The Raymond Klibansky Collection

Portrait image of Dr. Raymond Klibansky

The Raymond Klibansky Collection (RKC) was the personal library of Klibansky (1905-2005), a historian of philosophy at once celebrated for his erudition and his role as an engaged witness of his time.  A student of philosophy in the German Weimar Republic in the 1920s, Klibansky’s mentors included philosopher Ernst Cassirer, art historian and cultural theorist Aby Warburg, and literary scholar Friedrich Gundolf.  Fleeing Nazi persecution in 1933, Klibansky was among the refugee scholars who contributed to the British war effort during World War II, and in 1946 joined those who enriched North America’s intellectual life, becoming Frothingham Professor of Logic and Metaphysics at McGill University.  For the next three decades Klibansky taught at McGill and lectured at l’Université  de Montreal, remaining active on the international stage through societies such as the Institut international de philosophie (IIP), based in Paris, of which he was president from 1966-1969.

In addition to giving his own library to McGill, Klibansky was at the origin of McGill’s David Hume Collection, which dates from his early discovery of titles from Hume’s own library in McGill collections.    

Klibansky is recognized for pioneering work in medieval thought, the Platonic tradition, and the history of ideas more generally, (as exemplified in Saturn and Melancholy, co-authored with Erwin Panofsky and Fritz Saxl).  His contributions to critical Latin editions of medieval and renaissance thinkers include a central role in establishing the Heidelberg edition of Nicholas of Cusa’s Opera Omnia, a monumental task begun in 1932 and which only reached completion in 2006, and his initiation and editorship of the Corpus Platonicum medii aevi series published from 1940-1962 (four  volumes of the Plato Latinus were completed, as well as three volumes of the Plato Arabus). He played a leading role, from the 1950s through the 1970s, in promoting, the ideals of tolerance and liberty, and in disseminating contemporary philosophical work globally, most visibly through the IIP.The Raymond Klibansky Collection numbers over 7000 titles and includes books printed from the fifteenth to the twenty-first centuries. Texts are primarily in English, German, French, Italian, Latin and Greek. The collection reflects all of Klibansky’s main research interests, and provides a support for the kind of interdisciplinary approach he adopted to understanding philosophical texts. Approximately half of the texts deal with topics in western philosophy and religion, both ancient and modern.  This group includes several historically significant texts in the history of philosophy, for example the first complete printing of Nicholas of Cusa’s works in Paris, 1514 (BX890 N485 1514), or the  1578 bilingual Latin-Greek text of Plato’s complete works established by Jean de Serres and Henri Estienne, likely printed in Geneva (PA4279 A2 1578). This Plato edition remained the authoritative text for the next two centuries and established the page references still used today.  In addition, the collection offers hundreds of titles in nineteenth-  and early twentieth-century German scholarship, most particularly in ancient and modern philosophy and Greek literature, as well as over a hundred titles is the early twentieth-century German literature.   A group of contemporary publications in areas including history, political science and economics reflects Klibansky’s lived social and political experience of the early decades of his century, and several hundred inscriptions, mostly from authors, bear witness to the range of his networks and to his participation in key intellectual circles throughout his lifetime. 

External Links

For a selected bibliography by and about Klibansky, see The Raymond Klibansky Web Page


Leroux, Georges, ed. Raymond Klibansky, 1905-2005: la bibliothèque d’un philosophe. Montréal: Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec, 2013. View catalogue record.

Tomm, Jillian and Georges Leroux. “La collection Raymond Klibansky conservée à l’Université McGill: présentation de la bibliothèque d’un humaniste montréalais." Mémoires du livre/Studies in Book Culture 5, no. 1 (Fall 2013). doi: 10.7202/1020226ar.

 Tomm, Jillian. “The Imprint of the Scholar: An analysis of the printed books of McGill University’s Raymond Klibansky Collection.” PhD diss., McGill University, ©2012. View catalogue record.

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