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

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. –


Chocolate Around the Clock: RBSC cookbook collection

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

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.

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

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—————-


Grazing the Art at McGill

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 !!

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

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.

Focal Points – Casey Wood and the McGill Collections

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.





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

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.

Abandonnez ce qui a péri il y a longtemps…

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.

McGill convocation through the years

Thu, 05/24/2018 - 09:08

The tent is up on McGill’s downtown campus and the 2018 convocation ceremonies are right around the corner.

We’re taking a look back at the university’s convocations through the years with photos from our digitized collection of yearbooks, the McGill University Archives and most recently, our own camera lens.

Seeing students beaming with pride in the presence of their friends, family, fellow classmates and professors never gets old. Congrats, graduates!

Convocation ceremony, circa 1943. McGill University Archives, PR001290. Photographer unknown.

Convocation procession from Roddick Gates, circa 1945. McGill University Archives, PR017256. Photographer unknown.

Convocation ceremony, circa 1951. Old McGill Yearbook. Photographer unknown.

Convocation ceremony, Molson Stadium, circa 1965. Old McGill Yearbook. Photographer unknown.

Convocation ceremony, Molson Stadium, circa 1966. Old McGill Yearbook. Photographer unknown.

Convocation ceremony, circa 1979. Old McGill Yearbook. Photographer unknown.

Convocation, 2016. Photography: Lauren Goldman.

Convocation, 2017. Photography: Lauren Goldman.

Convocation ceremony, 2017. Photography: Lauren Goldman.










Saying goodbye to a beloved sculpture

Wed, 05/23/2018 - 14:56

Mahihkan, the larger-than-life and much-beloved sculpture of a wolf by Saskatchewan artist Joe Fafard, will be leaving McGill by mid-summer. Originally installed on lower campus for the Balade Pour La Paix, an open-air museum that spanned one kilometre of Sherbrooke Street last summer, Mahihkan, together with Jonathan Borofsky’s Human Structures, remained on loan to the McGill Visual Arts Collection thanks in part to the support of the Monk Family Foundation.

Joe Fafard, Mahihkan, cast 2016. On loan from Fafard Sculpture Inc. Photo: Denis Farley.

While we must say goodbye to Mahihkan, Borofsky’s brightly coloured human pyramid will stay a while longer. Centering on themes of community and the individual’s relationship to their environment, both sculptures have been especially suited to display on a University campus. Together, they have attracted tremendous attention, especially on social media; in countless Instagram posts, groups of friends playfully pose amid the steel bodies in Borofsky’s work, while children and pets keep Mahihkan company. The popularity of Mahihkan and Human Structures is a testament to the value of public art installations and the creativity they inspire in those who interact with them.

Jonathan Borofsky, Human Structures, 2010. On loan from the Vancouver Biennale. Photo: Denis Farley.

If you have not had a chance to see both installations up-close, do so now! Come by anytime or, better yet, join a free, guided tour of the Visual Arts Collection’s public art every Wednesday at noon. Tours leave from the Welcome Centre on McTavish. Reservations are not required.

-Written by Tara Allen-Flanagan, ARIA Intern, Visual Arts Collection

Giovanna Badia and Merika Ramundo awarded the 2018 McGill Library Excellence Awards

Thu, 05/17/2018 - 16:42

Left to right, Merika Ramundo, Dean Colleen Cook, Giovanna Badia

Congrats to the recipients of the 2018 McGill Library Excellence Awards! The awards recognize outstanding contributions to the Library and its mandate.

Liaison Librarian, Giovanna Badia received the Librarian Excellence Award and Communications Officer, Merika Ramundo was awarded the Library Staff Excellence Award.

Giovanna Badia, Liaison Librarian | Librarian Excellence Award

Left to right: Dean Colleen Cook, Isabelle Roberge, Giovanna Badia

Giovanna is an exemplary librarian and has made a significant contribution both to the McGill University Library and to the profession as a whole.

Where Giovanna has perhaps demonstrated the most impact is through her tireless efforts to serve McGill science and engineering departments as Liaison Librarian. She goes above and beyond in the delivery of reference services and information literacy sessions, making herself available and invaluable to students, faculty, and staff. She is continually experimenting and assessing her practices while at the same time sharing lessons learned with other librarians. Giovanna continues to build on her contributions to positive student and faculty outcomes and experiences, as shown in her innovative support for the Department of Mining Engineering in open access publishing.

She has also demonstrated excellence in academic librarianship and has won the respect and admiration of her colleagues. Her successful research practices are evident in an impressive publication record, with over thirty works that include peer reviewed articles, conference papers and book chapters, four of which were released in 2017. She continues to explore research methods that require a high skill level and attention to detail, such as her project using citation analysis to identify appropriate databases. Giovanna also has an exemplary service record and has made a significant contribution to the profession through associations. Her expertise is recognized by colleagues internationally, as is shown by her role as 2016 Chair of the Special Libraries Association Engineering Division and her involvement throughout 2017.

Her passion, dedication, and innovative spirit shined during her tenure as co-chair of the Library’s Orientation Committee. Under Giovanna’s leadership, the Committee obtained funding to organize the Library’s first ever ice cream social. The event united Library departments and promoted a spirit of connectedness. Its success can be greatly attributed to Giovanna’s fearlessness in testing out inventive ideas and to her strong sense of diplomacy.

Committed and selfless, she doesn’t hesitate to give advice and that advice always comes with an offer to help. She’s an excellent team member and significant contributor to the McGill community. In short, Giovanna is generosity.

Merika Ramundo, Communications Officer | Staff Excellence Award

Left to right: Gregory Houston, Isabelle Roberge, Merika Ramundo, Dean Colleen Cook

Merika was nominated for this award by colleagues, former students, volunteers, Friends of the Library members and collaborators, in recognition of her boundless creativity, outstanding leadership and tireless efforts to promote the McGill Library.

