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Special collections

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Art and architecture

In the general rare book collection there are other works including significant holdings of Giovanni Battista Piranesi and most notably the 1750 edition of his Opere Varie. There are as well nine volumes of Giuseppe Vasi's Delle magnificenze di Roma antica e moderna ... (1747-1761). Other titles of interest include Charles Gavard, Galeries historiques de Versailles (1838-1849) in 13 volumes; The genuine works of James Gillray (1840?); William James, The naval history of Great Britain : from the declaration of war by France in 1793, to the accession of George IV (1837); and Amos Nattini's illustrated extra large folio edition of Dante's La divina commedia, (1931-1941). Records for only some of the holdings are in the McGill Library on-line catalogue.


The general rare book collection incorporates the major portions of three nineteenth-century Montreal private libraries rich in Canadiana: those of Frederick Griffin, Robert Mackay and David Ross McCord. Their collections included many rare pamphlets and obscure Canadian imprints. For example, from Griffin's library came two Jesuit Relations (1637 and 1649) and the 1640 edition of Champlain's Voyages; Mackay's library contributed a whole group of pamphlets recording the state trials after the events of 1837 and McCord's collection included such items as a presentation copy from Simon McGillivray of the Report of the Proceedings connected with the Disputes between the Earl of Selkirk and the North-West Company (Montreal [London]: 1819). Other Canadian material including the unusual Jonas Conrad Schramm, De Philosophia Canadensium Populi in America Septentrionali Balbutiente (Helmstedt: [1707]) was purchased at the Gerald E. Hart sale in 1890. Further additions to the Canadiana holdings have been made regularly over the years.


The general rare book collection contains much of the Department's history material. The holdings for British history of the seventeenth century are particularly important including copies of John Rushworth's Historical Collections with interesting annotations (Description: Daniel German, John Wildman and Rushworth's Historical Collections: An Editor Identified?" Fontanus III (1990), 109-114), John Thurloe's Collection of State Papers, James Macpherson's Original Papers, David Hailes's Memorials and Letters and other late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries works. Many of these editions are part of the Redpath Historical Collection. Much of the French material concerns the Revolution and complements the Napoleon Collection. Italian material includes many eighteenth century works. Finally, there is some early material for Eastern Europe and Russia.

History of ideas

The general rare book collection includes extensive holdings of the works of many of the writers associated with the Scottish Enlightenment; these complement the David Hume Collection. In addition, there are important holdings of the works of Athanasius Kircher, René Descartes, John Locke, Pierre Bayle, John Brown (1715-1766, An Estimate of the Manners and Principles of the Times, 1757 and later editions), Joseph Priestley (non-scientific writings), Immanuel Kant and William Warburton among others. As well, there are significant holdings of seventeenth and eighteenth-century English theology and a large collection of Bibles in various languages including two copies of the Walton Polyglot (1657).

History of the book

Islamic collection


Canadian literature

The general rare book collection is particularly strong in its holdings of Canadian poetry. The poetry collection of W.D. Lighthall, donated in 1912, included some 105 volumes of Canadian verse that he used in the preparation of his Songs of the Great Dominion (1889). Many of the volumes are presentation copies and contain inscriptions, annotations and letters. The works of many lesser Canadian poets and versifiers have been added in recent years. Nineteenth- and early twentieth-century fiction is also well represented. Of particular note are the long runs of novels by Sara Jeannette Duncan, May Agnes Fleming and Frank L. Packard among others.

English literature

The general rare book collection includes a varied selection of English drama, poetry and fiction from the sixteenth to the twentieth centuries comprising the works of both major and minor authors. The holdings of eighteenth-century and early nineteenth-century English drama are extensive. There is much minor poetry of the eighteenth century and some major figures of the nineteenth century such as William Wordsworth (Lyrical Ballads, 1800) are represented. Nineteenth- and twentieth-century novelists like Walter Scott, Anthony Trollope, Charles Dickens, George Gissing, A. Conan Doyle and Aldous Huxley are present as are the works of such minor figures as Baroness Jemima Montgomery Tautphoeus (1807-1893). There is a small collection of the works of Daniel Defoe and the works of Jonathan Swift are present in numerous editions. The holdings also include the small but choice English literature collection of the Montreal bibliophile Lawrence M. Lande.

French literature

German Literature

Yiddish literature




The sciences

Social and cultural history

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