On Conjuring, the Book-Collecting Baron

To supplement the current exhibition in the lobby of Rare Books and Special Collections, “Sir Charles Sebright: The Book-Collecting Baron,” Jason Rovito (Master of Information Studies, Candidate) was invited to write the following text:

Thus counter to that ancient will’s malign,
Who them to the devouring river dooms,
Some names are rescued by the birds benign;
Wasteful Oblivion all the rest consumes.


—Orlando Furioso, Canto XXXV, as translated by W. S. Rose (1858).

In 1848, on the turbulent Mediterranean island of Cephalonia, insurrection broke out. Amidst a wave of revolutions in Europe, citizens of the United States of the Ionian Islands declared themselves to be Greek. In the middle of this fray was Charles Sebright, the Baron d’Everton, whose book collection is currently being exhibited at McGill’s Rare Books and Special Collections.


Detail from Canto IV, Orlando Furioso (Venice, 1722); from the Sir Charles Sebright Collection, Rare Books and Special Collections, McGill University.

Continue reading

Memorial Stained Glass Windows for Medical Building, 1919

Nobbs and Hyde design: Memorial Windows for Medical Building (1919).

Nobbs and Hyde. Memorial Windows for Medical Building (1919). John Bland Canadian Architecture Collection, Rare Books and Special Collections.

The memorial is a handsome stained glass window of three lights placed in the main hall of the Strathcona Dentistry and Anatomy Building [formerly Strathcona Medical Building], over the main entrance. It was designed by Prof. P.E. Nobbs, and executed by the Bromsgrove Guild, Leeds. The memorial was a gift of the teaching staff of the faculty of medicine. Each light represents a scene recalling the service of one of the men whose memories are honored. Continue reading

Arthur Erickson exhibition: Lignes topographiques / Site Lines (UQAM Centre de Design)

Arthur Erickson, office building south-west elevation (John Bland Canadian Architecture Collection)

Arthur Erickson, office building south-west elevation (John Bland Canadian Architecture Collection)

Drawings by the renowned Canadian architect Arthur Erickson are on display at the UQAM Centre de Design until October 18, 2015. The exhibition, Lignes topographiques / Site Lines, includes a selection of Erickson’s drawings from the collection of the Calgary Architectural Archives and the John Bland Canadian Architecture Collection (CAC), Rare Books and Special Collections, McGill University.  Continue reading

Getting to know Klibansky: adventures of an intern

Sophie Trolliet-Martial completed an eight week internship at Rare Books and Special Collections as part of her masters in library and information studies at the Université de Montréal. During that time she worked with archival material from the Raymond Klibansky Collection, bringing new material to light for an active research team, and making the material accessible as a whole through documentation and structured re-housing. We asked her to write about her experience.

By Sophie Trolliet-Martial

J’ai fait la connaissance de Monsieur Raymond Klibansky en mai 2015 à travers la collection qu’il a léguée à l’Université de McGill en 2005. Étant étudiante à l’école de bibliothéconomie et sciences de l’information (EBSI) de l’Université de Montréal, j’ai effectué mon stage de fin d’études à la division des livres rares et collections spécialisées de l’université de McGill aux côtés de ma superviseure, madame Jillian Tomm. C’est dans ce cadre-ci que j’ai eu la chance de travailler pendant huit semaines sur la collection de monsieur Klibansky afin de préparer de la documentation à présenter lors d’un symposium international en collaboration avec l’Université de Montréal, le Warburg Institute et Deutsches Literaturarchiv Marbach. Cet évènement intitulé «The Warburg Library’s Network: Geography and History of an Intellectual Afterlife. From Hamburg to London, and to Montreal – The contribution of Raymond Klibansky (1905-2005) » s’est tenu les 18 et 19 juin 2015 à Londres.

J’ai ainsi découvert le philosophe et historien, monsieur Raymond Klibansky. J’ai sauté pieds joints dans sa collection comme on plonge en plein milieu de l’océan rempli de trésors et de surprises. Monter une bibliothèque et l’enrichir au fil du temps nous apprend que monsieur Klibansky est un amoureux des livres mais aussi curieux de la vie, des êtres humains et du monde.

J’ai vécu cette expérience en deux étapes : la première que je nommerai d’« immersion matérielle», une entrée dans les rayons, visualisant le dos puis la couverture des livres, feuilletant des ouvrages de différents formats, époques et origines. Puis, je me suis immiscée dans les documents archivaux de monsieur Klibansky, des boîtes et des classeurs comprenant des lettres manuscrites et dactylographiées, des cartes postales, des reçus et des tirés à part. J’appellerai la deuxième approche, l’«immersion immatérielle», c’est-à-dire l’interprétation de ces écrits qui m’ont guidée, grâce à l’analyse de leur contexte, vers un enrichissement de la connaissance.


