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Drama Beyond the Frame: 19th century Japanese prints in the Visual Arts Collection

Library Matters - Thu, 07/19/2018 - 15:11

The Visual Arts Collection’s Visible Storage Gallery on the 4th floor of the McLennan Library is home to a Japanese woodblock print by Utagawa Kuniyoshi titled Actor Ichikawa Kuzo II as Saitogo Kunitake (1846-47). In the print, pictured below, the actor is depicted as portraying a warrior. He meets the viewer’s gaze directly, implicating them in the unfolding drama.

Kuniyoshi, the artist, was active in the 19th century in the city of Edo, present day Tokyo, during the repressive rule of the Tokugawa Shogunate regime. Despite severe state-sponsored censorship and restrictive laws, the arts flourished during this period, largely due to a growing class of artisans and merchants, dubbed “townspeople” by the Shogunate, who inhabited Japan’s urban centers. Traditional Japanese art like pottery and painting was mainly commissioned and consumed by the aristocracy. Woodblock prints became especially popular from the 18th century forward, as the printing process allowed for the intricate colours and patterns in the artist’s design to be affordably and repeatedly reproduced for this new class. Kabuki, a form of highly stylized Japanese theatre, was an entertainment of choice for townspeople, who were also the main consumers of woodblock prints. And Kabuki actors, like the one represented here, were much like modern-day celebrities, making for ideal woodblock subjects, much like Brad Pitt on a GQ cover.

Thanks to a generous donation from Dr. Joanne Jepson [M.D.,C.M., ‘59], there are numerous kabuki prints in McGill’s Visual Arts Collection. Many, like Kuniyoshi’s, are from Edo, home to a form of kabuki theatre known as aragoto, or “rough style.” These kabuki prints all depict actors in moments of emotional intensity (anger, elation, epiphany), which follows from the aragoto theatre style and its action-driven plots.

Often, the drama associated with each print extended far beyond the frame. All woodblock prints from this era are inscribed with the artist’s unique seal, which functioned like an extension of their signature. This print bears Kuniyoshi’s later seal: a red paulownia flower, seen at middle left just below the inscription. Kuniyoshi changed his seal in 1844 to distance himself from his contemporary, Utagawa Kunisada, after the latter decided to singularly assume the seal (and name) of their deceased teacher. Dr. Jepson’s donation also includes prints from Kunisada with that contentious seal. The drama between these two artists brews on in our Collection.

As a McGill Art History student and summer intern at the Visual Arts Collection, it is exciting to have the opportunity to enrich the Collection’s files by discovering such unexpected connections between objects and painting a fuller picture of the context for these 19th century Japanese prints.

-Written by Rosalind Sweeney-McCabe, Museum Database Assistant, Visual Arts Collection

Utagawa Kuniyoshi (Japanese, 1797- 1861), “Actor Ichikawa Kuo Ii as Saitogo Kunitake, ” 1846-47, woodblock print. Gift of Dr. Joanne Jepson, M.D.,C.M., ’59. McGill Visual Arts Collection 2013-140. Photo by Catherine LaRivière.

8th Edition of Montreal Orientalys Festival (August 2-5, 2018)

McGill Islamic Studies Library's blog - Mon, 07/16/2018 - 07:37

The programme of the 8th edition of Montreal Orientalys Festival was just announced and is now available on their website:

For the past seven years, Orientalys has aimed at providing a platform to showcase North African, Middle Eastern, and South East Asian cultures and traditions in Quebec. The festival will take place in the Old Port of Montreal on Thursday August 2 from 6 to 11 p.m.,Friday  August 3 from 3 to 11 p.m.,Saturday  August 4 from 12 to 11 p.m.,Sunday  August 5 from 12 to 11 p.m.

The programme includes dancing performances and concerts, as well as a wide variety of interactive activities for children and/or adults (such as cooking and handicraft workshops). Orientalys is free and open to everyone.

For more information see: 

A peek into the daily life of an English doctor in Versailles, 1819-1824 : the diaries of Jonas Asplin, M.D.

Library Matters - Mon, 07/09/2018 - 15:31

            Amongst the manuscripts in the Osler Library are three volumes that outline in exquisite detail the daily occurrences that one English physician found significant enough to record in his diary. Jonas Asplin was originally from Little Wakering in Essex, but spent five years practicing medicine in Versailles and Paris. The journals housed at the Osler Library, which cover the years 1819-1824, were recently digitized and are currently being transcribed.

            Looking at Asplin’s diaries for a few select days provides a fascinating snapshot of what was important in this doctor’s life. A significant proportion of his remarks are devoted to the weather and to those with whom he socialized, but he peppers his commentary with current events. Not surprisingly, within the accounts of his daily rounds are also remarks on medicine, but these by no means take precedence.

            In terms of the substance of the entries, each begins with a meteorological summary: the general conditions, often the temperature (in degrees Fahrenheit), and the direction of the prevailing winds. When covering his daily activities, Asplin provides details about the routes he takes, which means that once fully transcribed the diaries could give rise to an interesting mapping exercise; similarly, the names he mentions appear to be those of individuals who were influential in and around Versailles, especially amongst the English-speaking community. Until the full transcript is available, a few excerpts will suffice to provide a glimpse of the three volumes left by Dr. Asplin from his years in France.


[vol. I, p. 148] 1819.

 [Tuesday] le 6 de Juillet. – Versailles.

The weather.

Up at 5. – The weather this morning is extraordinary – there is a very dense fog – flying with a fresh breeze from the N. – at the same time the thunder is pretty general tho gentle from all quarters except the E. without any very heavy clouds. – ½ past 6. Thunder now heavy and general except from the E – Some rain. – The lightening not very vivid – but I never heard so much thunder from such light clouds. – Rains steadily. – 6 ¾ Heavy shower. getting bright in the S.E. – 8. Fine + Sunshine.

[vol. I, p. 149] A bit further down, he includes a passing comment that is not atypical of his medical content: “The man who keeps the cottage has received a very severe sabre wound on the shoulder from a soldier, which I promised him to look at tomorrow.”

Regarding current events, on Wednesday 7 July, Asplin records the death of the aeronaut Madame (Sophie) Blanchard. The following day, he mentions that the king is going to St. Cloud from the Tuileries, and on 9 July Asplin returns to the man wounded by a soldier while passing judgement on the treatment given to that man by a military surgeon: Walked by the Bois de Satory to [p. 152] the Village of Buc to see a poor man who received a Severe Sabre wound a short time since from a drunken Soldier – it is a deep wound but might be healed by proper treatment in Eight days – but as treated at present by the Surgeon of the Regiment to which the Soldier belonged, it is likely to take as many weeks. – there is a deep descending sinus, which if laid open would heal immediately – But I suppose the Surgeon thinks one wound enough.

