Political and regional history

Canadian history

First World War Collection

Librarian: Christopher Lyons, Head Librarian (e-mail: christopher.lyons [at] mcgill.ca, telephone: 514-398-4708)

European and British history

Redpath Tracts

Introduction: Established ca 1900, the collection has as its nucleus 40 volumes of political pamphlets gathered by Sir John Bramston, M.P. (1611-1700). To this core, acquired by Mrs. Peter Redpath of Montreal in 1901, were added a series of tracts given by her husband, the Montreal businessman and philanthropist, Peter Redpath in 1880 and another series given by Mrs. Redpath in 1903. Extensive additions have been made since.

Extent: The collection consists of over 20,000 tracts and pamphlets divided into nine series illustrating the religious, political, literary, scientific and social history of the British Isles from 1561 to 1900. Representative of the collection's contents are the extensive holdings on the Popish plots (1678-1700); twenty volumes of marine tracts (1703-1862); Scottish tracts (1751-1842); forty-two volumes of the Siemens scientific pamphlets and six volumes of tracts by William Prynne (1629-1668). Records for partial holdings are in the McGill Library catalogue.

Description: Allan Bell, "Munificent, Wise and Thoughtful Gifts: Grace and Peter Redpath and the Redpath Tracts", Fontanus VI (1993), 45-67.

Librarian: Ann Marie Holland, Liaison Librarian (e-mail: ann.holland [at] mcgill.ca, telephone: 514-398-4707)

Junius Collection

Introduction: The identity of the 18th century polemicist who was responsible for the series of letters to the London Public Advertiser, from 21 January 1769 to 21 January 1772 has long been a subject of debate and speculation. These letters were republished in 1772 as the Letters of Junius. The letters themselves remain after more than 200 years a most startling example of political polemic and invective. The main part of the Junius collection was acquired in 1999; it had once been in the collection of the Mercantile Library Company of Philadelphia. To this collection has been added materials already held by the McGill University Libraries including a copy of the book on Junius (Junius discovered. Boston: Little, Brown; Montreal: H. Ramsay; Toronto: A.H. Armour, 1854) by the Montreal lawyer Frederick Griffin (1798-1877) and a number of books related to Junius from his library.

Extent, date range, language/s: The collection comprises some 145 editions from 1769 to 1909 mostly in English but including French and German translations, and the two bibliographies by Francesco Cordasco (1974 and 1986). In addition, there are four volumes of manuscript and printed material complied by W. Eames originally in the collection of the Mercantile Library Company. Records for the holdings are in the McGill Library catalogue.

Librarian: Ann Marie Holland, Liaison Librarian (e-mail: ann.holland [at] mcgill.ca, telephone: 514-398-4707)

Napoleon Collection

Introduction: The Napoleon Collection houses important historical, cultural and political records on the tumult of the French Revolution and the rise of Napoleon Bonaparte. It has developed into one of the most remarkable resources on the Napoleonic era in North America and is especially noteworthy for its abundant and rich visual resources, widely shared with museums and researchers across the world.

Extent: There are some 3,000 books, pamphlets, serials and broadsides, in addition to nearly 2,500 prints, including more than 250 caricatures, mostly British, and high in colour. There exist more than 410 pieces of printed ephemera of which 260 are contemporary to Napoleon.

Types of material: Books, pamphlets, prints, government documents and broadsides memorabilia and objects of play.

Date range: Distinguished by the depth of pre-1850 imprints and prints covering the whole of the Napoleonic period, the collection covers the French Revolution, the First Empire and successive regimes of the 19th century. It is extended by reflections on the Napoleonic Era, works on Napoleon Bonaparte, his inner circle and family members, with imprints spanning well into the 20th century.

Language/s: Predominantly French and English, some German, Italian, Dutch.

Geographic coverage: Europe.

Provenance: The collection was created in the 1950s under the auspices of the then university librarian Richard Pennington (1947-1964). Beginning with a small donation of books and prints from the Canadian publisher Frederick Southam (1869-1946), Pennington is credited for building the core of the collection with European dealers through to the 1960s. Library staff over the past 50 years continued these efforts to the extent that today, it is one of the most remarkable resources on the Napoleonic era in North America.

Highlights: The collection offers a range of perspectives on Napoleon and his time, from sympathizers to revilers, made available through a broad range of media. There are several contemporary editions of the Code Civil in a multitude of languages as well as a run of the Bulletins des Lois (1794-1815). As for broadsides, McGill houses a copy of Napoleon’s Proclamation de la République française printed in Cairo (1800) in French and Arabic. The expedition to Egypt is well documented. Memoirs of battles and military tactics are outlined in books by the most venerated contemporary generals and military historians of the Napoleonic period. Highlights include plans along with more than 100 maps and atlases including the Vie politique et militaire de Napoleon (1827) by Antoine-Henri, baron Jomini (1779-1869).

