History of the Book


The collection was established in 1954 based on the several hundred books of typographical interest given in the 1940s and 1950s to the library by William George Colgate of Toronto. The collection is noted for its extensive holdings on the history and technique of printing; calligraphy and letter forms; design of typefaces and typographical productions; typefounding and typefounders' specimens and printers' manuals and handbooks, including those for colour printing and paper making. The collection's largest holdings are in the many specimens of modern fine printing, mostly after 1850; work by the American typographer W.A. Dwiggins; specimens of bookbindings; and three iron printing presses. There are some 13,544 monographs. Related material will be found in the Manuscript Collection and in the Print Collection.

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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.

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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. In addition, there are 700 engraved wood blocks from the early nineteenth century of which ten are by Thomas Bewick.

Description: Christopher Heppner, "A Collection of Wood Blocks and Related Material at McGill University". The Book Collector, vol. 35, no. 1 (Spring 1986), 53-66.

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The Division holds some 130 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. Among the more important items are two copies of the Nuremberg Chronicle (1493), a copy of Hypnerotomachia Poliphili (Venice: Aldus Manutius, 1499), Henry Parker's Dives and Pauper (Westminster: Wynkyn de Worde, 1486) and the third edition of Pliny's Historia Naturalis (Venice: Nicolas Jensen, 1472), the William Morris copy. There are as well a number of fragments and single leaves including a leaf of the 42- line Bible printed by Johann Gutenberg ca 1455. With the some 150 incunabula held by the Osler Library of the History of Medicine. McGill University Libraries has the largest collection of incunabula in Canada. The study of incunabula is supported by the extensive holdings of the Division's Reference Collection on the subject of early printed books.

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The collection of the Canadian-born children's author and book illustrator Palmer Cox (1840-1924) was acquired in 1996 from his niece Phyllis Buchanan. Cox was the author of the famous Brownie books. Included in the collection are a number of drawings and other illustrative work. The Cox collection complements the Children's Books Collection.

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The Arthur Rackham Collection was acquired in 1955 from the collector Dr. Arthur C. Hill of Sherbrooke, Quebec. Additional items have been added since and the collection now comprises some 200 monographs with illustrations by Rackham, numerous issues of the early magazines to which he contributed illustrations and some ephemera. It is representative of the artwork that Rackham produced throughout his career with examples of most of the different media in which he worked as a book illustrator. Many of the works appear in first editions, but later and augmented editions are also represented. The collection includes many of the early travel guides and popular novels illustrated by Rackham before he became famous. The Rackham Collection complements the Children's Books Collection.

Description: See the unpublished study by Lisa Rasmussen "Catalogue of Books Illustrated by Arthur Rackham housed in the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, McLennan Library, McGill University". [Montreal: n.d. (but 1991)]. It is available for consultation in the Division.

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The collection of the American designer, illustrator and author Edward Gorey (1925-) 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 bookjackets by and articles about Gorey.

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The bookplate collection comprises more than 6000 Canadian and non- Canadian bookplates. The book plate collection of the Montrealer Philippe Masson (1911-1944), including both personal and institutional plates, contains the major portion of the Canadian bookplates, over 3000, and is arranged alphabetically. It was acquired in 1972. There are indexes to the Masson collection including ones for names, designers and mottoes and quotations. The rest of the bookplate collection is divided between armorial and non-armorial plates with the Canadian plates arranged separately.

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The collection was purchased in 1972. The 413 volumes in the collection comprises the majority of the books of the American publishers Stone & Kimball (1893-1897) of Cambridge, Chicago and New York, and Herbert S. Stone & Company (1896-1905) of Chicago and New York. There are many variants in the collection. The work of these publishers is particularly important in terms of book design and the authors they published. Their work is an epitome of late 19th century American literature and book culture. The Stone and Kimball Collection is part of the Colgate History of Printing Collection.

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The Norman Friedman collection of the Polish Jewish artist Arthur Szyk (1894-1951) was acquired in 1976. The collection comprises 55 titles including the Haggadah (1939, one of 125 copies) and a presentation copy in wrappers of Le juif qui rit (1926); 13 drawings and six boxes of illustrations, ephemera and various other material relating to Szyk.

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Last modified 97/4/25.