A co-worker who has known Merika since she first joined the Library in 2010 had this to say: “Merika’s work impacts all aspects of the Library’s mission to support the teaching, learning, and research needs of students, faculty, and researchers. Her writing and visual communication initiatives cover the spectrum: constantly keeping our staff informed, supporting the Dean in her internal and external communications channels, providing outstanding support to our Friends of the Library lectures and outreach, not to mention launching new social media campaigns. No job is too big or too small for Merika. She brings professionalism and innovation to every task.”

Above and beyond her daily projects, Merika’s collaborative, pro-active approach is illustrated by several recent initiatives. She successfully launched two Library Innovation Fund initiatives: Enhancing McGill Library’s social media presence and McGill’s Little Free Libraries (LFL), a campus-wide book exchange project. Both projects were very successful and forged close collaborations between the Library and several university-wide units, including McGill Central Communications, the Faculty of Education and the Office of Sustainability.

Not one to take credit for herself, Merika always puts her colleagues and team members ahead of herself. She has a natural talent for bringing out the best in people and encouraging them to succeed. A former student who worked closely with her spoke highly of her openness and ability to inspire others: “She taught me how to use the tools I needed and gave me the time and patience I needed to learn, make mistakes, and try again. I felt like my opinion was valued and taken into consideration. The freedom and trust she gave me allowed me to flourish, pick up new skills, and express my creativity.”

Anyone who has met Merika knows within minutes that she is a beacon of positivity. Her optimism is infectious and she approaches the most daunting tasks with a smile. She throws herself into each project, large and small with a positive, can-do attitude. “She makes it all look easy.”

Congrats, Giovanna and Merika! Very well-deserved!

Nicholas Cronk on Voltaire at McGill

Wed, 05/09/2018 - 16:15

AN AMERICAN VOLTAIRE: The J. Patrick Lee Voltaire Collection at McGill

By: Nicholas Cronk, Voltaire Foundation, Oxford University

Published by Cambridge Scholars in 2009, with contributions by Nicholas Cronk and other Voltaire scholars.

Pat Lee, who died in 2006, was a life-enhancing friend as well as a Voltaire enthusiast and an avid collector of books. The J. Patrick Lee Voltaire Collection was acquired by McGill in 2013, and contains some 2000 books and 42 manuscripts, relative to Voltaire and his contemporaries. I recently had the huge pleasure of helping Ann Marie Holland organise in the Rare Books Library a small exhibit containing just a few of the highlights of this collection.

Like any great collection, this one has its share of precious printed books, as well as some remarkable manuscripts, not least a manuscript compilation of verse that belonged to Voltaire’s companion, Emilie Du Châtelet – this last item has been exhibited in Paris at the Bibliothèque nationale de France. The compilation also has its unique personality: Pat Lee, as an American- who loved Voltaire, was born in Kentucky, and wrote his doctorate on Voltaire at Fordham University in New York – clearly had a particular predilection for books by and about Voltaire that were in some way connected with America.

Americans were keen readers of Voltaire from the early years of the Republic, and the provenance of some of the items is startling: a volume of Voltaire that belonged to Theodore Roosevelt, and a manuscript collection of French poetry with the bookplate of … George Washington. But it’s not just the famous names that are interesting. A book called Fame and Fancy, or Voltaire Improved, published in Boston in 1826, provides an American take on Voltaire: but Pat Lee’s copy is also interesting because the bookplate records its American owner: ‘Daniel Green, Jr., Portland, Maine’.

Another remarkable production from the same decade is Abner Kneeland’s translation of Voltaire’s Dictionnaire philosophique, also published in Boston in 1836. Kneeland (1774-1844) was an evangelist minister of radical views, remembered as the last man jailed in the United States for blasphemy – among his publications are The Deist (1822) and A Review of the Evidences of Christianity (1829). His edition of Voltaire’s Philosophical Dictionary was clearly a polemical gesture therefore, and one of the copies in Pat Lee’s collection is exceptional. The anonymous American owner has inserted two blank sheets in the middle of the volume, with pages headed ‘Births’, ‘Marriages’ and ‘Deaths’. It was common of course for families to own a ‘family Bible’ with such blank pages serving to record key events in a family’s history, a volume that would be handed down from generation to generation. In this (unique?) example, a nineteenth-century American has radically subverted the genre of the ‘family Bible’ by creating a ‘family Voltaire’. Only in America…

A tipped in censored illustration of Rockwell Kent’s Candide intended for the 1928 edition.

In the twentieth century, New York publishers were active in producing illustrated editions, and there are some remarkable illustrated Candide in this collection. The Rockwell Kent illustrations for Random House (1928) are justly famous – not least because the picture of Voltaire’s house in the colophon went on to become widely familiar as the Random House logo. Rockwell Kent’s first depiction of Pangloss conducting an experiment in natural philosophy in the shrubbery was deemed too shocking, and he had to replace it with a more anodine image:- the first edition in this collection is very special because it includes a real rarity -the ‘censored’ image has been tipped in to cover up its timid replacement.( See also the NYPL Candide website for more on Rockwell Kent)

The Rockwell Kent Candide is a celebrated publication, but also remarkable is the fact that the year before, 1927, there had appeared an edition of Candide illustrated by Clara Tice, a bohemian figure known as the Queen of Greenwich Village (below left); and two years later, in 1930, there was an illustrated edition by Mahlon Blane (below right).

This is real testimony to the vibrancy of the American market for illustrated books: three major illustrated editions of Candide all published in New York within the space of four years – and all three in completely contrasting artistic styles.

Following the hugely successful publication of Candide in early 1759, there appeared in 1760 a sequel, Candide, seconde partie – an amusing work that we now attributed to the abbé Dulaurens, but that at the time was widely attributed to Voltaire himself, so much so that it was not uncommon for the two parts of Candide to appear together as ‘one’ work by Voltaire. Gradually it became accepted that Voltaire was not the author of the second part, so this practice declined – except in the United States, where the two parts of Candide continued to be published together well into the twentieth century. This is another peculiarity of the American Voltaire – and this fidelity to the apocryphal Second Part of Candide gives illustrators like Clara Tice a wider range of scenes to depict – for example, Candide’s seduction by a lascivious Persian at the start of the Second Part.