            One year later, on 9 July 1820, Asplin records a very ordinary day and concludes with very extraordinary charges laid against the queen [vol. I, p. 364]: At 8 1/2 . Visited Mr. Coare on horseback – Visited Miss E Stephens + called on Mrs. S. – home – Sent for to Miss Bolton – Drove Eliza there, who went on to Church –

            Attended an Agricultural meeting at the Mairie at 12. – The prefect presided. – Day more warm and sunshine. – Called at Colcloughs – Mr. Reed came there. – In the Evening to Tea at Mr. Stephens Mr. Fitzwilliam there. – Mr. Weeks + Miss Weeks set off for Paris – Drove Mrs. Stephens + Emma by Triannon round by the St. Cyr road. – Eliza + the others walked in the Gardens – returned + Visited Miss Bolton – sent the gig home. – We walked home with Mr. Fitzwilliam by the Boulevard de la Reine + Rue de Provence – Night very fine + appears settled. –

            Charges of Adultery are now formally made against the Queen – + proceedings going on.


            The following year, in 1821, Asplin covers in a public execution in one entry and the reported death of Napoleon Bonaparte the next.

[Vol. II, p. 127]

  1. [Friday] Juillet 6.

N.W. and very cool. –

Colonel Souther called to say there is to be an Execution to day. –  proposed meeting me there –


The Criminal was a young man, but an ugly looking fellow, for he murdered his Uncle. He was at the Scaffold by 12 and the clock had scarcely done striking before his head was off. – He kissed as is usual the cheeks of the priest – + turning to the audience, merely said “Messieurs, je demande vos prieres. –”

            I never saw the blood fly so far from the body before. – it projected at least a yard + a half –

            Visited Mrs. Reed + family _ proceeded to call on Hunt to accompany him as by appointment to the Chateau. – met him + Mrs. Hunt in Rue de Provence. – Called on Cap. Hoffman who went with me to the Chateau + met Hunt there – Left Hunt on the Avenue de St. Cloud, + went home – Visited Mrs. Colclough. – In the Evening Louisa accompanied us to Mrs. Raymonds party in Rue de l’Orangerie. – There [p. 128] is a report of the death of Bounaparte [sic]. – not a large party. – home at 1. – Night fine. –


  1. [Saturday] Juillet 7.

N.W. cold. – some rain. –

Rode and visited Mr. + Mrs. Calvert, – Mrs. + Miss Brighton – met Mr. + Mrs. Roles there. – 

Death of Bonaparte

Confirmed – he died at St. Helena the 5th May from a Cancer in the Stomach – after a confinement of 40 days. – –

Visited Mr. Howard – + Mrs. Colclough. – home – In the Evening. To Capn Landfords to Tea – met Mrs. Swaine + son there – Night fine, Mr. Waller + Miss Bunn were there also, – We walked home together. –


In the third volume, at least for these dates, there is a return to a strikingly methodical routine:

[Vol. III, p. 292]

  1. [Thursday] Juillet 8.

Very fine. 67 [degrees]

Mr. Hull called as did Mr. Bazeley. – rode to Rue de Monsieur + Visited Miss E. Roles + Miss Sherratt. – home – found Mr. Bazeley there – Eliza with Mrs. Gardiner to make purchases.

– Hearing of the resignation of the Revd. Mr. Beaver.

Of the Church at Versailles – determined to exert myself to get the Church for Revd. Mr. Bazeley. – And accordingly rode over to Versailles to use any influence for the purpose. [p. 293] clear. – Mr. Bazely went to Boulogne + met one there, wishing to see his friend the Revd. Mr. May first, – Called at Mr. Richards at Chaillot + on Colonel Fraser at Passy – met Mr. Bazeley by the Church at Boulogne + then on to Mr. Stephens’s at Versailles – Called on Hunt + Caplain Hoffman R.N. + returned home by 11. – very fine night. –


The RBSC blog has moved!

Rare Books and Special Collections blog - Fri, 07/06/2018 - 18:07

We’ve moved our blog over to Library Matters, where we will be posting content alongside our McGill Library colleagues.

Reading Room of the Redpath Library in 1893. Photo: McGill Archives, PR037389

In September 2016, the McGill 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 branches through cross-unit collaboration, strengthening and distinguishing our rich collections and the Library as a whole.

We hope you will continue to follow us over at Library Matters.

“Historiography of Early Modern Ottoman Europe” (HOE) Database

McGill Islamic Studies Library's blog - Fri, 07/06/2018 - 17:30

Bibliographical Database Historiography in Ottoman Europe (15th until 18th centuries)

The modern historiography practices in Western Europe is different from historiographical traditions in ancient world. These practices does not necessarily reflect nor acknowledge the existence of rich historiographical traditions. On the other hand Sources that formed the cultural frameworks of Ottoman Europe were mostly religious writings, however the polyglot historiography of that region sheds light to the secular part of writings, which are considered as important primary sources for social and cultural researches. Therefore the Bibliographical Database Historiography in Ottoman Europe (15th until 18th centuries)  HOE was launched by the Department of the History of the Ottoman Empire, Turkey and the University Library of the Ruhr-University in Bochum to fill the gap and to provide a comprehensive bibliography on the historiographic texts written in all languages of Ottoman Europe for the period of 1500 to 1800.

HOE database provides meta-data on various published and unpublished primary and secondary historiographical sources of Ottoman Europe (ex. chronicles, histories, hagiographies, inscriptions, maps…) which can be found under the “Main section” of the database. Information about particular collections and references, can be found under the “Tool section”. This database also offers information about content, manuscripts as well as author, title and edition of the materials. When available this information is linked to online resources too.

Chocolate Around the Clock: RBSC cookbook collection

Library Matters - Fri, 07/06/2018 - 10:00

By Colin Rier, a McGill undergraduate studying food history and summer 2018 Goodman Intern. Read more about his internship here:

Certain cookbook authors immediately garner interest and respect amongst cookbook historians. These are authors like Edna Lewis, Julia Child, and Isabella Beeton. In Quebec, the name that looms over all others is Jehane Benoit (1904 – 1987), one of the greatest cookbook writers in Quebec and Canadian history.

“Chocolate Around the Clock” cover page

Most people know of Jehane Benoit through her series of microwave cookbooks, but her other publications are less well unknown. Rare Books and Special Collections (RBSC) houses many of her works, but first we must tell the amazing story of the author herself.

Born and raised in Quebec, Benoit went to Paris to pursue her love of food. She graduated from a four-year food science course at the Sorbonne before training at Le Cordon Bleu culinary school. This level of food education is very high, even by today’s standards. It is even more remarkable because she accomplished this in the first half of the 20th century. At that time there were significant barriers for women to study at these schools.

