Beginning in 1859 with the gift of the manuscript Ottawa-French dictionary (ca. 1740) of Pierre Luc Du Jannay and in 1861 with the gift of the extra-large folio of J. J. Audubon's Birds of America (1827–38), the McGill University Library has built rich and varied special collections covering many subjects in the humanities and sciences. In some cases these collections were formed by discriminating collectors as with Sir William Osler in medicine and Lawrence Lande in Canadiana. In other cases collections were developed in cooperation with benefactors such as Casey A. Wood and the ornithology collection or have been acquired for the library as in the case of the Redpath Tracts on British history given by Peter and Grace Redpath. In still other cases, collections have reflected academic programs and faculty interest-among these are the holdings of Islamic manuscripts and lithographed books and the David Hume Collection. Finally, some collections are the result of the special interests of librarians to name only the Colgate History of Printing Collection and the Napoleon Collection. Today, among the varied special collections, four general themes standout. The Western philosophical tradition from antiquity to the modern era unites not only the David Hume and Soren Kierkegaard collections but also includes the library of Raymond Klibansky and parts of the Osler History of Medicine Collection as well as materials in the general rare book collection. Canadiana includes not only the Lande Collection but extensive book, manuscript, map, and graphic holdings. The history of the book brings together not only the Colgate Collection on printing but collections documenting the work of book illustrators and the history of bibliography. Finally, the history of science brings together the Osler Collection and collections on geology, ornithology, entomology, and holdings in the general rare book collection. Working together during a century and a half, collectors, benefactors, faculty, and librarians have brought together a body of special collection materials for students and researchers that reflects the diverse interests of a multidisciplinary university and makes evident the university's distinctive collection history.
Rare Books and Special Collections Division
3459 McTavish Street
Montreal, Quebec H3A 1Y1
(514) 398-4711 (t)
(514) 398-2139 (f)