Clara Tice Candide Part 2 in the 1927 edition.

Pat Lee’s Voltaire collection contains many of these beautiful objects – another is the illustrated edition by Jylbert, published by the aptly named: Editions du charme. The date here gives us pause for thought, though: the edition appeared in 1941, in occupied Paris. Does the scene with the monkeys in any way reflect what was happening on the streets of the capital?

Alongside this precious work, Pat Lee’s collection also includes a humble and modestly printed translation of Candide which appeared in the Armed Services Edition in 1943 – part of a series of books made available to American servicemen and women. In Chapter Three of Candide we remember how both sides in the war have a Te Deum sung, in the certain knowledge that God is on their side… And among the troops who liberated Paris, was there perhaps a serviceman who had Candide in his backpack? The Pat Lee collection gives us a specifically American take on Voltaire and his impact in North America, and as such, it is unique.

Click here for more about the Voltaire Foundation

ROAAr newsletter: Spotlight: Latest Acquisitions at McGill

Mon, 04/23/2018 - 16:46

Ways of seeing: artistry on display in the Osler’s autumn acquisitions

There is something about those eyes… at once alarmingly life-like and eerily anonymous. United in artistry and detailed craftsmanship, these four new acquisitions at the Osler Library of the History of Medicine provide “eye-opening” additions to the collection.

Read more > The Unknown Unknown: Finding the Jean Drapeau Collection

This chance discovery provides a new perspective on Montreal mayor and larger-than-life figure Jean Drapeau. What did he really think of his costly 1976 Olympics and the long-unanswered Malouf Report? This new material promises fresh insights.

Read more >  If These Buildings Could Walk: On a newly acquired Melvin Charney sculpture

What tales would the walls around you could tell if only they could speak? What stories would the buildings that house our everyday lives have to share? Melvin Charney’s sculpture “Three Stragglers,” a new addition to McGill’s Visual Arts Collection, explores these ideas and more.

Read more > New Insights from John Peters Humphrey: The Man Behind the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

This new digital and physical exhibit celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the life and work of John Peters Humphrey, the man who first put pen to paper.

Read more > ROAAr editorial team: Nathalie Cooke (Associate Dean, ROAAr), Vanessa Di Francesco, Jennifer Garland, Merika Ramundo, Jacquelyn Sundberg, Jean-Marc Tremblay, Mary Yearl.

Tell us what you think of the ROAAr newsletter. Please send your comments to

Ways of seeing: artistry on display in the Osler’s autumn acquisitions

Thu, 04/19/2018 - 10:55

La version française suit

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

Figure 1: A company representative’s sample set of prosthetic eyes, circa 1885. Credit: Mary Yearl

There is something about those eyes. The variety of colour; the sizes that span human stages of growth. Their presence is at once alarmingly lifelike – note the discrete blood vessels – yet too shallow to be even remotely real [Figure 1]. As striking as they are visually, they are alluring because they bear no manufacturer’s mark and no personal signature other than a bold “DB” inscribed in pencil on the box. Moreover, they are ordinary: a company representative’s sample set from circa 1885, most likely used to help physicians select appropriate artificial eyes for patients in need.

Figure 2. Birds of prey Figure 3. Studying the senses. Figure 4. Skull and forearm. Ducrot’s Cahier d’histoire naturelle, 1835-1837.

Beyond their relevance to the history of medicine, the acquisitions featured in this piece share an undeniable artistry. When Eugène Ducrot compiled his 256-page manuscript Cahier d’histoire naturelle in 1835-1837, he did not simply record in pen the broad learning he received from M. Denoue at the Collège royal de Moulins, France. Rather, he illustrated his text with watercolour drawings and with pencil and ink sketches [Figs 2-4]. His notes are impressive not only for Ducrot’s artistic eye, but also for the glimpse they offer of the learning he received. In addition to human anatomy and physiology, the manuscript covers a range of other subjects – all illustrated to varying degrees – encompassing descriptive zoology (including ethnology), botany, and geology.

Figure 5. Anatomy of the hand, from Charles Monnet’s Études d’anatomie à l’usage des peintres, 1769-1776.

While Ducrot’s drawings were not aimed at any particular audience, two printed books that entered the Osler in recent months were self-consciously artistic. Charles Monnet’s Études d’anatomie à l’usage des peintres [Paris, 1769-1776] and Jean-Galbert Salvage’s Anatomie du gladiateur combattant (Paris, 1812) convey a knowledge of anatomy for artists rather than for medical students. The title of Monnet’s work gives away his purpose: to show fellow artists what is underneath the human skin so that they can better paint the human form [Fig. 5]. Salvage’s choice to create an elephant folio book on gladiator anatomy may seem peculiar, but a small amount of reading and research reveals that he was driven by a desire to persuade the government of the French Republic, followed by the First Empire, to fund the arts. In terms of the subject matter, it makes sense when one learns that Salvage studied medicine at Montpellier during the Revolution and that he became a military surgeon subsequent to his training. The bodies available to him at the military hospital in Paris where he worked must have been reminiscent of the Roman gladiators, and the subject matter has a romantic and eye-catching appeal [Fig. 6].

Figure 6 Bones and muscles of the hand and arm, from Jean-Galbert Salvage’s Anatomie du gladiateur combatant, 1812.

The materials that are selected for inclusion in the Osler’s collections must relate to medicine or to the working of the human body, but beyond that the parameters invite creativity. Some items fill gaps in existing areas of strength; others represent opportunities to increase our ability to reach new audiences. In addition to their artistry, the four items described here have tremendous potential to contribute to the developing narrative of the history of medicine, as told through the Osler’s varied holdings.

