Colour our rare and special collections!

Join us in a social media colouring fest! McGill Library, along with hundreds of our friends at libraries, museums, and cultural institutions around the world, has turned our collections into colouring books. This year, we’ve included material from the Osler Library of the History of Medicine, the Marvin Duchow Music Library, and Rare Books and Special Collections.

Participate by downloading our colouring book and sharing your finished work to Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram, and tagging us (#McGillRarebooks or #OslerLibrary) as well as #ColorOurCollections.

Bellin, J.N. (1744). Plan de la Nouvelle Orléans. | G4014 N5 1744 B44 | Lande Canadiana Maps | Rare Books and Special Collections

This fun initiative was launched by The New York Academy of Medicine Library in 2016. We are proud to participate for a third year in a row. Check out our past offerings for more great images from 2017 and 2016.

-Posted on behalf of the team: Jennifer Garland, Lauren Goldman, Greg Houston, Sarah Severson, and Mary Yearl.



Retirement news: Dr. Richard Virr

Dr. Richard Virr with Audubon’s “Birds of America”. Photo: David Sidaway / The Gazette

Dr. Richard Virr announced recently that he is retiring on February 2nd, 2018. Richard joined Rare Books and Special Collections in the Fall of 1984 after a short time in the McGill University Archives where he was the final editor of A guide to Archival Resources at McGill University.  In 1985 he was named curator of manuscripts, a position he continued to hold when appointed Chief Curator in 2006.  The latter position he held for 10 years.

Throughout his time at RBSC Richard left his mark in a number of areas.  He curated numerous exhibitions that were extremely helpful in raising the visibility of the collection, including the recent one on the memorialization of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. Richard organized colloquia and other events that allowed for a scholarly analysis not only of material held in RBSC but of books in general.  The proceedings of the recent Meeting with Books: Special Collections in the 21st Century was published by the library with additional material about special collections at McGill. His sharp wit and depth of knowledge of the collection developed over years of erudite thought, was of great benefit to the many students and scholars with whom he worked.  He also authored several works, such as Apud Aldum: Aldines in the Libraries of McGill University, published in the Marginalia monograph series in 2000.  For many years he was co-editor with Hans Möller of Fontanus: from the Collections of McGill University.

One of his professional passions has been collection development.  Richard focused on building on strengths, so he acquired a number of important writers from the Enlightenment era, including securing Patrick Lee’s significant Voltaire collection and numerous works by David Hume.   He also added significantly to the Canadiana holdings. He taught Descriptive Bibliography in the McGill School of Information Studies for many years.  The course was very popular.  Many of his students later went into the field and appreciated the positive impact this course had on their professional development.

Richard has also been active outside the University.  He was editor of the Journal of the Canadian Church Historical Society, and organized the 2007 Anglican Libraries in Canada Conference held at McGill.  He is the Archivist for the Anglican Diocese of Montreal, and a governor of the Montreal Diocesan Theological College.

Photo: Noah Sutton / McGill Tribune

Although Richard’s last day at work will be December 1, he will continue to be active in a number of professional projects, including co-curating an exhibition of medieval books of hours at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in September 2018.

We all thank Richard for his many years of service and wish him well.



Exhibition: Remembering

In honour of Remembrance Day and to mark the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, McGill Library and Archives has prepared a special exhibition in the Humanities and Social Sciences Library.

This exhibition begins with Battle of Vimy Ridge itself and the memorial dedicated by His Majesty King Edward VIII in 1936. Also on display is the McGIll Book of Remembrance. This illuminated book records nearly 700 names of McGill individuals who died while serving in uniform either during or after World War I and World War II. Each name is handwritten in calligraphy and the pages are illuminated in hues of red, blue, green, gold and silver. To learn more and view the book click here.

Headline History of the Great War scrapbook

The exhibition continues through November on the first floor of the Humanities and Social Sciences Library.

Until November 12th, an interactive touchscreen highlights two of our permanent web exhibitions: the Canadian War Poster Collection, and McGIll Remembers, which provides access to thousands of digitized archival records pertaining to the students, alumni, faculty and staff of McGill University who contributed to the Second World War effort.

