The collection of manuscripts, private papers and archives is a large and varied one. On the one hand, it includes complete codices, significant fragments and single leaves of book manuscripts from the European, the Near Eastern and Indian traditions. On the other, it includes private papers and archives documenting many subjects, sometimes with only a single item but often in some depth with a number of interrelated holdings. In particular, Canadian literature, Canadian history, British history, English literature, French history and literature and the history of the book should be mentioned.
The oldest items in the collections are four Oxyrhynchus papyri documents in Greek, the earliest dated 158 A.D. There are a number of other Greek manuscripts in the collection including two gospel books of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, and some later manuscripts both religious and secular. There are three Coptic manuscripts, the earliest a vellum palimpsest fragment of a magical text possibly of the sixth century. As well, there are a number of late Ethiopian and Armenian manuscripts, one Syriac codex, ten Hebrew manuscripts including three of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries and four Irish manuscripts of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.