Upon moving back to Montreal, Benoit opened The Salad Bar near the Musee des Beaux-Arts au Montréal in 1935. A notable restaurant for the fact it was one of the first vegetarian restaurants to open in Canada. Above the restaurant, she operated an eponymous cooking school and began to establish a reputation as a great teacher of cooking technique.

Her time as a cooking instructor introduced her to recipe writing. In 1940, Benoit wrote her first cookbook titled Chocolate Around the Clock. The Fry-Cadbury Chocolate Company published the book as an advertising effort.

“Chocolate Around the Clock,” p.16-17

This was the first of many advertising cookbooks that Jehane Benoit would go on to write in her career, though this was the only book which she wrote under her maiden name of Patenaude.

“70 plats nouveaux au chocolat et au cacao” cover

The book stretches the uses of chocolate, from the familiar to the less traditional. The items featured range from chocolate cookies to chocolate pineapple rice. The recipes carry the classic style of Benoit: exacting recipes with a gentle voice. Unlike the books published at the end of her career, her first books did not go on large printing runs. McGill is one of few university libraries to own Chocolate Around the Clock. A truly rare Canadian culinary gem!

Jehane Benoit followed her first book with a sequel: 70 New Chocolate and Cocoa Recipes. McGill RBSC is home to both a French and English copy of this work as well. From these two initial volumes she would go on to produce her most honoured works, including the Encyclopedia of Canadian Cuisine,  and of course the microwave cookbooks. These cookbooks, published before Benoit reached fame in Canadian foodways, are available for consultation during opening hours.

Introducing the Goodman Intern

Library Matters - Thu, 07/05/2018 - 16:31

My name is Colin Rier and I am a undergraduate student at McGill University studying food history. I am this summer’s Goodman Intern at Rare Books and Special Collections (RBSC), working with the cookbook collection. I have a long history of working with food through a myriad of different opportunities. My work experience includes farms, restaurants, school and museums. I didn’t realize the possibilities of food studies until I developed a special historical menu for a restaurant I worked at in high school. From that experience I knew I wanted to continue to study food.

Colin Rier, portrait taken by Lauren Goldman

To carry on with my food studies, I headed to McGill due to its reputation for food studies. Since arriving in Montreal I’ve acted as a manager at Foodchain restaurant and I also lead culinary tours of the Mile End and Plateau with the Museum of Jewish Montreal. I am beyond honoured to be able to assist in the curation and promotion of the RBSC Cookbook Collection under the tutelage of Nathalie Cooke, Jennifer Garland and Christopher Lyons.

The Internship Tasks

The first goal of the internship is to collect information on the cookbook collection, focussing on its strengths and weaknesses. The results of this research will be compared with other culinary literature collections across North America. With this information I will create a collection policy dictating how the collection will grow over the coming years.

I am also assisting in the planning of an event celebrating Jewish Foodways in the fall. This event will be an opportunity for the Montreal food community to come together around a great lineup of speakers. 

A small selection of the treasures of the cookbook collection (photo L. Goldman)

Finally, I will build an exhibit that will run in the lobby of the McLennan Library Building through the Fall semester. The exhibit will centre along the theme of ‘Eating Montreal: Dining In & Out in the 20th century’. It will feature some of greatest treasures from the cookbook collection including menus and ephemera. As such a strong part of the city’s culinary history, a large part of the exhibit will highlight the Jewish contribution to Montreal foodways.

The Cookbook Collection

The McGill Rare Books cookbook collection is home to more than 3,500 items, making it one of the three largest cookbook collections in Canada. It features items including small pamphlets advertising worldly cuisines to large textbooks giving instruction on Canadian classics. There is also a large range of dates in the collection, starting with contemporary texts and stretching back to 16th century volumes.  Collection strengths include 20th century Canadian, British and American cookbooks and a large number of community and advertising cookbooks from regions all around Canada.

Watch the Library Events page for an announcement of these upcoming events.

Egyptian Press Archive of CEDEJ

McGill Islamic Studies Library's blog - Tue, 06/26/2018 - 15:41

The Egyptian Press Archive of CEDEJ is an initiative of the Centre d’Études et de Documentation Économiques, Juridiques et Sociales (CEDEJ) based in Cairo and the Bibliotheca Alexandrina (BA) consisting of scanning and publishing online press articles collected and curated by CEDEJ over the past 40 years.

This online archive includes more than 500,000 press clips authored by more than 17,000 journalists and reporters and published by more than 170 publishers. This incredibly rich and vast collection is discoverable by author, publisher, subject or date of publication (via the timeline). The list of subjects is based on the themes and subjects used by CEDEJ when initially constituting the collection. Results display in the form of a list, highlighting search terms, and articles open in the BA online reader in a new tab. In the right-hand-side column, related articles to those displayed in the results’ list are suggested.

The website is available in Arabic, English, and French.

The Black Whale Cookbook: An artistic reflection of Gaspé summers gone by

Library Matters - Thu, 06/21/2018 - 07:04

The Black Whale Cook Book cover page, MG1001, McGill University Archives

“So the Black Whale is getting out a cook-book! – Well, why not?” begins Alice Lighthall, the President of the Quebec Provincial Branch of the Canadian Handicrafts Guild in the Preface to the Black Whale Cookbook.

The Black Whale Handicraft sign, PU009182, McGill University Archives

An initiative born of the efforts of Montreal Anglophone women who summered in Percé, in the Gaspé region of Quebec, the “Black Whale” was a craft shop established in 1938 that published a delightful cookbook of the same name in 1948.  While the reason for the name “Black Whale” remains a mystery (the meeting minutes from 1934 merely say that the name was “decided upon”) it is one that amused the tourists.


Store interior of the Black Whale Handicraft store, PR009211, McGill University Archives

The shop was run by the Percé Handicraft Committee, under the long-standing leadership of Ethel Renouf in her capacity as President. The Black Whale was far more than an ordinary shop, acting not only as “the centre of a…revival of local arts, in and around Percé,” through its support of local artists, creating a market for hand-made products, but also of charitable endeavors and even, inadvertently, of matchmaking.





Community contributors

The shop likewise sponsored a few publications including the Black Whale Cookbook, which is the product of the wonderful contributions of a group of women and especially the efforts of Ethel Renouf who compiled the cookbook. She herself contributed a few recipes such as “Cabbage Bread” and “Strawberry Jam,” the latter of which was a product often sold in the store. Another notable contributor is Phyllis Birks, an active member of the Percé Handicraft Committee who not only edited the volume but also saw to its publishing in 1948. Phyllis was married to Gerald Birks of the wealthy Montreal jewelry-store family and often summered in Percé at “Captain’s Cottage.” Incidentally, all recipes she contributed are signed as her summer cottage rather than in her own name.