This exhibition is curated by Dr. Richard Virr, Senior Curator, and Jennifer Garland, Associate Librarian.

Apply now – RBSC travel research grants

We are currently accepting applications for three travel research grants to facilitate on-site research at Rare Books and Special Collections, McGill Library.

Fanny Burney by Edward Francisco Burney

The McGill-American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies (ASECS) Fellowship is offered by the Burney Centre, in conjunction with Rare Books and Special Collections. The fellowship is designed to assist scholars who need to travel to and establish temporary residence in Montreal in order to use the resources of the Library. The Fellowship is available to scholars interested in any aspect of Frances Burney, the Burney family, and their extended circle. It carries an award of US $3,000 for a one-month stay, at a time to be arranged. Application deadline: November 30, 2017. How to apply



Raymond Klibansky (1905-2005)

The McGill Raymond Klibansky Collection Research Grant is intended to enable researchers from outside the Montreal area, both established scholars and graduate students, to work on a research project related either to the Klibansky Collection itself or to the history of philosophy in the congenial circumstances of Rare Books and Special Collections, McGill University Library.

The Klibansky Collection of over 7000 titles reflects the entire range of Raymond Klibansky’s intellectual interests from his early work on medieval thought to his engagement with the concept of “tolerance” and its importance in the post-Second World War World. The Klibansky Research Grant, with a value of up to $4000.00 (Cdn), is open on a competitive basis. Application deadline: December 31, 2017. How to apply. 


Frontispiece, Oeuvres complètes de Voltaire, 1819.

The McGill Library Voltaire Research Travel Grant is available to literary scholars, book historians, graduate and post-doctoral students, and to those interested in the arts and humanities of the Enlightenment era.

$2,500 in awards will be made to one or more individuals whose project requires them to spend a minimum of two weeks to come to McGill to consult the rich holdings of Voltaire and other Enlightenment works in Rare Books and Special Collections. Application deadline: December 31, 2017. How to apply.

Occultober exhibition

Scrapbook of Ruth Ena Taylor | McGill University Archives 2017-0042.12.1

This scrapbook was compiled in 1924-1925 by Macdonald Teaching College student Ruth Ena Taylor. It contains dance programmes, diary entries, old pieces of candy, a wishbone, and even a spoon! Ruth very much enjoyed the Halloween dance.

This book is part of our new exhibition, “Occultober” currently on display in our reading room 4th floor McLennan Library Building. Open Monday – Friday, 10am – 6pm until November 10th.

Exhibition: McGill@expo67

McGill @ Expo 67 is an exhibition in the McGill Library that celebrates Expo 67’s 50th anniversary. It showcases the University’s rich collections of photographs, souvenirs, drawings, and passports, as well as materials belonging to McGill community members especially donated for the exhibit.

McGill @ Expo 67 looks at the role of Expo 67 in teaching and research, arguing for the continued relevance of Expo 67 for Canada’s next generation of university students.

Curated by: Annmarie Adams, Professor, School of Architecture & Chair, Department of Social Studies of Medicine; Jennifer Garland, Associate Librarian, McGill Library; David Theodore, Assistant Professor, School of Architecture.

The exhibition runs October 2nd – December 21, 2017 in the McLennan Library Building (main floor, lobby). For opening hours, click here.

Exhibition: On the Wings of the Wind: The Birds of Luisella Carretta

Luisella Carretta is an Italian artist who has devoted much of her work to researching the environment, and especially to the movement of animals in their natural habitat.  She has given particular attention to the flight of birds, and her drawings and watercolours document these.  This exhibition brings together some truly striking images that Luisella Carretta has produced of birds in flight. Curated by Dr. Richard Virr.

September 5, 2017 – December 22, 2017. For opening hours, click here.

McLennan Library Building Rare Books and Special Collections, 4th floor lobby, 3459 rue McTavish, Montreal, QC, H3A 0C9.
Vernissage: Wednesday, 6 September, 5:30 to 7:00pm in Rare Books and Special Collections, 4th floor, McLennan Library Building.

