McLennan Library Building (map), 4th floor
Located in the Rare Books and Special Collections Reading Room
3459 McTavish Street
Montreal, Quebec H3A 0C9
Information: 514-398-4711| refdesk [dot] archives [at] mcgill [dot] ca (Email)
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Where to Find References to Journal Articles
The collection contains a variety of materials documenting French history and literature. There are a number of fragments of early French literary texts including two leaves from a copy of the "Chevalier du Cygne" dated c. 1300. There is a copy dated c. 1660 of the "Receul [sic] des actes de tous les Sinodes Nationnaux...au Royaume de France", 1559-1660.
The collection was donated to the library in 1981 by the family of the collector, the late Joe Fishstein of New York City. It is composed primarily of twentieth century Yiddish belles-lettres, poetry and criticism. While there are many standard works in the collection, there are, as well, many rare pre-World War II East European imprints. There are also scrapbooks of photographs and postcards. The collection includes some 2500 monographs and 200 serials. Most of the volumes have mac-tac bindings made by Fishstein.
The collection was purchased in 1954 and includes over four hundred books on Shakespeare, his plays and the Elizabethan theatre; and some two hundred pamphlets, reviews, transcripts of lectures, magazine articles and brochures, for the years between 1850 and 1950 from Chamber's library. There is the Jahrbuch der Deutschen Shakespeare-Gesellschaft (1865-1929) and the fifteen facsimiles of the Shakespeare Association. (1931-1938).
Rare Books holds some 140 incunabula, the earliest being Paulus de Sancta Maria Scrutinium scripturarum (Strasbourg: Johann Mentelin, not after 1470). The first incunabulum acquired by the McGill library was a copy of Jacobus de Voragine, Legenda aurea (Basel: [Michael Wenssler], 1490). It came with the bequest of the library of John Robson, M.D. of Warrington, England in 1877. Italian and German printing is particularly well represented as are theology, the classics and Italian literature.
In 1991 Rare Books acquired this Thomas Chatterton Collection containing books by and about the English poet Thomas Chatterton (1752-1770). The collection of forty-nine items includes first editions of The Auction: A Poem (1770), The Execution of Sir Charles Bawdin (1772) and The Revenge (1795); and a copy of the second edition of the Poems, Supposed to Have Been Written at Bristol, By Thomas Rowley (1778 — the first and third were already among holdings of Rare Books).
The Indic manuscripts cover a variety of languages and traditions of India and Southeast Asia. There are approximately two hundred texts in Sanskrit, Pali and other languages. Both Hindu and Buddhist religious texts are represented as well as some secular texts. Almost half of the collection is composed of palm leaf manuscripts (olas).
The cookbook collection was formed in the late 1960s and concentrates on Canadian, American and British material. It now contains over 1700 titles. The core of the collection is primarily twentieth-century material, but there are significant nineteenth-century holdings including a long run of editions and revisions of Mrs. Beaton's Book of Household Management (first published in 1859). As well, there are a few eighteenth century books.
The collection holds a number of interesting Italian manuscripts from the late fifteenth to the early nineteenth centuries. These include literary, historical and theological works and some archival material (primarily of the sixteenth century).
The children's books collection is composed of some 3,000 volumes. While these are primarily nineteenth- and twentieth-century books, there is a small number of eighteenth-century items. The collection encompasses a wide diversity of material including alphabets, fiction, poetry, education, science, annuals, moral instruction and examples of horn books. There is a long run of variant issues and editions of the books of G.A Henty. The collection also includes some 342 Soviet children's books from the 1920s to the 1940s that are of particular interest for their graphic design.
The Rare Books Collection (now housed in Rare Books and Special Collections, McLennan-Redpath Building, 4th floor) contains many early printed books and lithographs, as well as 226 volumes of manuscripts. Among the early printed books published in Europe there are at least six dating from the 16th century, 36 titles printed in the 17th century and some 144 from the 18th century.
The 52 titles in this collection include many first and early editions of Burton's works. A number of the volumes have the bookplate of the Canadian financier Sir George Stephen, Bart (Lord Mount Stephen, 1829-1921). Other titles and editions of Burton's works are in the general rare book collection.
Records for the holdings are in the McGill Library on-line catalogue.
The Islamic manuscripts fall into three groups: Arabic, Persian and Turkish. The Arabic manuscripts, some thirty-three codices, are mostly Korans and tracts on Sufiism and Shiite sects. In addition, there is a collection of over two hundred pieces of Arabic calligraphy. There are some thirty-five Persian codices, primarily poetry, and about a hundred separate leaves, many containing miniature paintings. Among the latter is one leaf dated to the thirteenth century and a leaf from the Demotte "Shahnama", c. 1350.
The collection holds three large archives of British political papers and a number of smaller collections and single manuscripts covering the period from the late Middle Ages to the early twentieth century. Some of these materials are copies of official documents and others are private papers, and there are a number of interesting eighteenth-century collectanea containing material from earlier periods.
The collection of the American designer, illustrator and author Edward Gorey (1925-2000) consists of books by and/or illustrated by him. The books, of which there are eighty-eight volumes, are mostly first editions and date from the period ca 1950 to 1980. As well, there is a small body of ephemera including book jackets by and articles about Gorey.
The collection was established ca 1969. It includes examples of the wood engravings of Thomas and John Bewick of Newcastle, England, from the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Both monographs (89) illustrated by them and scrapbooks of examples of their work are present. Of particular interest is the recently acquired 1826 edition of A History of British Birds. It is heavily annotated throughout, with notes on the impression of the plates, the descriptions of the birds and the order of the entries on almost every page.
The collection's holdings of English literary papers are diverse. The earliest item is four leaves from a fifteenth-century copy of John Lydgate's translation of Boccaccio's The Fall of Princes. The rest of the material is of a much later date, primarily of the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Poetry, including some anonymous collectanea, is especially well represented. For example, there is an interesting early eighteenth-century manuscript containing a version of Yarico to Inkle: An Epistle attributed to Edward Moore.
The collection was established in the late 1970s. Books with decorated cloth bindings were gathered from uncatalogued materials, including donations. The collection has been added to subsequently by purchase and donation. The collection is composed of some 1100 volumes significant for their decorated (pictorial or lettered) cloth bindings published between 1850 and 1950. The bulk of the collection falls between approximately 1890 and 1920. The collection is arranged chronologically and access is through card files of main entries and illustrators.
Rare Books has significant holdings of eighteenth-century French literature including thirty-seven original and later editions of many of the works by Nicolas-Edme Restif de la Bretonne. For Louis Sébastien Mercier there are four eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century editions of L'an deux mille quatre cent quarante as well as two English translations from the same period and other works. Other authors represented include Crébillon Père (1674-1762), Jean-Baptiste Rousseau, Bernard de Fontenelle, Mme.