Points de vue : les acquisitions automnales de la bibliothèque Osler célèbrent l’art

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

Figure 1 : Échantillon d’yeux prothétiques d’un représentant de l’entreprise, vers 1885. Source : Mary Yearl

Ces yeux-là ont quelque chose de particulier avec leurs couleurs variées et leurs tailles qui couvrent tous les âges de la vie. Malgré leur réalisme troublant – qui va jusqu’aux plus fins vaisseaux sanguins – ils sont trop minces pour qu’on les prenne ne serait-ce qu’un instant pour des vrais [Figure 1]. Aussi saisissants qu’ils paraissent, ils ne portent aucune marque d’origine ou signature personnelle, hormis les initiales « DB » tracées au crayon sur le coffret. De plus, ce sont des yeux quelconques, formant le jeu d’échantillons d’un représentant de commerce et servant probablement à aider les médecins à choisir les bonnes prothèses oculaires pour leurs patients autour des années 1885.

Figure 2. Oiseaux de proie. Figure 3. L’étude des senses. Figure 4. Crâne et avant-bras. Cahier d’histoire naturelle de Ducrot (1835-1837).

Outre leur valeur historique, les acquisitions décrites dans cet article ont en commun des attributs artistiques indéniables. Quand Eugène Ducrot a compilé les 256 pages de son manuscrit intitulé Cahier d’histoire naturelle entre 1835 et 1837, il n’a pas simplement consigné par écrit les enseignements reçus de M. Denoue au Collège royal de Moulins, en France. Il a en effet illustré ses notes par des aquarelles et des croquis au crayon et à l’encre [Figures 2‑4]. Le résultat impressionne, non seulement par sa qualité artistique, mais également pour ce qu’il révèle sur la matière enseignée. Outre l’anatomie et la physiologie humaines, le manuscrit traite de divers sujets – tous plus ou moins illustrés – allant de la zoologie descriptive (incluant l’ethnologie) à la géologie, en passant par la botanique.

Figure 5. Anatomie de la main, Études d’anatomie à l’usage des peintres de Charles Monnet (1769-1776).

Si les dessins de Ducrot ne s’adressaient à personne en particulier, deux livres imprimés récemment acquis ciblent délibérément les artistes. Les Études d’anatomie à l’usage des peintres de Charles Monnet [Paris, 1769-1776] et l’Anatomie du gladiateur combattant (Paris, 1812) de Jean-Galbert Salvage visent à transmettre des connaissances anatomiques aux artistes plutôt qu’aux étudiants en médecine. Monnet ne s’en cache pas dans le titre : il veut montrer ce qu’il y a sous la peau de l’homme afin d’aider ses pairs à mieux représenter la forme humaine [Fig. 5]. Par ailleurs, si les feuillets éléphant de l’ouvrage sur l’anatomie du gladiateur ont de quoi étonner, un peu de lecture et de recherche permet de constater que Salvage a choisi ce format dans le but de persuader le gouvernement de la République française, puis celui du Premier Empire, de financer les arts. Quant au sujet de l’ouvrage, son choix s’éclaire quand on apprend que Salvage a étudié la médecine à Montpellier pendant la Révolution et qu’il est devenu chirurgien militaire par la suite. À l’hôpital militaire de Paris où il travaillait, les corps qu’il a vus ont dû lui rappeler les gladiateurs romains et lui inspirer ce thème pour le moins accrocheur et romantique [Fig. 6].

Figure 6. Os et muscles de la main et du bras, Anatomie du gladiateur combattant de Jean-Galbert Salvage (1812).

Pour être ajoutées aux collections de la bibliothèque Osler, les pièces acquises doivent avoir trait à la médecine ou au corps humain, mais également découler d’un élan créatif. Certaines pièces comblent les lacunes de la collection, d’autres offrent la possibilité d’atteindre un nouveau public. Outre qu’elles ont une grande valeur artistique, les quatre acquisitions décrites ici sont une contribution formidable à la narration de l’histoire de la médecine telle que racontée par les collections diversifiées de la bibliothèque Osler.

The Unknown Unknown: Finding the Jean Drapeau Collection

Thu, 04/19/2018 - 10:55

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By Chris Lyons, Head Librarian, Rare Books and Special Collections

I think the most exciting part of my job as a rare book librarian is in discovering the “unknown unknowns,” to use Donald Rumsfeld’s turn of phrase. These unknowns are new acquisitions of which I wasn’t aware, but that are perfect additions to our collections.  They aren’t the famous high spots like the Gutenberg Bible or Shakespeare’s first folio, but they are the bread and butter of researchers and students. We find them in a variety of ways. We read the many dealers’ catalogues, with their rich descriptions and enticing illustrations. Knowing our collecting areas, book sellers often quote material to us directly as well.

The most stimulating way to discover these unknown unknowns is by exploring bookshops and antiquarian book fairs. Smaller fairs last a day or two and attract 10-20 antiquarian book dealers. Large international fairs attract the biggest sellers and buyers.

Roberts, Leslie, Robert Choquette and Hans van der Aa. Montréal. Montreal: Editions Leméac, 1965. MSG 1144 Rare Books and Special Collections. Credit: Merika Ramundo

At the Montreal Antiquarian Bookfair last September I discovered a few unknown unknowns.  Towards the end of my tour, I visited Bonheur d’occasion, the booth of the Montreal bookshop named after Gabrielle Roy’s famous novel.  Out of the corner of my eye I saw two red binders, photo albums documenting the construction of the 1976 Montreal Olympic stadium and park.  These were not mass-produced publications, but rather unique albums or ones made up in small numbers for officials and other insiders.  Pure researcher gold!

To my delight, the bookseller Mathieu Bertrand told me that they came from the personal library of Jean Drapeau, mayor of Montreal for a remarkable 29 years (1954 to 1957 and 1960-1986).   A larger-than-life figure, Mayor Drapeau put his stamp on Montreal as a modern city.  The Metro, Place des Arts, and the ribbons of highways that run around, over, under and through the city all bear his mark. He also helped put Montreal front and centre on the international stage with Expo 67 and the 1976 Olympics.

A photo from Drapeau’s Expo 67 photograph album.

