The RBSC blog has moved!

We’ve moved our blog over to Library Matters, where we will be posting content alongside our McGill Library colleagues.

Reading Room of the Redpath Library in 1893. Photo: McGill Archives, PR037389

In September 2016, the McGill Library brought its four rare collection units—Rare Books & Special Collections, the Osler Library of the History of Medicine, the Visual Art Collection, and Archives & Record Management—together under one umbrella. Together, the unified “ROAAr” group helps showcase the unique holdings within each of the four branches through cross-unit collaboration, strengthening and distinguishing our rich collections and the Library as a whole.

We hope you will continue to follow us over at Library Matters.

Nicholas Cronk on Voltaire at McGill

AN AMERICAN VOLTAIRE: The J. Patrick Lee Voltaire Collection at McGill

By: Nicholas Cronk, Voltaire Foundation, Oxford University

Published by Cambridge Scholars in 2009, with contributions by Nicholas Cronk and other Voltaire scholars.

Pat Lee, who died in 2006, was a life-enhancing friend as well as a Voltaire enthusiast and an avid collector of books. The J. Patrick Lee Voltaire Collection was acquired by McGill in 2013, and contains some 2000 books and 42 manuscripts, relative to Voltaire and his contemporaries. I recently had the huge pleasure of helping Ann Marie Holland organise in the Rare Books Library a small exhibit containing just a few of the highlights of this collection.

Like any great collection, this one has its share of precious printed books, as well as some remarkable manuscripts, not least  a manuscript compilation of verse that belonged to Voltaire’s companion, Emilie Du Châtelet – this last item has been exhibited in Paris at the Bibliothèque nationale de France. The compilation also has its unique personality: Pat Lee, as an American- who loved Voltaire, was born in Kentucky, and wrote his doctorate on Voltaire at Fordham University in New York – clearly had a particular predilection for books by and about Voltaire that were in some way connected with America.

Americans were keen readers of Voltaire from the early years of the Republic, and the provenance of some of the items is startling: a volume of Voltaire that belonged to Theodore Roosevelt, and a manuscript collection of French poetry with the bookplate of … George Washington. But it’s not just the famous names that are interesting. A book called Fame and Fancy, or Voltaire Improved, published in Boston in 1826, provides an American take on Voltaire: but Pat Lee’s copy is also interesting because the bookplate records its American owner: ‘Daniel Green, Jr., Portland, Maine’.

Another remarkable production from the same decade is Abner Kneeland’s translation of Voltaire’s Dictionnaire philosophique, also published in Boston in 1836. Kneeland (1774-1844) was an evangelist minister of radical views, remembered as the last man jailed in the United States for blasphemy – among his publications are The Deist (1822) and A Review of the Evidences of Christianity (1829).  His edition of Voltaire’s Philosophical Dictionary was clearly a polemical gesture therefore, and one of the copies in Pat Lee’s collection is exceptional. The anonymous American owner has inserted two blank sheets in the middle of the volume, with pages headed ‘Births’, ‘Marriages’ and ‘Deaths’. It was common of course for families to own a ‘family Bible’ with such blank pages serving to record key events in a family’s history, a volume that would be handed down from generation to generation. In this (unique?) example, a nineteenth-century American has radically subverted the genre of the ‘family Bible’ by creating a ‘family Voltaire’. Only in America…

A tipped in censored illustration of Rockwell Kent’s Candide intended for the 1928 edition.

In the twentieth century, New York publishers were active in producing illustrated editions, and there are some remarkable illustrated Candide in this collection. The Rockwell Kent illustrations for Random House (1928) are justly famous – not least because the picture of Voltaire’s house in the colophon went on to become widely familiar as the Random House logo. Rockwell Kent’s first depiction of Pangloss conducting an experiment in natural philosophy in the shrubbery was deemed too shocking, and he had to replace it with a more anodine image:- the first edition in this collection is very special because it includes a real rarity -the ‘censored’ image has been tipped in to cover up its timid replacement.( See also the NYPL Candide website for more on Rockwell Kent)

The Rockwell Kent Candide is a celebrated publication, but also remarkable is the fact that the year before, 1927, there had appeared an edition of Candide illustrated by Clara Tice, a bohemian figure known as the Queen of Greenwich Village (below left); and two years later, in 1930, there was an illustrated edition by Mahlon Blane (below right).