Remembering / Se souvenir : Commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge

Regina War Memorial Museum

Design for Regina War Memorial Museum (unbuilt) by Percy E. Nobbs is included in Part II of the exhibition

By Richard Virr, Rare Books and Special Collections

La version française suit
The Great War (1914-1918) left a permanent mark on Canada, both as a nation and as a people. The country had experienced conflict, both abroad on the battlefields of Europe, where Canadian forces had been engaged since September 1914, and at home with the conscription crisis that engulfed the country in 1917 and resulted in a change of government. By 1919, Canada was a very different place from what it had been in 1914.

Headline History of the Great War scrapbook

Headline History of the Great War, a scrapbook compiled by R.C. Featherstonhaugh, is included in Part I of the exhibition

On the Western Front in April 1917, the British army, including the Canadian Corps under the command of General Julian Byng, faced Vimy Ridge, a strongly-fortified seven-kilometre German defensive line in northern France. The military stalemate seemed unbreakable. Earlier French assaults on this position had resulted in over 100,000 casualties without breaching the German defences. Finally, Vimy Ridge was successfully stormed by the Canadian Corps in a three-day battle from April 9th through the 12th. The battle claimed the lives of 3,598 Canadian soldiers, with another 7,000 wounded.

The Battle of Vimy Ridge has become the embodiment of the Canadian experience of the Great War, and provided the inspiration for one of the most enduring images of the war in Canadian memory: the soaring cenotaph on Vimy Ridge. This memorial appears on the verso of our twenty-dollar bill.

The Vimy Memorial

Vimy Memorial, Illustrated London News, July 25, 1936, is included in Part I of the exhibition

This exhibition begins with Battle of Vimy Ridge itself and the memorial dedicated by His Majesty King Edward VIII in 1936. But it has another purpose: to explore how Canadians, in Montreal, at McGill University, and across the country, memorialized the bravery and sacrifices of its men and women during these years of war. Canada remembered by erecting cenotaphs and memorials in its cities, towns, and villages, and Canada remembers today every November 11th. Through objects, drawings, and photographs, these physical memorials are shown in their various stages of conception and realization. Though not all realized, these memorials are the aides mémoire of our national consciousness that served and continue to serve as markers of our national and communal life.

This exhibition will open in two stages: part I, devoted to the battle and the memorial, opened on Friday, April 7th and continues through November; part II, devoted to remembrance, will open on Friday, May 19th and continue to September 22nd.

The exhibition was curated by Jennifer Garland and Richard Virr, Rare Books and Special Collections, with the assistance of Lori Podolsky, McGill University Archives.

Se souvenir : Commémoration de la bataille de la crête de Vimy dans le cadre de son 100e anniversaire

Regina War Memorial Museum

Dessin conceptuel du musée commémoratif de la guerre de Regina (non construit) par Percy E. Nobbs, présenté dans le cadre de la seconde partie de l’exposition.

Par Richard Virr, Livres rares et collections spécialisées

La Grande Guerre (1914-1918) a laissé une marque indélébile sur le Canada, en tant que pays et en tant que peuple. Le pays avait connu des conflits, non seulement sur les champs de bataille en Europe, où les forces canadiennes étaient mobilisées depuis septembre 1914, mais également à l’intérieur de nos frontières où la crise de la conscription a secoué le pays, en 1917, et entraîné un changement de gouvernement. En 1919, le Canada était très différent de ce qu’il avait été en 1914.

Histoire de la Grande Guerre

Histoire de la Grande Guerre, album de découpures de grands titres préparé par R.C. Featherstonhaugh, présenté dans le cadre de la première partie de l’exposition.

En avril 1917, sur le front ouest, l’armée britannique, y compris le Corps canadien sous le commandement du général Julian Byng, se trouvait devant la crête de Vimy, une ligne défensive allemande puissamment fortifiée qui s’étendait sur une distance de sept kilomètres dans le nord de la France. Ce bastion semblait insurmontable. Les assauts précédents menés par les Français à cet endroit avaient entraîné la mort de plus de 100 000 soldats, mais n’avaient pas permis de percer la ligne défensive allemande. Finalement, le Corps canadien a réussi à s’emparer de la crête de Vimy au terme d’une bataille qui a duré trois jours, soit du 9 au 12 avril. Cette bataille a coûté la vie à 3 598 soldats canadiens et en a blessé 7 000 autres.