Librorum Francisci Petrarchae Basileae impressorum annotatio …, 1496 folio Incun 1496 Petrarca:b – Raymond Klibansky Collection

Continue reading

Born on this day: Aubrey Beardsley

Masson Bookplate XIV 2317The English illustrator and writer, Aubrey Vincent Beardsley, was born 143 years ago, on August 21, 1872. Known for his unique illustration style, a blending of Art Nouveau and Japanese print aesthetics, Beardsley gained popularity with the 1893 Dent edition of Le Morte d’Arthur. He would later illustrate Oscar Wilde’s Salomé (1894) – a portfolio of designs for this book is available in our collection – which made him famous. Our William Colgate Printing Collection includes two further examples of his work, these published by Stone & Kimball in 1894: The frontispiece for W.B. Yeats’ The Land of Heart’s Desire and frontispiece and vignette for the title and cover of John Davidson’s Plays. Later editions of his work in children’s books and fairy tales are also available for consultation. Continue reading

A Hyakumanto Dharani – among the earliest surviving examples of printed text

by Mengge Cao and Jillian Tomm

In 1968, McGill acquired a copy of the Hyakumanto Dhāraṇī (百萬塔陀羅尼經), one of the earliest surviving examples of printed text, along with the miniature wooden pagoda within which it was stored more than a thousand years ago.


The Hyakumanto Dhāraṇī ( 百萬塔陀羅尼經) scroll with original miniature wooden pagoda. Photo: Greg Houston

A dhāraṇī can be described as a charm used in Esoteric Buddhist rituals. It was believed that by chanting and copying a dhāraṇī, an individual or a state would be protected from harm. The Hyakumanto Dhāraṇī was commissioned by the Empress Shotoku of Japan during the eighth century to appease the Buddhist clergy and honour the souls lost in a recent revolt. According to historical sources, one million copies of this dhāraṇī were made and distributed across Japan around 770 CE.

Continue reading

RBSC welcomes SHARP to Montreal

The 23rd annual conference of the Society for the History of Authorship, Reading & Publishing (SHARP) will be held in Longueuil and Montreal, July 7-July 10.

Our collections are currently on display in the following exhibitions in the McLennan Library Building:

Across the Channel: English Literature on the Continent in the 18th centuryimage002
(McLennan Library Building main floor, lobby)

In response to the theme of this year’s SHARP Conference – “How do books, book cultures, or book systems spread and readapt?” – this exhibition can only begin to suggest the multitude of questions that these editions pose. Why were English language books being printed in Vienna? Why was The Vicar of Wakefield so popular and what do the German English editions say about language learning? What was the attraction that Pope held for continental readers? Why did English novels attract so many non-English readers? Or were they merely examples of sophisticated decoration?

-The Battle of Waterloo (18 June, 1815)

(McLennan Library Building 4th floor, RBSC reading room)

An exhibition on the bicentennial of the Battle of Waterloo with publications contemporary to the event and recent acquisitions to the McGill University Napoleon Collection

Frontispiece of John Booth’s "The Battle of Waterloo", showing the Duke of Wellington and Prince Blücher.

Frontispiece of John Booth’s “The Battle of Waterloo”, showing the Duke of Wellington and Prince Blücher.

Ewa Zebrowski Artist’s Books

(McLennan Library Building 4th floor, RBSC reading room)

From Ewa Zebrowski, "End of Beauty," 2013. Edition of 20.

From Ewa Zebrowski, “End of Beauty,” 2013. Edition of 20.

-Finally, we also have a travelling exhibition on display: The Alcuin Society Awards for Excellence in Book Design in Canada

(McLennan Library Building 4th floor, lobby)

On display are the award-winning books in the categories of: Children; Limited Editions; Pictorial; Poetry; Prose Fiction; Prose Non-Fiction; Prose Non-Fiction Illustrated; and Reference. This travelling exhibition will be on display until the beginning of August. More information about upcoming exhibition venues here.

18 June 1815: Battle of Waterloo

Two hundred years ago today, the Battle of Waterloo was fought in present day Belgium. We are putting the finishing touches on an exhibition to commemorate this anniversary and also to highlight recent additions to our Napoleon Collection. The exhibition will be launched the week of July 6th.