Imagine my excitement when Mathieu told me that he had even more material from Drapeau’s personal library at his shop. There I discovered a collection that reveals the mind of Jean Drapeau in interesting ways. We acquired seven volumes of speeches from his first term as mayor. The speeches suggest that here was a man who seemed to put great stock in his opinions and his oratorical skills.  A fat bound volume of fan mail regarding the City’s publication Montreal 64, had complimentary sentences underlined, perhaps by Drapeau himself. Here was a man deeply sensitive to his and the city’s public image. There were private photo albums from Expo 67, Man and his World and the first anniversary banquet of the mayor’s Civic Party.

Page from Drapeau’s annotated copy of the 1980 Rapport de la Commission d’enquête sur le coût de la 21e olympiade. Credit: Jacquelyn Sundberg

The pièce de résistance, though, was the mayor’s copy of the 1980 Rapport de la Commission d’enquête sur le coût de la 21e olympiade.  Popularly called the Malouf Report after the commission’s chair, Judge Albert H. Malouf, the report blamed the mayor for the outrageous cost overruns that plagued the 1976 Olympics, especially in building the stadium.  If Expo 67 was the zenith of Drapeau’s career, when the world marvelled at Montreal’s audacious and stylish world’s fair, the Olympics was his nadir.  Massive cost overruns, allegations of waste and corruption, and the overly ambitious and impractical design of the stadium were all a black eye for Drapeau’s legacy.  Although he was re-elected in 1978 and 1982, the Olympics tarnished his reputation.

During his lifetime, Drapeau evaded discussing the Malouf Report, promising that he was writing a book in response. The promise came to be seen as nothing more than a way of avoiding answering the charges.  Discovering his copy of the report offers a way to break this silence.  The first volume of the report is filled with the mayor’s markings, potential clues to his reaction. For example, he circled all the cost estimates for the games, but not the final cost of $1.3 billion.

Page from Drapeau’s annotated copy of the 1980 Rapport de la Commission d’enquête sur le coût de la 21e olympiade. Credit : Jacquelyn Sundberg

In another section he underlined the commission’s findings that he was primarily responsible for the cost overruns.  Directly beneath it, he underlined in red the section that says the City executive must also shoulder part of the blame for not providing diligent oversight.  This is the only section underlined in red in the whole report, and suggests that he perhaps saw this as a lifeline, maybe not to shift the blame exactly, but at least to spread it around.

This new material has garnered substantial media coverage, which gave me the chance to repeatedly tell the public that McGill’s special collections are open to everyone.  So far, several have come to the consult the Drapeau material. One hopes that the media attention will not only help to shed light on Jean Drapeau and Montreal’s history, but also encourage people to explore the many other riches in our collection.

McGill’s Drapeau material in the media

See the Drapeau material at McGill’s Rare and Special Collections.

L’inconnu inconnu : la découverte des archives de Jean Drapeau

Par Chris Lyons, bibliothécaire en chef, Livres rares et collections spécialisées

Mon travail de spécialiste du livre rare est particulièrement excitant quand je découvre ce que Donald Rumsfeld a appelé les « inconnus inconnus ». Ces inconnus sont de nouvelles acquisitions dont j’ignorais jusqu’à l’existence même, mais qui s’intègrent parfaitement à nos collections. Ce ne sont pas des trouvailles dignes du saint Graal comme la bible de Gutenberg ou le premier feuillet de Shakespeare, mais c’est le pain quotidien des chercheurs et des étudiants. Ces documents nous parviennent de toutes sortes de façons : nous compulsons les nombreux catalogues de marchands aux descriptions éloquentes et aux illustrations alléchantes; par ailleurs, il arrive souvent que les bouquinistes qui connaissent nos besoins nous proposent directement certains ouvrages.

Le moyen le plus stimulant de découvrir ces inconnus inconnus consiste à bouquiner dans les librairies et salons du livre ancien. Les salons de moindre importance d’une ou deux journées attirent entre 10 et 20 marchands de livres anciens. Les grands salons internationaux attirent quant à eux les plus gros vendeurs et acheteurs.

Roberts, Leslie, Robert Choquette et Hans van der Aa. “Montréal”. Montréal: Éditions Leméac, 1965. MSG 1144 Département des livres rares et collections spécialisées. Source : Merika Ramundo

Au Salon du livre ancien de Montréal tenu en septembre dernier, j’ai trouvé quelques inconnus inconnus. C’est vers la fin de ma visite, au kiosque de la librairie Bonheur d’occasion – qui porte le nom du fameux roman de Gabrielle Roy –, que j’aperçois du coin de l’œil deux reliures rouges, des albums de photos qui documentent la construction du stade et du parc où ont eu lieu les Jeux olympiques de 1976. Il ne s’agissait pas d’ouvrages publiés en série, mais d’albums uniques ou produits en petit nombre pour les dignitaires et autres initiés. Une mine d’or pour le chercheur!

À ma grande joie, le bouquiniste Mathieu Bertrand m’apprend que ces reliures proviennent des archives personnelles de Jean Drapeau, qui a occupé le poste de maire de Montréal pendant 29 années remarquables (de 1954 à 1957 et de 1960 à 1986). Personnage plus grand que nature, le maire Drapeau a laissé sa marque en modernisant Montréal. Le métro, la Place des Arts et le réseau d’autoroutes qui encercle, traverse, surplombe la ville ou passe dessous portent tous son empreinte. Il a également contribué à mettre Montréal à l’avant de la scène internationale avec Expo 67 et les Olympiques de 1976.

Photo d’Expo 67 tirée de l’album de photos personnelles de Jean Drapeau.

Imaginez mon émoi quand Mathieu m’a dit qu’il avait à sa librairie d’autres documents provenant des archives personnelles de Jean Drapeau. C’est là que j’ai trouvé une collection qui lève le voile sur bien des aspects de la pensée de Jean Drapeau. Nous avons fait l’acquisition de sept recueils de discours prononcés pendant son premier mandat à la mairie. Ces discours laissent penser que Drapeau accordait beaucoup d’importance à ses opinions et à son talent d’orateur. Dans une épaisse reliure réunissant les lettres d’admirateurs de la publication Montreal 64, des phrases élogieuses sont soulignées, peut-être par Drapeau lui-même. Cet homme était manifestement très sensible à son image publique et à celle de sa ville. Des albums de photos personnelles livrent un aperçu d’Expo 67, de Terre des hommes et du banquet donné à l’occasion du premier anniversaire du Parti Civique de Montréal.