This is real testimony to the vibrancy of the American market for illustrated books: three major illustrated editions of Candide all published in New York within the space of four years – and all three in completely contrasting artistic styles.

Following the hugely successful publication of Candide in early 1759, there appeared in 1760 a sequel, Candide, seconde partie – an amusing work that we now attributed to the abbé Dulaurens, but that at the time was widely attributed to Voltaire himself, so much so that it was not uncommon for the two parts of Candide to appear together as ‘one’ work by Voltaire. Gradually it became accepted that Voltaire was not the author of the second part, so this practice declined – except in the United States, where the two parts of Candide continued to be published together well into the twentieth century. This is another peculiarity of the American Voltaire – and this fidelity to the apocryphal Second Part of Candide gives illustrators like Clara Tice a wider range of scenes to depict – for example, Candide’s seduction by a lascivious Persian at the start of the Second Part.

Clara Tice Candide Part 2 in the 1927 edition.

Pat Lee’s Voltaire collection contains many of these beautiful objects – another is the illustrated edition by Jylbert, published by the aptly named: Editions du charme. The date here gives us pause for thought, though: the edition appeared in 1941, in occupied Paris. Does the scene with the monkeys in any way reflect what was happening on the streets of the capital?

Alongside this precious work, Pat Lee’s collection also includes a humble and modestly printed translation of Candide which appeared in the Armed Services Edition in 1943 – part of a series of books made available to American servicemen and women. In Chapter Three of Candide we remember how both sides in the war have a Te Deum sung, in the certain knowledge that God is on their side… And among the troops who liberated Paris, was there perhaps a serviceman who had Candide in his backpack? The Pat Lee collection gives us a specifically American take on Voltaire and his impact in North America, and as such, it is unique.

Click here for more about the  Voltaire Foundation

The Zoological Society of Montreal to the Rescue

By Anna Hayward, McGill School of Information Studies

David and Bess, flying from their home at the palace of Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie in Addis Ababa, moved to Montreal at only 4 months old. Like many in 1967, they came for the excitement that Montreal’s Expo ’67 promised. But unlike many Expo goers, David and Bess were lion cubs.

David and Bess. Photo by Miss Claire Vanier, found in the Society’s journal The Lynx (Vol. 1, No. 4 Summer 1967).

David and Bess. Photo by Miss Claire Vanier, found in the Society’s journal The Lynx (Vol. 1, No. 4 Summer 1967).

The royal cubs were flown in as part of the Ethiopian Pavilion. From their arrival, the Zoological Society of Montreal’s general manager and founding father, Gerald T. Iles, was heavily involved in their care and welfare. In fact, he visited the two cubs almost every day in the summer of 1967, protecting them from malevolent maintenance workers who he said tormented and threw cigarette butts at the felines.

The wild animals seem to have had a real affection for Mr. Iles. As he wrote in the Society’s journal The Lynx in 1967 “I tried [giving them] vanilla ice cream. This was much appreciated. After finishing the treat David would often give me a lick up my face which was hard to take. In time Bess would also show her appreciation in the same way.”

He quickly decided that live animals should never have been brought to Expo ’67, but all the same he tried to keep them happy and healthy. The latter pursuit was no easy task – from their arrival, the lions were plagued with infections, abscesses, and illness. Mr. Iles spent a considerable amount of time with the lions on his lap, driving them back and forth between the Zoological Society’s veterinarian and the pavilion.

Gerald Iles shows David and Bess a Mirror. Photo by Mary Burns, found in the Society’s journal The Lynx (Vol 3, No. 2 December 1974).

Gerald Iles shows David and Bess a Mirror. Photo by Mary Burns, found in the Society’s journal The Lynx (Vol 3, No. 2 December 1974).

