Archives & Research Collections

Rachel on Wheels

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The Library has recently acquired a letter written by Margaret Laurence to Beverley June Linklater, dated 4 April 1972. At the time Linklater was a student at the University of Winnipeg, and Laurence was in England. The letter concerns A Jest of God (1966), Laurence’s novel about an unhappy spinster in a prairie town. The novel won the Governor-General’s Award for fiction in 1967, and was made into the movie, Rachel, Rachel, in 1968. Laurence’s reply is a moving testimony highlighting two significant motifs of her writing career.


Give Me Shelter

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Filed under Library News:  Mills Archives & Research Collections

The University Library houses a wealth of original materials pertaining to the two world wars of the last century. Our latest archives in this area concern measures taken by the British government to limit injury and loss of life incurred as a result of aerial bombardment during wartime. In August 1936 air raid precautionary committees were created in every municipality of Britain. The ARP set out to establish and maintain air raid shelters for the local population in case of air attack.


A Trip Down Under?

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Archives and Research Collections has acquired a collection of books focussing on life and customs in nineteenth-century Australia, New Zealand, and the neighbouring territories of the Pacific region. Donated by John Forster, the books are known as the Australasiana collection. Many of these books had damage to the spine and boards, resulting in a visit to the library’s Preservation Unit. The Australian Handbook and Almanac and Shippers’ and Importers’ Directory for 1879 ( Research Collections DU 95. A9 1879 ) is one such book.


The Amberleys: Dying Young

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Kate and John Amberley married young in 1864, both age 22, which was a good thing, because they died young as well. They had a lot of life to cram into the time remaining to them. John’s father Lord John Russell, was the Prime Minister of Great Britain. But they did not live the conventional lifestyle of their class. Both were free-thinkers in matters religious and sexual – and both were in favour of votes for women. They travelled widely in Europe and the United States and had four children, one whom died at birth. In 1874 both Kate and her small daughter Rachel died of diphtheria.


Celebrating the Quints

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Before modern fertility treatments, multiple births were a rare event indeed and, when they did occur, the babies were not likely to survive. The 1934 birth of the Dionne Quintuplets in isolated Callander, Ontario (near North Bay), was regarded as a medical miracle and the country doctor who ensured their survival became an international celebrity. Research Collections has two collections which contain Dionne-related material: our Pierre Berton fonds contains manuscripts and research materials relating to his book The Dionne Years: a Thirties Melodrama (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart,1977).

We have recently added a small collection of photographs of Dr. Allan Roy Dafoe basking in the fame which the birth brought him. The images show Dafoe being honoured at various events in Washington (a meeting with President Roosevelt), New York City and Atlantic City between 1934 and 1941. There are no actual photographs of the famous quints; the image shown here, with Dafoe on the left, was taken in 1939 at a gala luncheon in New York City.


A Parlour Game with Thomas Chandler Haliburton

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Lawyer, politician, judge, historian, and satirical novelist, Thomas Chandler Haliburton (1796-1865) is renowned as one of Canada’s major authors in the period before Confederation. His most famous work, the Clockmaker series, which recounts the hilarious adventures of Sam Slick, a Yankee clock maker, brought him international fame. The Library has a good collection of Haliburton’s works, including the scarce first Canadian of The Clockmaker published by Joseph Howe in Halifax in 1836. Our latest acquisition (Research Collections GV 1229.T74 1882) of Haliburton’s works is a book and not a book. In fact it’s a parlour game in a box consisting of two little story books and cards. One story book is entitled Travels of Sam Slick from Weathersfield to Paris , and the other has the cumbersome title A Side-splitting account of Japhet Jenkins’ and Sally Jones’ visit tu bosting with the old meere and a load uv pro-duce. This parlour game was published circa 1882 in London, Ontario by W. Bryce. The cost of the game was 25¢. As far as we can ascertain, our copy (nicely restored by Audrie Schell) is unique, purchased recently from the antiquarian book dealer George Flie. Each story book has blanks at various points in the text. You read the text aloud and then flip a card randomly when the blank occurs–often apparently with comic results. We know not whether Haliburton would be amused.


Library Acquires First Editions of Hardy Boys Books

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Filed under Library News:  Mills Archives & Research Collections

The diaries, correspondence and early material of Leslie McFarlane, best known for penning the hugely popular Hardy Boys books, have been obtained by McMaster University Library, and are being described as a dream acquisition. Read more in this Daily News article.

Additional media reports on the Leslie McFarlane acquistion:

All of the above articles are available full-text via Factiva


Attention: All Lovers of Music

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Filed under Library News:  Mills Archives & Research Collections

Franz Liszt (1811-1886) is renowned as a virtuoso pianist and composer of the Romantic period. He was beloved by his many students and adored by the educated public. McMaster University Library has a small collection of Liszt letters and related material such as the Hans von Bülow collection (a conductor and pianist, Liszt’s son-in-law). The Library also houses the archives of Professor Alan Walker, a leadiing authority on Liszt and one of our notable benefactors.

Our latest acquisitions of Liszt material consist of the following: a letter of 3 pages in German, dated Rome, 11 November 1869, to an unnamed recipient, in which Liszt comments about the manuscript of his correspondent’s "Ungarische Kirchengesänge"; an autograph note on Liszt’s carte-de-visite; a 1886 cabinet photo of Liszt; and a Vanity Fair cartoon of Liszt, dated May 15, 1886, with the caption "the Abbé".


How Does Your Garden Grow? Marjorie Harris Returns to McMaster

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What Canadian freelance author and distinguished alumna of McMaster University is the ghost writer of Ample Annie’s The Bare Facts: My Life as a Stripper (1988)? Second clue: she has written articles on diverse topics such as art, architecture, travel, movies, parenting, fashion, and music for magazines such as Maclean’s, Chatelaine, Saturday Night, Financial Post Magazine, Toronto Life, Toronto Star, and the Globe and Mail. Third clue: she is an editor with Toronto Life Gardens and Gardening Life, a radio commentator, and one of Canada’s foremost authorities on gardening – the author of many books about gardening, her most labour-intensive, scholarly work being Botanica North America: The Illustrated Guide to Our Native Plants, Their Botany, History, and the Way They Have Shaped Our World (2003).

The University Library is very pleased to announce that it has acquired the archives of Marjorie Harris, a multi-talented, prodigious Canadian writer. The Marjorie Harris fonds, grouped into ten series, extends to almost 11 metres of textual records, photographs, sound recordings, and disks. The fonds contains documents from the beginnings of Harris’s career as a freelance writer and columnist to the recent present. Included in the donation are manuscripts, tear sheets, and proofs of her articles and books, exchanges with the CBC and CTV, files of her speaking engagements, personal correspondence, calendars, diaries, materials specifically on the subject of gardening, and computer disks. The finding aids to Harris’s archives can be found here.


Donation of Belgian and French World War I Posters

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The Division of Archives and Research Collections houses a large collection of military posters for World War I. Many of these are of British origin, issued by the Parliamentary Recruiting Committee and other organizations. There is a fine collection of colourful Canadian posters associated with the purchase of Victory Bonds to support the war effort. Our latest acquisition of war posters is a series of Belgian and French posters donated by Michel Brisebois, an assiduous collector and rare book librarian from Montreal. In all there are 15 posters, 9 issued in Belgium and 6 in France.


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