Page de l’exemplaire annoté de Jean Drapeau du Rapport de la Commission d’enquête sur le coût de la 21e olympiade déposé en 1980. Source : Jacquelyn Sundberg

La pièce de résistance est toutefois l’exemplaire personnel de Jean Drapeau du Rapport de la Commission d’enquête sur le coût de la 21e olympiade déposé en 1980. Dans ce document mieux connu sous le nom de rapport Malouf, le juge Albert H. Malouf, qui présidait la Commission, blâmait le maire pour les dépassements de coûts faramineux qui ont accablé les Jeux olympiques de 1976, particulièrement à la construction du stade. Si Expo 67 a marqué l’apogée de la carrière de Drapeau, alors que le monde entier s’émerveillait de l’audace et du style de l’exposition internationale de Montréal, les Olympiques en ont été le moment le moins reluisant. Les dépassements de coûts astronomiques, les allégations de gaspillage et de corruption, et la conception trop ambitieuse et difficile à réaliser du stade ont entaché l’héritage de Drapeau. Jean Drapeau a été réélu en 1978 et en 1982, mais les Jeux olympiques avaient terni sa réputation.

Toute sa vie durant, Drapeau a évité de discuter du rapport en promettant de publier une réponse aux conclusions du juge Malouf. On a fini par considérer cette promesse comme un autre moyen d’éluder les questions. Or, la découverte de cet exemplaire du rapport fournit une occasion de briser le silence. Le premier volume du rapport pullule d’annotations du maire, qui sont autant d’indices possibles de sa réaction. Ainsi, il a encerclé tous les coûts estimatifs des jeux, mais pas le coût total de 1,3 milliard de dollars.

Page de l’exemplaire annoté de Jean Drapeau du Rapport de la Commission d’enquête sur le coût de la 21e olympiade déposé en 1980. Source : Jacquelyn Sundberg

Dans une autre section du rapport, Drapeau a souligné les conclusions de la Commission l’accusant d’être le principal responsable des dépassements de coûts. Juste sous ce passage, il a souligné en rouge l’énoncé stipulant que le Comité exécutif de la Ville doit assumer sa part du blâme, car il n’a pas surveillé le projet avec la vigilance qui s’imposait. Ce passage étant le seul du rapport à être souligné en rouge, on pourrait penser que Drapeau le considérait comme une bouée de sauvetage, peut-être pas exactement pour s’exonérer, mais au moins pour ne pas être seul à porter le blâme.

Ces nouveaux documents ont suscité une couverture médiatique considérable, qui m’a donné l’occasion de répéter publiquement que les collections spéciales de McGill sont ouvertes à tous. Depuis, plusieurs personnes sont venues consulter la collection Drapeau. J’ose espérer que l’attention des médias contribuera non seulement à jeter un nouvel éclairage sur Jean Drapeau et l’histoire de Montréal, mais également à encourager le public à explorer les nombreux autres trésors de notre collection.

Archives de Jean Drapeau acquises par l’Université McGill, dans les médias

Visitez la collection Drapeau au Département des livres rares et collections spécialisées de McGill.

If These Buildings Could Walk: On a newly acquired Melvin Charney sculpture

Thu, 04/19/2018 - 10:55

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

The idea that the built environments we inhabit can take on their own lives, acting apart from us or on our behalf, occupies our popular imagination. Houses and household objects spring to life in everything from animated children’s books to horror films. When we visit a space with an interesting history, its inhabitants long gone, we often wonder, “if these walls could talk… .” Perhaps in part because buildings so often outlive us and continue on after we leave, we regularly attribute to them human characteristics and agency. Three Stragglers, a recently acquired sculpture from celebrated Montreal artist and architect Melvin Charney (1935-2012), is peculiar and perhaps inexplicable at first glance. It can, however, be understood within this tradition of listening to the stories of our animate, built environment.

Melvin Charney, CITIES ON THE RUN…Three Stragglers, 1999. Welded aluminum, sandblasted with a lacquer finish. Gift of Lilian and Billy Mauer. McGill Visual Arts Collection 2017-055.

Produced in 1999, and hailing from the artist’s series CITIES ON THE RUN, which included work in both sculpture and mixed media, this work in aluminum shows three anthropomorphized buildings on the move. Standing on their foundations, bent to look like human knees in motion, with gridded pieces projecting from their upper bodies to represent their facades, the running buildings look like something out of an animated film. This group, characterized by the artist as “stragglers,” has a particularly playful air about it, the three figures assembled at the back end of a long base, seemingly failing to keep up with their imagined peers ahead. Other sculptures or works on paper in the series have titles like Blocks Running Scared or Blocks in Search of a City, and strike a more somber note.

Charney studied Architecture both here at McGill and at Yale. He worked in Paris and New York, before returning to live and teach in Montreal. His childhood and early career came at a time of mass urban renewal, when North American cities in particular were being torn apart and rebuilt to accommodate projected population increases that sometimes never happened. Taken together, the works in CITIES ON THE RUN ask us to consider what happens to our buildings when we abandon them (or the urban environments around them), and imagines them taking action on their own. “If these buildings could walk,” in other words, would they choose to leave their own homes – the discarded corners of our cities?

More broadly, Charney’s works, which also include monumental open air installations at the Canadian Centre for Architecture and Place Émilie-Gamelin, invite us to rethink buildings not as inanimate functional objects we simply inhabit, but as dynamic, living entities, changing constantly, and having their own important histories. Generously donated by Lilian and Billy Mauer, Three Stragglers comes into our Collection at a particularly appropriate time, as many buildings on our own historic campus are being renovated. What’s more, the sculpture will soon be on view in a public space in the Armstrong Building, the University’s former bookstore, recently repurposed and renewed to serve as expanded space for the Desautels Faculty of Management.