A snapshot of vintage Gaspé

The Cookbook itself is a truly charming publication, full of gems for readers then and now. Its writing style and touristy introduction to the Gaspé region evokes a sense of nostalgia for a bygone era as well as offers a window into the landscape, culture, and foodways of the Gaspé coast. Rife with woodcut illustrations, the cookbook contains everything from poetry to colourful descriptions of the Gaspé, as well as classic recipes reflective of the local flavour.

The cookbook captures the local culture and art that the Committee sought to promote. Recipe names such as “Chowder for a Foggy Day,” “Bonaventure Cod Tongues,” and “Luncheon Trout at the Stream” recall the Gaspé landscape while the section titled “Grandma’s Spare Time,” devotes itself to home-made remedies that recalls simpler times in the region with nostalgia. Though the recipes are largely contributed by the Anglophone “summer people,” a section on “Famous Old French Canadian Recipes in the original French” pays tribute to the local Francophone culture and population.

Black Whale cookbook, p.32. MG1001, McGill University Archives

Interestingly, a great number of the contributed recipes include “Gaspé” in their name such as the “Gaspé Frozen Pudding” and the “Cod—‘A la Gaspé” connecting the food to the landscape. The cookbook likewise invokes a sense of lore through its claim on the title page that these are “famous old recipes handed down from mother to daughter” and through the book’s subtitle “Fine old recipes from the Gaspé coast going back to pioneer days.” Rather than being arranged by courses, the recipes are organized according to themes such “The Out Door Oven – And Home Made Bread” or occasions such as “Celebration.” The delightfulness of this cookbook was not lost on shop patrons as it was one of the Black Whale’s most popular items.


Woodcut Illustrations

Sea-birds, by V.C. Wynne-Edwards, MG1001, McGill University Archives

The cookbook’s charm also extends to the fine woodcut illustrations that can be found throughout and are contributed by V. C. Wynne-Edwards, famed Canadian artist demonstrating the Percé Handicraft Committee’s continued support of Canadian artists. The woodcuts are clearly illustrated in three unique styles; the various woodcuts of birds, for example, are done by Wynne-Edwards.

Black Whale cookbook, p.6. MG1001, McGill University Archives

Wynne-Edwards, a Professor at McGill University who summered in the Gaspé for many years, had previously published a fascinating little book entitled Sea-birds of Percé and the Gasp with the Black Whale craft shop prior to the publication of the Cookbook that was meant to promote natural science and wildlife of the region. The woodcut illustrations of his used in the Black Whale Cookbook were previously used in Wynne’s earlier publication, such as that of the double-crested cormorant repurposed in the cookbook for the “Expeditions” section. Beyond this, Wynne-Edwards also designed a lovely bookplate which, though not used for the cookbook, is a beautiful example of his style of drawing and talent.

V.C. Wynne-Edwards Bookplate


To discover more…

Visit the MUA website homepage: 

Consult the McGill University Archival Collections Catalogue:

Contact us at: for more information.


———-Written by Hannah Srour—————-


We’re moving!

De re medica - Mon, 06/18/2018 - 13:23
De re medica is moving and we promise our wares will continue to be true, reliable, and good to the taste! In 2016, the McGill Library united four rare and special collections under one umbrella—Rare Books & Special Collections, Osler … Continue reading →

A glimpse at French education during the July Monarchy: Le cahier d’histoire naturelle of Eugène Ducrot, 1835-37

De re medica - Mon, 06/18/2018 - 12:45
By Mary Yearl, Head Librarian, Osler Library of the History of Medicine After spending the first few months of its new Montréal life in careful hands in the Redpath Library Building for cataloguing and, later, digitization, Eugène Ducrot’s manuscript notebook on … Continue reading →

Grazing the Art at McGill

Library Matters - Thu, 06/14/2018 - 14:16

Propter Dolby, “Comet at Four Years,” 1868. Oil on canvas, 23 x 35 inches. McGill Visual Arts Collection 1973-244. On view at Macdonald Campus.

With over 2,500 artworks dispersed across nearly 90 buildings over three campuses, McGill’s Visual Arts Collection is not easy to take in as a whole. As a Museum Database Assistant responsible for inputting information on hundreds of objects into a new Collections Management System, I’ve discovered unique works that I would have otherwise never seen. Artworks on display at Macdonald Campus are especially unknown to McGill community members on the downtown campus.

Unlike anything I’ve seen before, the oil paintings of cows pictured here were done by various livestock artists in mid-19th century Britain. Showing prize-winning shorthorns, the portraits are not exactly lifelike. In fact, they look as if painted by someone who had never seen a real cow. Wonky proportions (are those not the tiniest legs you’ve ever seen on cattle?) and odd colours (purple cowhide is news to me) abound.

Some may think the paintings too odd to have any aesthetic value, but they certainly have historical value. In 19th century Britain, having an artist paint a portrait of your cow (or other prize-winning animal) functioned as a status symbol. Portraits of not-so-lifelike pigs from this period are also plentiful. In all cases, the artist’s exaggerated rendering of the animal’s body was likely intended to emphasize an idealized shape, which usually meant adding more fat and muscle in key areas.

The 19th century equivalent of overly photoshopped images, these livestock portraits also have comedic value. Unsurprisingly, in 2016, a painting of pigs by an unknown artist from this same period became a meme that poked fun at the animals’ diet. As for these beloved bovines, we welcome you to make them into your own farm-friendly memes!

– Written by Catherine LaRivière, Museum Database Assistant, Visual Arts Collection

Unknown artist, “Baron Booth of Lancaster’s Campion Shorthorn,” 19th century, oil on canvas, 24 x 33 inches. McGill Visual Arts Collection 1973-242. On view at Macdonald Campus.

A.M. Gauci, “Bracelet,” ca. 1840s, oil on canvas, 20 x 26 inches. McGill Visual Arts Collection 1973-246. On view at Macdonald Campus.



It’s International Archives Day !! – C’est la Journée internationale des archives !!

Library Matters - Sat, 06/09/2018 - 07:00

(le texte en français suit)

Today, we celebrate the International Archives Day

Written by Julien Couture, Frédéric Giuliano and the MUA team

The McGill University Archives team is joining the archivists and records managers from around the world to celebrate the International Archives Day.

As the International Council on Archives states it:

Archives are an incredible resource. They are the documentary by-product of human activity and as such are an irreplaceable witness to past events, underpinning democracy, the identity of individuals and communities, and human rights. But they are also fragile and vulnerable.

The mission of the McGill University Archives (MUA) is to promote good governance, and accountability, through the protection of the University’s documentary heritage and records/information assets, in all formats, by combined archives and records management services.


This is why we want to share some of our most recent acquisitions with you. These documents are part of McGill University Archives holdings and are only a small fraction of the great treasures that are yours to discover.


Sketch of an Ichthyosaurus fossil, the ancestor of the modern dolphin. Dating from April 1870, this sketch is part of a correspondence between James Clark and John William Dawson, a leading geologist and McGill’s Principal from 1855 to 1893. This document is part of the John William Dawson fonds (MG1022).