As the summer ended, and the Zoological Society had written several angry letters about the treatment of David and Bess to all parties involved in their immigration to Canada, the Society was ready to put up a fight to adopt the lions. But no fight was necessary, it took only one letter to convince the City of Montreal to relinquish their ownership of the cubs, a further tribute to the city’s lack of interest in the lions’ well-being. As winter set in, a generous member of the Society offered to house the lions at McGill’s Macdonald campus.

What happened to Bess and David after that is unclear but what is clear is the kind and charitable nature of the Zoological Society of Montreal. Throughout its 52 year existence, the goal to protect the wildlife of Canada, or any foreign wildlife visitors, was the Society’s driving mission. Founded in 1964, the Zoological Society of Montreal brought attention to conservation issues through field trips, guest speakers, and large projects, including their own endangered species pavilion at the post-Expo exhibit Man and His World in 1975. The Society also contributed to other conservation initiatives through benevolent donations, animal adoptions, and support.

We are currently processing the archives of the Zoological Society of Montreal to provide access to these rich records to our research community (MSG 1164). We would like to thank the Zoological Society of Montreal for donating their papers and supporting the processing.

To see the lion cubs in action, click here (see 00:32-01:32 mark).

 

 

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.

 

 

Franklin Restored

 A Signed Presentation Copy by John Franklin to Wentzel

McGill Rare Books houses several hundred historical books related to polar expeditions from the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. These books document the tremendous struggles in navigating icy seas and obtaining adequate provisions for their wintering stations. Crews of men  were hoping for a break though in claiming a northwest passage for Britain from the Atlanic Ocean to Asia.

The expeditions of Sir John Franklin are particularly in the public eye due to  the recent investment in search expeditions funded by the Canadian government which led to the discovery of the two ships used for Franklin’s third fateful expedition to the Arctic in 1845 (HMS Erebus was found in 2014, and the wreck of HMS Terror in 2016). The ships disappeared after they became locked in ice in 1846. What of the earlier successful missions? Many of the copies of the first and second Franklin voyages were just recently restored with a generous gift of funds from the Lang family. This includes an extraordinary copy of Franklin’s first Narrative of a Journey to the Shores of the Polar Sea, in the years 1819, 20, 21, and 22, published in London by John Murray in 1823.

McGill’s copy is  extraordinary through its provenance to Captain Franklin (1786-1847). It is a SIGNED PRESENTATION COPY from John Franklin to W. F. (Willard Ferdinand)  Wentzel, a fur trader who had aided Franklin by hiring guides and hunters for the expedition when they were at Great Slave Lake in July of 1820. A part of Franklin’s inscription reads as follows: “Dear Sir, I have written to you …. I can only now beg of you to accept the Narrative with my best compliments. May 5th [1823], [signed] J. Franklin.” 

This inscription is a chilling reminder of the teams of men who attended to affairs at remote trading posts and their crucial service to expeditionary missions. At the same time, it is wonderful to be in such close proximity to the story of Franklin and Wentzel through an historical artefact. The volume was passed along through relations of Wentzel all the way to McGill Library sometime around 1890. It even appears to have weathered through some tough conditions itself – making it a priority pick for restoration.

Beyond being a detailed  journal of events, Franklin’s first edition  also offers numerous charts, diagrams and  illustrations, some  of which are hand-coloured. Most of the plates are engraved by Edward Finden from the original drawings of Lieutenants Robert Hood and George Back.They convey the challenges of a majestic natural environment, before an era of melting ice caps.  The  engraving below shows an encampment set up in winter time 1820, nearly two hundred years ago, during a land expedition. Despite hardships this view suggests a perfectly habitable landscape, even an inviting one, on the periphery of the true northern arctic. We hope to leave you with a feeling of wonder from this Winter’s Night Scene.

“Resting Place on a Winter’s Night”. Drawn by Lieut. Back and engraved by Finden in Franklin’s first Narrative to the Polar Seas (London: 1823).

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.