Si ces édifices pouvaient marcher : à propos d’une sculpture de Melvin Charney

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

L’idée que les bâtiments que nous occupons pourraient s’animer et agir malgré ou pour nous hante l’imagination populaire. Des maisons et des objets du quotidien prennent vie dans les livres pour enfants, les dessins animés et les films d’horreur. Qui ne s’est pas demandé « si les murs pouvaient parler… » en visitant un espace chargé d’histoire et inhabité depuis longtemps? La persistance des édifices, qui restent bien souvent debout longtemps après notre disparition, peut expliquer en partie pourquoi nous attribuons régulièrement une nature et des caractéristiques humaines aux bâtiments. Œuvre du célèbre artiste et architecte montréalais Melvin Charney (1935-2012), la sculpture Three Stragglers récemment acquise par McGill est insolite et peut-être incompréhensible à première vue. On peut toutefois en percer le mystère en la situant dans cette tradition d’écoute des histoires de notre environnement construit et animé.

Melvin Charney, CITIES ON THE RUN…Three Stragglers, 1999. Aluminium soudé, sablé et laqué. Don de Lilian et Billy Mauer. Collection d’arts visuels de McGill, 2017-055.

Produit en 1999 dans le cadre de la série CITIES ON THE RUN (Cités en fuite) qui réunissait des sculptures et des techniques mixtes, cette œuvre en aluminium représente trois édifices anthropomorphisés en mouvement. Debout sur leurs fondations pliées pour donner l’illusion de genoux humains, ces édifices dont la façade plaquée d’un grillage représente la poitrine semblent sortir en courant d’un film d’animation. Qualifiées de « retardataires » par l’artiste, les trois personnages montés à l’extrémité arrière d’une base allongée ont l’air d’avoir du mal à suivre leurs homologues imaginaires. L’ensemble a un air singulièrement espiègle qui détonne d’autres sculptures ou œuvres sur papier de la même série, comme Blocks Running Scared ou Blocks in Search of a City, aux accents plus sombres.

Charney a étudié l’architecture à l’Université McGill et à Yale. Il a travaillé à Paris et à New York avant de revenir à Montréal pour s’y établir et enseigner. Pendant son enfance et au début de sa carrière, il a connu la vague de renouvellement urbain pendant laquelle on a rasé et rebâti des villes, surtout en Amérique du Nord, afin d’accommoder une croissance prévue de la population qui ne s’est parfois jamais matérialisée. Ensemble, les pièces de la série CITIES ON THE RUN nous invitent à nous demander ce qui arrive aux édifices quand on les abandonne (eux ou le milieu urbain qui les entoure) et à imaginer comment ces mêmes édifices réagiraient. Autrement dit, « si ces édifices pouvaient marcher », choisiraient-ils de déserter leur propre environnement – les quartiers abandonnés de nos villes?

Plus largement, les œuvres de Charney, qui comprennent des installations monumentales en plein air au Centre canadien d’architecture et à la Place Émilie-Gamelin, nous invitent à repenser les édifices non pas comme des objets fonctionnels inanimés simplement habités, mais comme des entités dynamiques et vivantes en constante évolution qui ont une importante histoire personnelle. Three Stragglers s’ajoute à la Collection à un moment tout à fait approprié, alors que de nombreux bâtiments du campus historique de McGill sont en cours de rénovation. Qui plus est, ce don généreux de Lilian et Billy Mauer sera bientôt exposé dans un espace public du Pavillon Armstrong (l’ancienne librairie universitaire) récemment rénové à la suite d’un changement de vocation visant à agrandir la Faculté de gestion Desautels.

New Insights from John Peters Humphrey: The Man Behind the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Thu, 04/19/2018 - 10:55

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By Laura Colangelo, Young Canada Works intern and Jean-Marc Tremblay, Archivist & Records Management Administrator, McGill University Archives

In 1946, John Peters Humphrey, professor of law at McGill University, turned down an offer of Deanship. Why refuse a position of such influence? Well, it started with a phone call.

John Peters Humphrey and Gen. Romulo of the Philippines. Geneva, April 1948. Photographer: United Nations. McGill University Archives MG 4127/2002-0086.04.36.1

Humphreys got a call one evening from his friend Henri Laugier, the newly-appointed Assistant Secretary-General for Social Affairs at the United Nations. Laugier offered Humphrey the position of Director of the Human Rights Division of the nascent United Nations. Humphreys said yes. As a result, he would draft the first pages of what would become the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.


The new exhibit allows visitors to immerse themselves in the real objects that document the impact of John Peters Humphrey’s work by touring the exhibit, John Peters Humphrey: Law, Human Rights, and Advocacy, showcased on the fourth floor of the McLennan Library. The exhibit celebrates Humphrey’s life and the upcoming fiftieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on 10 December 2018.

Humphrey’s time at McGill as both a student and a professor are showcased with Old McGill yearbooks, his teaching materials, as well as his student ID cards. Humphrey’s diaries from his time at the United Nations give candid glimpses of his experience in the General Assembly and the process of having the Declaration adopted.

“The Universal Declaration of Human Rights has now been adopted; but the miracle for which some of us had hoped did not happen. For while there were no votes cast against the declaration, the Slav states, South Africa and Saudi Arabia abstained.”

John Humphrey’s diary entry, December 11, 1948. Credit: Jacquelyn Sundberg

His photo album, passport, and awards can all be seen on display along with some reports from his mission to Vietnam in 1963 and his work in representing Comfort Women and Hong Kong Veterans. The exhibit also takes visitors through Humphrey’s personal life, displaying photos and correspondence with his family.

John Peters Humphrey Fonds at McGill University Archives

John Peters Humphrey: Law, Human Rights, and Advocacy exhibit. Credit: Merika Ramundo

In 1988, John Humphrey began donating his material to the McGill University Archives (see MG 4127). Further material was later donated by his wife, Dr. Margaret Kunstler, and his literary executer, John Hobbins. The fonds contains documents related to his family and personal life, activities with the United Nations, teaching and research materials, work with NGOs, speeches and seminars, photographs, awards, and artifacts.