Japanese invasion money that was introduced in 1942 by the Philippine government during the Second World War. The Filipinos referred to this currency as “Mickey Mouse Money” and it was extremely devalued after Japan surrendered in September 1945. Here is a Ten Centavos (10 cents) bill issued in 1942. This document of part of the Lorne Gales fonds (MG 4255)











Miscellaneous items from our World War I boxes. From left to right, top to bottom: – Stars and Stripes 1919 newspapers. – Canadian Officer’s Training Corps equipment vouchers. – Equipment list booklet for McGill battalion and war medals – British training schedule and memorandum 1913/1914.

Six Stars and Stripes newspapers from 1919. Stars and Stripes is an American military newspapers covering matters related to the American Armed Forces.











1915 Canadian Officer’s Training Corps equipment vouchers.

Each soldier had to punch holes on a voucher listing the pieces of equipment they might need. Some of the pieces of equipment that were used have intriguing names and purposes like a serge (service dress/uniform jacket) or a frog (leather or fabric loop used to attach bayonet to waist or shoulder belt).

World War I medals.

1914 German medal (Top) – Great War for civilization 1914/1919 British medal (Right) – Canadian maple leaf brooch (bottom). 1914/1915 British campaign war medal (Left)


We hope that we successfully tickled your interest about our holdings here at McGill University Archives.  The whole MUA team hopes to see you soon!

To discover more…

Visit the MUA website homepage:

Consult the McGill University Archival Collections Catalogue:

Contact us at : for more information.


Aujourd’hui, nous célébrons la Journée internationale des archives

Écrit par Julien Couture, Frédéric Giuliano et l’équipe du Service des Archives de l’Université McGill

L’équipe du Service des archives de l’Université McGill se joint aux milliers d’archivistes partout autour du globe afin de célébrer la Journée internationale des archives.

Comme le souligne le Conseil international des archives :

Les archives sont des ressources inestimables, car elles sont le produit direct de l’activité humaine. Ce sont donc des témoins irremplaçables de l’évolution de nos institutions démocratiques, de nos identités individuelles et communautaires ainsi que nos droits. Cependant, ces documents sont vulnérables et fragiles, étant assujettis aux dégradations physiques et temporelles.

Notre mission au Service des archives de l’Université McGill est de promouvoir la gestion et la protection de l’héritage documentaire historique et administratif  de l’Université McGill. Cela, peu importe le support.

Voilà pourquoi nous voulons partager nos plus récentes acquisitions avec vous. Évidemment, ces documents ne représentent qu’une infime partie des trésors qui nous conservons.

Croquis d’une fossile d’ichthyosaure, l’ancètre du dauphin actuel. Ce croquis  fait partie d’une correspondance d’avril 1870 entre James Clark et John William Dawson, un éminent géologue et recteur de McGill entre 1855 et 1893. Ce document fait partie du fonds John Wiliam Dawson (MG1022).

Monnaie phillippine introduite en 1942 par le Japon lors de la Deuxième Guerre mondiale. Cette devise, appelée  Mickey Mouse Money par les Philippins sera dévaluée après la capitulation japonaise en 1945. Ci-dessus, un billet de 10 centavos (10 cents) émis en 1942. Ce document fait partie du fonds Lorne Gales (MG 4255)










Documents divers provenant de nos boîtes de la Première Guerre mondiale. Description des documents de gauche à droite, de haut en bas. – Numéros du journal Stars and Stripes de 1919. – Coupons d’équipement du Canadian Officer’s Training Corps. – Liste de pièces d’équipment militaire du bataillon de McGill et médailles de guerre. – Horaire d’entraînement et mémorandum de l’Armée britannique daté de 1913/1914.

Six éditions datées de 1919 du journal américain, Stars and Stripes, dédié aux affaires touchant les forces armées des États-Unis d’Amérique












Coupons d’équipement du Canadian Officer’s Training Corps datés de 1915.

Chacun des soldats avait ce coupon où ils devaient poinçonner leurs pièces d’équipement manquantes. Certaines pièces de cet équipment ont perdu leur usage au fil du temps et des avancées technologiques comme un serge (uniforme anglais) ou un frog (étui de cuir pour baïonette que l’on attache à la hanche ou en bandouillère).

Médaille de guerre de la Première Guerre mondiale.

Médaille allemande de 1914 (Haut) – Médaille britannique de la Grande Guerre pour la civilisation, datée de 1914-1919 (Droite). – Broche canadienne ornée de la feuille d’érable (bas). – Médaille britannique pour la campagne de 1914-1915 (gauche).


Nous espérons avoir sufisamment piquer votre curiosité pour vous avoir donner l’envie de venir consulter nos archives. L’équipe du Service des archives de l’Université McGill espère vous rencontrer prochainement!

Pour en découvrir davantage…

Consultez la page Web du Service des archives de l’Université McGill:

Consultez le catalogue des archives de l’Université McGill:

Contactez-nous au : pour informations ou questions.



A glimpse at French education during the July Monarchy: Le cahier d’histoire naturelle of Eugène Ducrot, 1835-37

Library Matters - Fri, 06/08/2018 - 19:34

After spending the first few months of its new Montréal life in careful hands in the Redpath Library Building for cataloguing and, later, digitization, Eugène Ducrot’s manuscript notebook on natural history has finally arrived at its permanent home: the Osler Library of the History of Medicine.

Note the fine use of colour in Ducrot’s skeleton

The title page provides a satisfying amount of information to the reader, though it offers barely a glimpse of the beauty that lies within. In the upper left-hand corner in petite pencil script, it is noted that the manuscript was written by J.E. Ducrot, after the lectures of Mr. Denou in Moulins. In bolder ink script, a 19th-century hand announces “Cahier d’histoire naturelle (1835-1837) à Moulins, à Eugène Ducrot.” Finally, nearer to the bottom, one learns that the manuscript was given to a Mr. Chavignaud, Moulins, 1848.

If the first manuscript page betrays a certain attention to detail, this is continued in the table of contents. The subjects covered include physiology (lessons 1-10), descriptive zoology (“méthode de M.G. Cuvier” – lessons 11-47), botany (lessons 48-53), and geology (lessons 54-56). To provide some sense of the deliberation given to each of the 56 lessons described, consider the 9th lesson, “Sens de la vue – Lumière – appareil de la vision – sourcils – soupière – appareil lacrymal – muscles de l’oeil – situation de l’oeil – usage des différentes parties de l’oeil – Voie.” This level of detail, and sometimes more, is present for nearly every entry in the contents and suggests that this manuscript would serve as a worthy source for those interested in studying natural history education in France during the July Monarchy specifically, or in the 19th century generally.