La bataille de Vimy incarne maintenant la participation du Canada à la Grande Guerre et elle a inspiré l’une des images les plus mémorables qu’ont les Canadiens de la guerre : le cénotaphe qui est érigé sur la crête de Vimy. Ce mémorial figure au verso de nos billets de vingt dollars.

Mémorial de Vimy, Illustrated London News, 25 juillet 1936, présenté dans le cadre de la première partie de l’exposition.

L’exposition commence par la bataille de Vimy elle-même et le mémorial offert au Canada par Sa Majesté le roi Édouard VIII en 1936. Elle présente aussi comment les Canadiens à Montréal, à l’Université McGill et partout au pays commémorent la bravoure et les sacrifices que les hommes et les femmes ont consentis pendant ces années de guerre. Le Canada se souvient grâce aux cénotaphes et aux monuments commémoratifs qui ont été érigés dans ses villes et villages, et au jour du Souvenir célébré chaque année, le 11 novembre. Par l’entremise d’objets, de dessins et de photographies, ces monuments sont présentés aux étapes de leur conception et de leur réalisation. Bien qu’ils n’aient pas tous vu le jour, ces monuments sont notre aide-mémoire collectif national et continuent de servir de marqueur au sein de notre existence en tant que nation et collectivité.

Cette exposition est présentée en deux étapes : la première partie, consacrée à la bataille et au mémorial, a commencé le vendredi 7 avril et se poursuit jusqu’en novembre, tandis que la seconde, consacrée au souvenir, commence le vendredi 19 mai et se poursuit jusqu’au 22 septembre.

L’exposition a été organisée et préparée par Jennifer Garland et Richard Virr de Livres rares et collections spécialisées, avec l’aide de Lori Podolsky, d’Archives de l’Université McGill

Expo 67 collection

The McGill Library Expo 67 Collection was formed in the years following the fair by McGill Library staff and subsequent donations. It includes ephemera, photographs, realia, published material, official documents, and architectural plans.

Books and ephemera: The Expo 67 collection consists of ephemera such as license plates, visitor passports, postcards, a record, letter opener, bottle caps, ticket stubs, shopping bags, pins, souvenirs etc. There are also guidebooks, magazines, catalogues, posters, books, information manuals, and other written material including clippings and several unpublished documents. Included in this collection are pamphlets and brochures for numerous pavilions, events, services, and countries as well as a variety of maps regarding Expo 67 and subsequent seasons of the Man and His World exhibition.

Photographs: The Expo 67 Slide Collection archives almost 500 images capturing the buildings and surrounding area of the Expo ’67 site. The original photographs (slides) were taken by Meredith Dixon at the 1967 World Exhibition that took place in Montreal, Quebec on April 28th through October 29th.

Architectural archives: The John Bland Canadian Architecture Collection holds the archives of Moshe Safdie, Sigrun Bülow-Hübe, Norbert Schoenauer, John Schreiber, Joseph Baker, Harry Stilman, and John Bland, all of whom worked on projects at Expo 67.

For more information or to view the collection, please contact Rare Books and Special Collections.

On this day: William Blake (d. August 12, 1827)


One of William Blake’s illustrations of the Book of Job, pulled from the McGill plate by Miss Van Hoogandycke, 1969. RBSC (Lande Blake Collection), Blake 5.2 B64T57 1969 elf.

William Blake (1757–1827), English painter and poet, made his living as a commercial engraver and was best known for that work during his lifetime. He was later recognized for his original work as an artist and poet, which included lyrical compositions of spiritual imagery inspired by his interest in theology and philosophy, and an innovative method of “illuminated printing” that combined text and image on a single copperplate.

McGill’s Blake Collection was established in 1953 with a donation of some 250 items by Dr. Lawrence Lande (1906–1998), a major Canadian collector and bibliographer. It has grown to include more than a thousand monographs, facsimiles, engravings, drawings, and slides. Editions of Blake’s own literary works are here, as are copies of books in the editions owned or read by him. Continue reading