McGill University Archives houses many private fonds available to researchers, including those of contemporaries of Humphrey: see for example the Madeleine Parent Fonds (MG 4269), Paul-André Crépeau Fonds (MG 4271), Maxwell Cohen Fonds (MG 1026), and Tamar Oppenheimer Fonds (MG4267).

Nouvel éclairage sur John Peters Humphrey, l’instigateur de la Déclaration universelle des droits de l’homme

Par Laura Colangelo, stagiaire, Jeunesse Canada au travail, et Jean-Marc Tremblay, archiviste et administrateur en gestion des documents, Archives de l’Université McGill

En 1946, John Peters Humphrey, professeur de droit à l’Université McGill, déclinait le poste de doyen qu’on lui offrait. Pourquoi refuser un poste aussi influent? Tout a débuté par un appel téléphonique.

John Peters Humphrey et le général Romulo des Philippines. Genève, avril 1948. Photographe : Nations Unies. Archives de l’Université McGill
MG 4127/2002-0086.04.36.1

Un soir, Humphrey reçoit un appel de son ami Henri Laugier, fraîchement nommé secrétaire général adjoint aux Affaires sociales de la toute nouvelle Société des Nations (ONU). Laugier lui offrait le poste de directeur de la Division des droits de l’homme au sein de l’ONU. Humphrey a accepté et c’est à ce poste qu’il a rédigé la première ébauche de ce qui allait devenir la Déclaration universelle des droits de l’homme.


Intitulée « John Peters Humphrey: Law, Human Rights, and Advocacy », la nouvelle exposition présentée au quatrième étage de la bibliothèque McLennan offre une expérience immersive au visiteur au milieu d’objets qui documentent l’influence qu’a eue John Peters Humphrey par son travail. L’exposition célèbre la vie d’Humphrey et la Déclaration universelle des droits de l’homme, qui aura 50 ans le 10 décembre 2018.

Le passage d’Humphrey à McGill comme étudiant et professeur est illustré par les albums souvenirs de la collection Old McGill, son matériel d’enseignant et ses cartes d’étudiant. Dans les journaux tenus alors qu’il était en poste à l’ONU, Humphrey révèle franchement son expérience de l’Assemblée générale de l’ONU et du processus d’adoption de la Déclaration.

« La Déclaration universelle des droits de l’homme a été adoptée; mais le miracle que certains d’entre nous espéraient ne s’est pas produit. En effet, si aucun pays n’a voté contre la Déclaration, les États slaves, l’Afrique du Sud et l’Arabie saoudite se sont abstenus de voter. »

Une page du journal de John Humphrey datée du 11 décembre 1948. Source : Jacquelyn Sundberg

Son album de photos, son passeport et les prix qu’il a reçus sont tous présentés, avec quelques-uns des rapports rédigés au cours de sa mission au Vietnam en 1963 et son travail de représentation des esclaves sexuelles et des anciens combattants de Hong Kong. L’exposition offre également un aperçu de la vie privée d’Humphrey grâce à des photos et des lettres échangées avec ses proches.

Fonds John Peters Humphrey aux Archives de l’Université McGill

L’exposition « John Peters Humphrey: Law, Human Rights, and Advocacy » Source: Merika Ramundo

En 1988, John Humphrey a donné une partie de ses archives personnelles à l’Université McGill (MG 4127). Son épouse, la Dre Margaret Kunstler, et son exécuteur littéraire, John Hobbins, ont par la suite confié d’autres documents aux Archives. Le Fonds contient des documents ayant trait à la vie familiale et personnelle d’Humphrey, à ses activités à l’ONU et à son travail avec les ONG, ainsi que du matériel d’enseignement et de recherche, des discours et des séminaires, des photographies, des prix et des objets.

De nombreux autres fonds de particuliers, notamment des contemporains d’Humphrey comme Madeleine Parent (MG 4269), Paul-André Crépeau (MG 4271), Maxwell Cohen (MG 1026) et Tamar Oppenheimer (MG 4267), sont conservés aux Archives de l’Université McGill et mis à la disposition des chercheurs.


Winners Announced! Curious Hieroglyphick Valentine

Wed, 04/04/2018 - 14:53

The McGill Library is delighted to announce that we have not one but two winners of our Curious Hieroglyphick Valentine contest!

Both Rebecca Nicholson and Elaine Fernald succeeded in decoding the “Curious Hieroglyphick Valentine” from McGill’s uncatalogued collection of greeting cards. You can read their submissions below. Congrats!

A huge thank you to everyone who submitted…we loved reading the creative entries!

Printed some time in the mid-19th century, this clever Valentine’s rebus comes from McGill’s uncatalogued collection of greeting cards dating as far back as 1790, with many Victorian examples like this one. Valentine’s Day cards surged in popularity during the 19th century, with the spread of cheaper mass printing techniques and improvements to the postal systems in North America and the UK. Hieroglyphs, too, had captured the Victorian imagination since the discovery of the Rosetta Stone in 1799 and the deciphering of hieroglyphs in the 1820s.

Rebecca Nicholson

Fair is the morning the bird leaves its nest

And sings a salute to the dawn

The sun in full splendor, embroiders the east

And brightens the dew (den?) on the lawn

Tis Valentine’s day and my love I address

This letter can boast of a flame

So pure and so true I want words to express

But I ask you to give it a name

And while my dear love on this letter you gaze

Heave a sigh for a heart that is true

And believe that? it such warm affection conveys

As exists for no other but you

Elaine Fernald

Fair is the morning the bird leaves its nest And sings a salute to the dawn The sun in full splendor embroiders the east And brightens the dew on the lawn.

Tis Valentine’s day and my love I address This letter can boast of a flame So pure and so true I want words to express But I ask you to give it a name And while my dear love on this letter you gaze Heave a sigh for a heart that is true And believe that it such warm affection conveys As exists for no other but you.