Depiction of Caucasian features

The majority of the manuscript is devoted to zoology and might be considered fairly timeless, at least with respect to the specific topics of natural history studied. However, some portions reveal the thinking of a past era. For instance, there is a relatively short section on the human races, which Ducrot records as Caucasian, Mongolian, and Ethiopian. When Denou was lecturing, ethnographic and anthropological studies had not yet been confirmed as academic disciplines, though the 1839 foundation of the Société Ethnologique de Paris came shortly after the end date of Ducrot’s notes.

Without question, what called attention to the manuscript to begin with were the images. Interestingly, Ducrot’s section on botany is

For botany, detail stops at the leaves

remarkably devoid of illustrations; only on one page in the (admittedly fairly limited) section are there drawings, and they demonstrate the shapes of leaves but do not contain written identification. Whether this represents a lack of interest or not would be difficult to say without further examination; there are, however, more illustrations in the similarly brief section on geology than there are on botany.


The nervous system

The true focus of the drawings, like that of the manuscript, is on zoology. In that realm, Ducrot’s detail is impressive. He lists the bones, used watercolour to display the heart and lungs (including an attempt to recreate some detail of the inside of the heart), provides an ink drawing of the nervous system, and describes the structure of teeth in a series of small figures.

Using watercolour to reveal the heart and lungs


Eugène Ducrot’s Cahier d’histoire naturelle is a new acquisition that has relevance to visitors whose interests lie in diverse interests. The drawings themselves are admirable; the course of study followed by Ducrot might well be useful to those studying pedagogy in France in the mid-nineteenth century; and historians of medicine and science will appreciate the detail afforded by Ducrot to his subject matter. Regardless of the audience, the manuscript is visually impressive and we are pleased that it has found a home at the Osler Library.

A Piece of Heart and a Piece of Art: Damascus Room

McGill Islamic Studies Library's blog - Fri, 06/08/2018 - 17:10

Damascus Room, Syria, Damascus, 1766-67/ AH 1180, Wood (poplar) with gesso relief, copper and tin leaf, glazes and paint, plaster with stone paste inlays, and multicolored stones; installation (approx) 240 x 180 x 144 in.© Museum Associates/LACMA

The story began in the fall and early winter of 2011-12, when Linda Komaroff, Curator and Department Head at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), decided to pursue an acquisition of a period room from eighteenth-century Damascus, Syria. Komaroff is one of the people who makes LACMA a very unique institution. In Unframed post titled Preserving Small Piece of Damascus, Komaroff describes the new acquisition:

The Damascus Room came to signify more than the unique opportunity to acquire a rare work of art that would become a destination for museum visitors but the very embodiment of what LACMA is as an encyclopedic art museum. Although the room was removed from Syria nearly thirty-five years ago, the notion that we would be helping to preserve a small part of the cultural history of one of the world’s oldest, continuously occupied cities, intensified my interest in bringing the room to Los Angeles so that its story can be told and appreciated in this twenty-first-century city.

The room was dissembled in 1978 from one of the courtyard houses located in the al- Bahsa district, which was later demolished in order to accommodate the growth of the city of Damascus. The room was then exported from Syria to Beirut, Lebanon where it remained in storage for over 30 years. It somehow made its way to a London warehouse where it was found by Komaroff. Although the room was maintained in its original state, some restoration was required and an armature was created to make the room self-supporting so that it could be installed in an already-existing space or reinstalled elsewhere. Komaroff describes the Damascus Room thusly:

Damascus Room, Syria, Damascus, 1766-67/ AH 1180. © Museum Associates/LACMA

It has multicolored inlaid stone floors, painted wood walls, elaborate cupboard doors and storage niches, a spectacular arch with plaster voussoirs decorated with colored inlays that served to divide the room into upper and lower sections separated by a single tall step; and an intricately inlaid stone wall fountain with a carved and painted hood. The painted wood surfaces are embellished with a particular type of relief decoration known in Arabic as al-‘ajami (“meaning non-Arab or foreign”) or as pastiglia in the West.

The restoration work was undertaken in collaboration with Saudi Aramco’s King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture and with the support provided by the Friends of Heritage Preservation, LACMA. The reassembling of the Damascus Room was a two-year project completed in December 2015. The room was on display at the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture, Dhahran, Saudi Arabia from 2016–2018 and will be returned to Los Angeles to tell its story to a new audience.The reconstruction of the Damascus Room has been one of the Linda Komaroff’s curatorial career:

Being in the room is a joy; it exudes a kind of beauty, warmth and comfort, which is in keeping with its original function as a place for welcoming guests. But that joy is tempered by the sadness of the continuing deterioration of daily life in Syria, the diaspora of its citizens, and the destruction of its historic monuments. For now, the room must play one more role as a preserver of memories of Syria, as so beautifully expressed by the Syrian-American hip-hop artist and poet Omar Offendum, whose performance* was recorded in the room.

* Video attribution:



Focal Points – Casey Wood and the McGill Collections

Library Matters - Tue, 06/05/2018 - 16:36

Casey Wood watches over the incunables nook of the Rare Books and Special Collections reading room.

Birds, eyes, and bile came into focus at this semester’s ROAAr symposium “The Eyes have it; a Re-appreciation of Casey Wood.”  You might wonder what such things have in common; the answer is Casey Wood. Wood was a passionate and driven collector for the McGill Libraries, a generous donor, a scholar, an ophthalmologist, a translator, and a falconry enthusiast. He became known here as the “Birdman of McGill,” and you can browse through some of his legacy in this digital exhibition.

Casey Wood helped shape both the Blacker-Wood Collection of biology and natural history and the Osler Library of the History of Medicine into what they are today; research collections of unique depth and beauty. He also advanced his own field by literally writing the book on the ophthalmology of birds, the Fundus Oculi of Birds. Evolutionary biologist Bob Montgomerie brought a fresh perspective to the Fundus Oculi (See Bob’s blog on Wood’s Fundus Oculi). Wood was fascinated by bird vision, as are all who listened to Bob, an active scientist, explain the relevance and importance of Wood’s book to his research today.

Victoria Dickenson, Adjunct Professor and organiser of the symposium,  speaking on the Taylor White paper museum.

One jewel of the Blacker-Wood collection is the Feather Book of Dionision Minaggio. This unique book illustrates birds and pastoral scenes from the Lombardy region using feathers, and only feathers! This book employs techniques copied from central and south American crafts. Carla Benzan presented her work on this book, which has been digitized and made freely available through our Digital collection. McGill once again owes thanks to Casey Wood for this volume, which Wood acquired with the Taylor White paper museum. Taylor White curated his so-called paper museum of birds and animals in the 18th century; all who ‘visited’ the 938 watercolous could be instantly transported to remote corners of the natural world through intricate illustrations and paintings of wildlife. He had a network of painters and illustrators who drew for him.  Marmosets, parrots, tropical beauties, ptarmigans and emperor penguins all provided stunning glimpses of far off places to contemporary viewers. Today, they serve as stunning entry points into the field of natural history in the 18th century and the scientific and artistic network that made the paper museum possible.

