Although McMaster University Libraries had a small treasure room of rare books in the 1930s and acquired its first archives (the papers of W. J. Bengough, the 19th-century cartoonist) in 1939, the acquisition of rare and unique material for research purposes began in earnest in the 1960s under William Ready's visionary stewardship. The collections include an excellent 18th-century gathering of books and periodicals (Pope, Dryden, Swift, Johnson, and others). McMaster University Libraries is one of the select institutions that offers an annual fellowship sponsored by the American Society for Eighteenth Century Studies. In the category of post-1800 books, there are major collections of Anglo-Irish authors, Canadian poetry, imprints of the Hogarth Press and Canadian publishers, and subject collections pertaining to peace and war, Quakers, temperance, opera, and labor history. The archives are both national and international. There are 90 archives related to peace and war, including Vera Brittain, C. K. Ogden, and the World War II Air Raid Precautionary Committee for Westminster. Other areas of archival collecting include music, represented by Franz Liszt, Hans von Bülow, and Sir Robert Mayer; Canadian literature including Pierre Berton, Austin Clarke, and Leslie McFarlane; Canadian publishers McClelland & Stewart, Macmillan Canada, and Clarke Irwin; the radical left with Canadian Liberation Movement, League for Socialist Action, and the Revolutionary Marxist Group; and student organizations such as the Canadian Union of Students and Ontario Union of Students. The Web site for Archives and Research Collections provides fonds/collection descriptions and finding aids to archives, virtual exhibitions, and blogs about new acquisitions and activities. William Ready, the bibliophilic patron saint of McMaster's research collections, would be proud to know that his dream of establishing a library of rare books and archives has been realized and continues to flourish.
McMaster University Libraries
William Ready Division of Archives and Research Collections
1280 Main Street West
(905) 525-9140 x22079 (t)
(905) 546-0625 (f)