Exhibit | Gathering the Spectacular: Extra-Illustrated Editions & Acquisitions featuring The Rare Burney Collection

Tuesday, June 13, 2023 08:00toFriday, September 15, 2023 18:00
McLennan Library Building fourth floor lobby, 3459 rue McTavish, Montreal, QC, H3A 0C9, CA
Burney portrait from Diary & Letters of Madame D'Arblay.

Presented in conjunction with the Burney Society Conference: “The Burneys: Isolation, Gatherings, and Celebrations”

13-14 June 2023, held in Rare Books and Special Collections, McGill University Library.


Once considered a misguided pastime for retired and wealthy bookmen, the Victorian-era practice of extra-illustration is being reconsidered today by book historians as a legitimate form of interacting with print media, showing a reader’s engagement with books, and a multi-media expression of a point of a view on the text, akin to “marginalia” in books.

Materially these books are spectacular by the insertion of original or facsimile autograph letters, portraits, caricature, maps, broadsides, photos, and more. The effort not only in crafting these unique copies but also in organizing the added material in synchronization with the text was a time-consuming past-time.

Biography was a typical genre often outfitted with this kind of individualized interplay with subjects. The eighteenth-century writer Frances Burney (1752-1840) was among the chosen.

An outstanding example is the Diary & Letters of Madame D'Arblay (1778-1840). Using an edition published by Macmillan as of 1904 in 6 volumes, Alexander Meyrick Broadley (1847-1916) extended his copy by some 1500 additional plates to 24 volumes.

McGill owns a number of remarkable examples done up in a similar manner on celebrities like Napoleon, Dickens, Defoe, and Samuel Johnson. The latter also includes more idiosyncratic versions of the practice of extra-illustration.

The famed auction of the Paula Peyraud Collection held in New York 2009, brought in a prized group of manuscripts on Frances Burney and her family, which is the subject of the second half of the display.

High-ticket items acquired at this Bloomsbury auction include an autograph book of letters, penned in French, by Frances Burney, with footnote corrections by her husband, Alexandre D’Arblay.

Exciting new acquisitions such as a rare French edition of Evelina; or the subscriber’s receipt for the purchase of A General History of Music, by Charles Burney (father) demonstrate an intergenerational Burney family active in publishing, along with fascinating examples of translation and transactions in the English book trade of the late eighteenth century.

The exhibit is on display for public view in the 4th floor Lobby of the McLennan Library Building during opening hours from June 13 to September 15, 2023.

Curated by Ann Marie Holland, Liaison Librarian, Enlightenment Collections, Rare Books and Special Collections, in collaboration with Professor Peter Sabor, Director of McGill’s Burney Centre.

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