Mauricio Ruiz, UQAM, gave a lecture in french on Casey Wood and F.Marjorie Fyfe;s Translation of De Arte Venandi cum Avibus

Anna Winterbottom and Soma Hewa also spoke on this aspect of Wood’s work in Sri Lanka. The medical side of Casey Wood’s collecting in Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia resulted in a substantial collection of olas (palm leaf manuscripts) containing the central works of the Ayurvedic medical system. The Osler library collection now contains number of these texts, inscribed onto palm fronds, along with medical objects like earspoons, medicinal eye pencils, and, to quote Anna Winterbottom, a clever medieval medicine box complete with “early modern child lock,” now make up the incredibly rich and diverse collections that McGill has today.

With presentations from scholars in diverse fields of study, Casey Wood and his legacy at McGill came to life through this symposium. More videos of the symposium presentations will be available on the McGill Library Youtube page.

For more details on the symposium, full roster of presenters, and more links see the event page.





Doha historical dictionnary of Arabic

McGill Islamic Studies Library's blog - Mon, 06/04/2018 - 13:34

The Doha Historical Dictionary of Arabic is developed under the auspices of the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies, Doha, Qatar. Founded “on the ideal that the social sciences and humanities have an invaluable role to play in Arab societal development”, ther ACRPS produces and publishes both applied and fundamental research, organizes conferences, seminars, and workshops accross the Arab World.

Officially launched in 2012, the Doha Historical Dictionary of Arabic initiative aims at creating a comprehensive Corpus of Arabic,deriving sub-dictionaries from the Historical Dictionary of Arabic, publishing lexicographical research and studies. At the time of our visit, a lot of resources were not yet available to visitors but one can hope the Lexicographer’s Forum will soon be activated, and Lexical Services soon be available.

The website is available in English and Arabic.






Six McGill Library activities to do with visitors in town for convocation

Library Matters - Tue, 05/29/2018 - 16:50

It’s that time of year again and the McGill campuses are abuzz with activity and happy graduates. We’ve compiled a list of six fun things to do with friends and family who are visiting from out of town.

1. Take a peek into the beautiful Octagon Room in the Islamic Studies Library, a study favourite for many students. While you’re there, don’t miss the exhibition on the storied history of the building, If Walls Could Speak: the History of Morrice Hall.







2. Visit the bustling Humanities and Social Sciences Library. Start with a viewing of the exhibit in the McLennan Library Building lobby which explores the history of autopsies. Head up to the fourth floor for a look at the new visual storage space, adorned with gems from the McGill Visual Arts Collection (to your right as you come off the elevator). While there, check out the Rare Books and Special Collections Reading Room for a taste of scholarly life.







3. Stop for a photo-op and some sun on the McLennan-Redpath Terrace.








4. Take a walk up the beautiful Promenade Fleuve-Montagne to the Osler Library of the History of Medicine and take in their current interdisciplinary exhibition, De Musei Fabrica: Cloth and Stitch Inspired by the Maude Abbott Medical Museum.








5. Take a tour of the downtown campus’ public art with a member of the Visual Arts Collection team. Wednesdays at noon. Click here for more information.







6. If you’re at the Macdonald Campus, stop in at the Library to learn more about their innovative Seed Library, which is now in its second year. Click here for more information and opening hours.

Sharia Source

McGill Islamic Studies Library's blog - Fri, 05/25/2018 - 19:00

SHARIAsource is a flagship research venture of the Islamic Legal Studies Program at Harvard Law School.

The mission of this programme is organizing information available from all over the world about Islamic law in an accessible and useful manner. SHARIAsource is not a religious organization nor does it advocate any particular group or institution. It concentrates on academic principles and involvement by including diversity of various perspectives, peer-reviewed analysis and free and open exchange of ideas.

SHARIAsource creates a platform of storing Islamic law’s primary sources and it cooperates with various team of editors from all over the globe; moreover it provides the opportunity for people to analyze critically the mentioned sources and it also promotes research in order to shed light on academic as well as public discourse about Islamic law.

Their well-organized and classified portal provides access to cutting-edge content and context regarding Islamic law. Through this portal numerous resources can be browsed by Topics & Themes; Geographic Regions, Empires & Eras; Editors and Contributors and Document Types (ex.: Historical/Contemporary primary sources, Expert Analysis, legal documents, etc.). In addition to providing access to full text documents, the number of available resources associated to each category is presented as well which can be very useful to academics, journalist and policy makers.

Additionally readers who are interested to know about special events and news, their blog provides them with useful information in that regards.

“SHARIAsource was developed with support from the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, and from the Luce and MacArthur Foundations.”


Abandonnez ce qui a péri il y a longtemps…

Library Matters - Thu, 05/24/2018 - 10:45
… et laissez-nous aimer les vivants [English will follow]


McGill Yearbook, 1940.

Madeleine Parent n’aurait pu choisir une meilleure devise pour son album de finissants: «Abandonnez ce qui a péri il y a longtemps, et laissez-nous aimer les vivants». Une devise qui devait s’avérer prophétique, une ligne de conduite qu’elle suivra toute sa vie. Qui aurait pu imaginer que cette jeune diplômée d’un baccalauréat ès arts de l’Université McGill allait devenir, à peine 7 ans plus tard, l’ennemie jurée du premier ministre Maurice Duplessis?

Il y a 70 ans, un procès pour conspiration séditieuse

C’est durant ses années d’études à McGill (1936-1940) que Madeleine Parent s’initie aux mouvements de revendications sociales et de défense des droits des familles ouvrières. Elle lutte alors activement au sein de l’Assemblée des étudiants canadiens pour la création de bourses d’études gratuites destinées aux enfants de familles ouvrières. Au sortir de ses études, elle rejoint le mouvement syndical et devient, en 1942, secrétaire du comité d’organisation du Conseil des métiers et du travail de Montréal. L’année suivante, elle joue un rôle clé dans la syndicalisation des Ouvriers unis du textile d’Amérique (OUTA) au Québec.

Pamphlet contre Madeleine Parent distribué aux employés de la Dominion Textile.

