The David Hume Collection has its origins in the chance discovery by Professor Raymond Klibansky of Hume's own copy of the Olivetus edition of Cicero's works (Paris, 1740-1741) in a cupboard at the Faculty Club in 1946. (See: Raymond Klibansky, "Hidden Treasures at McGill", Fontanus vol. II (1989), 79.) Professor Klibansky also describes in this article some of the other books from Hume's library held by McGill and some of the manuscript letters in the Hume Collection (79-82). Following this discovery, Professor Klibansky with Professors J.W.A. Hickson and Charles W. Colby and in cooperation with the University Librarian, Richard Pennington, began to assemble a collection of eighteenth-century editions of Hume's writings and related material and the foundations of the present collection were firmly laid.
In the 1980s and 1990s Professor David Fate Norton played an active part in the further development of the collection. In 1989 and 1990 funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada under the "Support to Specialized Collections Programme" and the "Fleeting Opportunities Program" made possible the acquisition of many significant titles. (See: Bruce Whiteman, "Recent Additions to the David Hume Collection", Fontanus vol. VI (1991), 181-183.) The collection continues to be developed and added to on a regular basis including both eighteenth-century editions and selected modern editions.
The David Hume Collection is a major research collection. It aims to be as comprehensive as possible for eighteenth-century editions of Hume's writings in English and in translation, and for contemporary comment and criticism, British and European. The collection also includes significant later editions and criticism. Particular attention has been paid to acquiring eighteenth-century and early nineteenth-century works referring to Hume or discussing his works. The collection further includes nineteenth- and twentieth-century theses devoted to Hume and a complete run of the journal Hume Studies (1975 - ).
The principal manuscript in the David Hume Collection is the bound volume containing letters from David Hume to the Comtesse de Boufflers. There are also letters from Jean-Jacques Rousseau and others for a total of 59 letters. This volume was acquired 28 November 1950 at the sale of the library of Lucius Wilmerding at the Parke Bernet Galleries in New York City. This collection of letters was the basis for the anonymously edited Private Correspondence of David Hume with Several Distinguished Persons, Between the Years 1761 and 1776. Now First Published From the Originals. (London: Printed for Henry Colburn and Co., 1820.) One of the McGill copies of this book belonged to the Montreal lawyer and book collector Frederick Griffin (1798-1877). For a description of this volume of manuscript letters, see: Raymond Klibansky, "Hidden Treasures at McGill", Fontanus vol. II (1989), 79-82. In addition to this volume there are eight other Hume letters. Some of these have been published by Professor Klibansky and Ernest C. Mosser in New Letters of David Hume. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1954). Records for the holdings are in the McGill Library on-line catalogue.
For Research Notes by Dr. Mark Towsey see: David Hume Research Directions