait 5 mm de diamètre et la longueur totale de l’objet, 55 mm. Mais la quantité de renseignements à leur sujet est sans doute encore plus ténue. Nous connaissons leur propriétaire, mais ne pouvons divulguer seulement qu’il s’agissait d’un gynécologue montréalais. Tous les autres renseignements sur ces épinglettes relèvent de la spéculation. Comment ce gynécologue se les est-il procurées? Les a-t-il cueillies dans un bol posé sur une table à l’occasion d’un congrès? Un représentant d’Ortho Pharmaceuticals les a-t-il apportées à son cabinet? Nous laissons à d’autres le soin d’enquêter sur leur provenance, ou de l’imaginer.

Si nous ignorons quantité de faits à propos de ces trésors minuscules, nous savons en revanche qu’elles offrent une occasion d’amorcer une conversation beaucoup plus large – et assurément importante – sur la place de Montréal dans l’histoire de la santé reproductive. Ces épinglettes donnent une idée des trésors encore plus imposants qu’abrite la Bibliothèque Osler. Par exemple, les collections de la bibliothèque comprennent plusieurs éditions du Birth Control Handbook, qu’ont corédigé les étudiants mcgillois Donna Cherniak et Allan Feingold. Nos exemplaires (éditions 4 à 6 et 8 à 12, publiées entre 1970 et 1974) ont servi à des discussions dans nombre de salles de classe de McGill au fil des ans.

Birth Control Handbook, 1968

Lors de sa publication, en 1968, cet opuscule a remporté un succès instantané comme en fait foi la vente de millions d’exemplaires au Canada et aux États-Unis. Il s’inscrivait dans un mouvement, parmi les premiers du genre, et fournissait des renseignements sur la reproduction, la sexualité, les relations, la régulation des naissances et l’avortement à une époque où il était illégal de fournir un large pan de cette information. Soulignons que la parution de Birth Control Handbook, de Cherniak et Feingold, a précédé celle de Our Bodies, Ourselves (1971), du Boston Health Collective, vaste ouvrage dont la réputation internationale a surclassé celle du travail des auteurs mcgillois.

Pregnancy test kit developed by Margo Crane

En sus des épinglettes arborant une pilule et le Birth Control Handbook, mentionnons une autre acquisition récente dont l’importance historique dépasse la taille et l’apparence. Grâce à un contact à l’occasion d’un congrès sur l’histoire de la médecine, la Bibliothèque Osler a acheté dernièrement une trousse de test de grossesse maison à sa créatrice, Margaret Crane. Quoiqu’elle l’ait développé à New York, où elle travaillait à titre de graphiste auprès de la Organon Pharmaceuticals, c’est la firme Chefaro Labs qui a lancé cette trousse à Montréal, en 1971, dans le cadre d’un essai de commercialisation. Merveilleusement simple, la conception de la trousse s’inspirait d’une boîte de trombones en plastique. Elle a rapidement suscité des objections : d’aucuns craignaient de se mettre à dos les laboratoires commerciaux qui bénéficiaient de ces tests si on permettait aux femmes de vérifier elles-mêmes si elles étaient enceintes; d’autres, persuadés que les tests à la maison mèneraient à des avortements, invoquaient des arguments moraux. En fin de compte, c’est la perspective de réaliser de bonnes ventes qui l’a emporté tant pour les tests de grossesse que pour les petites pilules roses Ortho 1, et la demande de production et de diffusion se sont transformées rapidement pour gagner en ampleur.


Library of Congress’ Adbul Hamid II Digital Collections

McGill Islamic Studies Library's blog - Tue, 11/20/2018 - 13:10

Among the Library of Congress‘ numerous digital collections, two collections include Ottoman photographic and textual materials from the African and Middle East Division: the Abdul Hamid II collection and the Abdul Hamid Collection of books and serials gifted to the Library of Congress.

Made up of 1,819 photographs in 51 large-format albums from the late 19th century, the Abdul Hamid II collection illustrates the Ottoman Empire during the reign of Sultan Abdul-Hamid II, and  the modernization of of the Ottoman Empire. Photographs were taken by well-known Ottoman commercial photographers, Turkish military photographers and the Photographic Unit of the Imperial School of Engineering. Abdul-Hamid (1842-1918) was an avid collector and promoter of photography. He presented a copy of the survey to the Library of Congress in 1893 or 1894 and gave a very similar collection to the British Museum (now housed in the British Library).

[Tuberculosis ward of the Hasköy Hospital for Women] / Abdullah Frères (Constantinople), between 1880 and 1883.

The Abdul Hamid Collection of books and serials gifted to the Library of Congress contains over 300 original Ottoman Turkish, Persian and Arabic works as well as translations from European languages of medical, historical, or legal, works. All the volumes are bound in red Morocco with gilt edges, and richly embossed with the following inscription in English, French and Ottoman: “Gift made by H.I. M. the Sultan Abdul-Hamid II to the national library of the United States of America through the Honorable A.S. Hewitt Member of the House of Representatives A.H. 1302-1884 A.D.“. The collection was donatedto the Library of Congress in 1884.

Medhal-i fıkıh / Abdüssettar. İstanbul : Mahmud Bey Matbaası, 1299 [1882]

Digital contents are available for download in very high resolution, and free to use or reuse as they are in the public domain.