Son implication dans la défense des droits des ouvriers et ouvrières du textile s’enracine dans un contexte extrêmement difficile. Le gouvernement en place, celui de Duplessis, mène alors une furieuse répression contre les organisations syndicales et leurs chefs, n’hésitant pas à recourir à la force et à la propagande pour dompter  ces «communistes». Si de s’opposer à Maurice Duplessis, à la police provinciale, au «Trust du textile» (comme on le surnommait à l’époque), au clergé et aux médias n’était pas un travail de tout repos, celui des ouvriers et des ouvrières de l’industrie du textile n’était guère mieux. Les conditions de ces travailleurs étaient les pires de toute l’industrie manufacturière. Alors que la semaine de travail normale est de 48 heures, elle avoisine les 60 heures pour les employés du textile pour un salaire moyen se situant entre 11$ et 15$ par semaine. La moyenne de l’industrie manufacturière est alors de 20$ par semaine. Ces longues heures de travail à l’usine ne se passent pas dans les meilleures conditions. La chaleur y est excessive, atteignant régulièrement les 35 degrés Celsius, sans parler du haut taux d’humidité, du bruit infernal des machines, de la pollution de l’air et du manque d’installations sanitaires.

C’est dans ce contexte qu’en 1946, suite au déclenchement d’une grève des ouvriers de la

Grève des ouvriers de la compagnie Ayers à Lachute, en 1947.

Dominion Textile à Valleyfield et Montréal que l’action de Madeleine Parent et des autres chefs syndicaux suscite l’ire du gouvernement de Maurice Duplessis. Ce dernier fera alors tout en son pouvoir pour y mettre un terme. Arrêtés à plusieurs reprises au cours de différentes manifestations syndicales, Madeleine Parent et les autres chefs syndicaux sont finalement accusés de conspiration séditieuse, suite au déclenchement d’une grève des 800 ouvriers de la compagnie Ayers, à Lachute, en avril 1947. C’est alors que débute le procès le plus long des annales judiciaires du Québec. Cette saga judiciaire s’éternisera pendant près de huit ans. Elle fut marquée par le décès du greffier avant que ses notes ne puissent être retranscrites ordonnant conséquemment la tenue d’un second procès. Celui-ci prit fin en 1955, après seulement trente minutes, faute de preuves de la poursuite, et se solda par l’acquittement de tous les accusés.

Allocution du Juge au jury reprenant l’acte d’accusation signé de Maurice Duplessis 1/5

Allocution du Juge au jury reprenant l’acte d’accusation signé de Maurice Duplessis 2/5

Allocution du Juge au jury reprenant l’acte d’accusation signé de Maurice Duplessis 3/5

Allocution du Juge au jury reprenant l’acte d’accusation signé de Maurice Duplessis 4/5

Allocution du Juge au jury reprenant l’acte d’accusation signé de Maurice Duplessis 5/5

Madeleine Parent, Azellus Beaucage et Kent Rowley dans le bureau du Shérif à la prison de St-Jérôme, en 1947, lors de leur arrestation.

Azellus Beaucage, Madeleine Parent et leurs avocats lors du procès pour conspiration séditieuse au palais de Justice de St-Jérôme, 6 février 1948.
















Décédée en 2012, Madeleine Parent a fait don de ses archives au Service des archives de l’Université McGill en 2009.


Pour en apprendre davantage

Découvrez le fonds d’archives de Madeleine Parent (MG4269) via le catalogue des archives de l’Université McGill.

Consultez la collection numérisée des livres de finissants de l’Université McGill, de 1898 à 2000: McGill Yearbooks

Écoutez la chronique urbaine d’Hugo Lavoie consacrée à Madeleine Parent, à l’émission du matin de la radio de Radio-Canada: Gravel le matin.



Give up what perished long ago, and let us love the living

McGill Yearbook, 1940.

Madeleine Parent could not have chosen a better motto for her graduation album: “Give up what perished long ago, and let us love the living.” A motto that would prove to be prophetic and a course of action she will follow all her life. Who could have imagined that this young graduate of a Bachelor of Arts degree from McGill University would become, just 7 years later, the sworn enemy of Prime Minister Maurice Duplessis?

70 years ago, a seditious conspiracy lawsuit

It was during her years of study at McGill (1936-1940) that Madeleine Parent initiated herself into the movements of social demands and the defense of the rights of working class families. She is actively fighting in the Canadian Students’ Assembly for the creation of free scholarships for working-class children. After graduation, she joined the labor movement and became, in 1942, secretary of the organizing committee of the Montreal Council of Trades and Labor. The following year, she played a key role in the unionization of the United Textile Workers of America (UTWA) in Quebec.

Lampoon against Madeleine Parent distributed to employees of the Dominion Textile.

Her involvement in defending the rights of textile workers is rooted in an extremely difficult context. At the time, the Duplessis Government led a furious repression against the trade unions and their leaders, not hesitating to resort to the force and propaganda to tame these “communists”. While opposing Maurice Duplessis, the provincial police, the “Textile Trust” (as it was known at the time), the clergy and the media was not an easy job, working in the textile industry was hardly better. The conditions of its workers were the worst in the entire manufacturing industry. While the normal work week was 48 hours, it was around 60 hours for textile workers for an average salary of between $ 11 and $ 15 per week. The average for the manufacturing industry was $ 20 a week. These long hours of work at the plant were not spent under the best conditions, the heat was excessive, reaching regularly 35 degrees Celsius, not to mention the high humidity, the noise of the machines, the air pollution and the lack of sanitary facilities.



It was in this context that in 1946, following the outbreak of a strike of the Dominion Textile

Strike of the Ayers Company workers in Lachute, in 1947.

workers in Valleyfield and Montreal, that the action of Madeleine Parent and the other union leaders aroused the ire of the government of Maurice Duplessis. The latter will then do everything in its power to put an end to it. Arrested several times during various union demonstrations, Madeleine Parent and the other union leaders will finally be accused of seditious conspiracy, following the outbreak of a strike of the 800 workers of the company Ayers, in Lachute, in April 1947. The longest trial of the judicial annals of Quebec therefore begins.

This judicial saga will drag on for almost eight years and will be marked by the death of the clerk before his notes could be transcribed hence forcing the holding of a second trial. This one will finally end in 1955, after just 30 minutes due to the absence of evidence of prosecution, and resulted in the acquittal of all accused.

Statement of the Judge to the jury repeating the indictment signed by Maurice Duplessis 1/3

Statement of the Judge to the jury repeating the indictment signed by Maurice Duplessis 2/3

Statement of the Judge to the jury repeating the indictment signed by Maurice Duplessis 3/3

Madeleine Parent, Azellus Beaucage and Kent Rowley in the Sheriff’s Office at St. Jerome Prison, 1947, at the time of their arrest.

Azellus Beaucage, Madeleine Parent and their lawyers during the seditious conspiracy lawsuit at the St. Jerome Courthouse, February 6, 1948.


















Deceased in 2012, Madeleine Parent donated her archives to the McGill University Archives in 2009.

To learn more

Discover Madeleine Parent’s fonds (MG4269) in the McGill University Archival Collections Catalogue.

View McGill University’s digitized collection of graduation books, 1898-2000: McGill Yearbooks.

Listen to Hugo Lavoie’s Urban Chronicle dedicated to Madeleine Parent at Radio-Canada’s morning radio show: Gravel le matin.