Added to that are numerous examples of lithography, which were used to magnify and build the legend of Napoleon to wide audiences, along with over 100 colour wood-engravings from the famous from the famous print shop of Peller in Epinal, France. These are complemented by albums of prints such as the Sacre de Napleon (1815) by Isabey and Percier, along with costume books, and paper toy theatres of the 19th century and other artefacts that typify leisure pastimes of the 19th century. Some books have significant provenance from the likes of Josephine’s son Eugene de Beauharnais.

Several small manuscript collections and single documents are part of the Napoleon Collection. Of particular note is Memoirs and Drawings of Napoleon while at St. Helena by Frederick Allison, his orderly from 1815-1821, with notes by J. Holland Rose, 1934.

The Napoleon Collection holds printed correspondence and some original signed documents and diplomatic letters, an example of which is a collection of private papers from the Duke of Wellington relating to the Napoleonic Wars. Finally, there are objects such as statuettes, coins, cards, and craftworks.

Catalogued holdings: Available through the McGill Library catalogue; a print inventory is available upon request, while the full range of iconography (bound books and sheet prints numbering close to 9,000 entries) can be explored via a digital collection website. Hundreds of pamphlets and broadsides and a few pieces of realia, are available upon request to the librarian.

Access to the collection: A digital exhibit was built around the Napoleon Collection, providing full access to the digital surrogates.

Related RBSC collections (bibliographic): The Print Collection is a basic extension to the visual component of the Napoleon Collection. The general rare books collection houses a rich diversity of historical works, both iconographic and textual, on the French Revolution and the history of France. The philosophes of the French Enlightenment and the writings of many early 19th century authors—Madame de Stael, Chateaubriand, and Tocqueville, to name but a few, all contribute to a significant body of material related to French literature and history through to the 19th century.

Librarian: Ann Marie Holland, Liaison Librarian (e-mail: ann.holland [at] mcgill.ca, telephone: 514-398-4707)

US history

Joseph N. Nathanson Collection of Lincolniana

Introduction: The Joseph N. Nathanson Collection of Lincolniana is the largest collection of Lincolniana outside the United States and houses a diversity of objects, as well as written works in close to 40 languages.

Extent: The collection is comprised of approximately 3,500 books, 1,050 pamphlets, 400 prints, 30 sculptures, and several dozen pieces of memorabilia.

Types of material: Books; pamphlets; periodicals; prints and other artwork (including many portraits); sculptures (primarily busts); medallions and commemorative coins; dishware; furniture; assorted memorabilia.

Highlights: The collection is notable for artefacts relating to slavery, including reward posters for runaway slaves, as well as abolitionist literature and objects commemorating the Emancipation Proclamation. The collection also houses the original diary of Charles Sabin Taft, a surgeon who attended to Lincoln after being shot and remained present until his death the following day.

Date range: 19th and 20th century.

Language/s: Primarily English, with pockets of various other languages including German, French, Japanese, Italian, Spanish, and Swedish.

Geographic coverage: Primarily United States, with some material from France, Britain, Japan, and various other countries.

Provenance: The collection was donated to McGill by Dr. Joseph Nathanson, McGill alum and obstetrician/gynecologist, in the 1980s.

Access to the collection: Researchers are able to search and request catalogued material via the McGill Library catalogue, while uncatalogued material may be requested by contacting the librarian. Requests can also be made by visiting the Rare Books and Special Collections reading room. Books, pamphlets, and serials are catalogued. Partial inventories are available for other parts of the collection. A digital exhibit, Lincoln North, has been built around the collection, providing access to many digital surrogates and a searchable index of prints.

Librarian & curator: unassigned. Contact rarebooks.library [at] mcgill.ca for more information. 

Philip Jaffe Communist Pamphlets

Introduction, extent, geographic coverage, language/s: This collection was acquired in 1969. The collection comprises some 687 items dating from the 1920s to the 1960s. Much of the material is from the United States including a long run of pamphlets by the American Communist Earl Browder. Other material comes from China, the former Soviet Union (including a series of pamphlets by Joseph Stalin), India and other countries. There are numerous reports of Communist Party meetings from various countries. All of the material is in English.

Librarian: Christopher Lyons, Head Librarian (e-mail: ann.holland [at] mcgill.ca (c)christopher.lyons [at] mcgill.ca, telephone: 514-398-4708)

Roy States Black History Collection

Introduction: The Roy States collection was donated by his estate in 1981. States, a long-time employee of McGill University, was concerned both with documenting the Black experience and providing a positive image for Black youth. To this end, he gathered together a body of diverse materials concerning Afro-American history.

Extent and types of material: The collection of some 1,200 items includes monographs, newspapers, off-prints, articles and some photographs. While much of the material relates to North America in general, there is material relating to Canada and Montreal. Records for the holdings are in the McGill Library catalogue.

Librarian: Christopher Lyons, Head Librarian (e-mail: ann.holland [at] mcgill.ca (c)christopher.lyons [at] mcgill.ca, telephone: 514-398-4708)

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