Collection Highlights

This section features new acquisitions and highlights from our Rare Book and Special Poetry collections. Posts here are intended to familiarize users of Archives & Special Collections' resources with the range of materials within its holdings and announce new acquisitions.

These posts will serve as an introduction to individual works demonstrating their applicability accross academic disciplines. 

As opposed to a static exhibit, posts will be added to Collection Highlights on a regular basis. Posts found here will also be featured as content in the news feed.

In the mid-1970s, in the wake of suburbanization and urban renewal planning programs that preferred new development to old buildings, small towns -- and large downtowns -- were struggling. Affordable and accessible suburban malls were drawing traffic away from traditional downtown shopping areas. These downtown streets were often the economic and historic centre of a town, and the loss of business to the suburbs, combined with past and present new development, posed deep problems.

Desperate to jump-start these downtown economies, many municipalities and provincial "downtown revitalization" programs approved urban versions of those same suburban malls and large convention centres. The hope was that if these shopping centres were located in downtown central areas, they would draw customers back into the downtown core, and from there to the smaller streets and stores. Yet smaller traditional main streets and entrenched communities would be disrupted to make way for these giant constructions, and the likelihood that consumers would ignore main street shops on their way from car to mall was high. Among the criticisms of these plans, which often threatened historic buildings, were the shouts from Canada's heritage conservationists.

The Heritage Canada Foundation (HCF), a national non-profit organization dedicated to heritage conservation, education and advocacy, saw the need for a program to revitalize downtown economies without destroying the existing built heritage. Since its inception in 1973 HCF had been devoted to the protection of historic places and to furthering the engagement of the Canadian population in heritage conservation. The people behind this organization believed that a town's heritage -- its historic buildings, landscapes, and unique "sense of place" -- could be used to attract consumers. Some saw similar potential in the opposite perspective: that capitalizing on the 1970s' need for downtown economic revitalization would result in better care for preservation of heritage. Whichever way you see the two, the goal was simple: to integrate heritage conservation and economic revitalization.

Enter: Main Street Canada. Led by the HCF, this program would touch hundreds of communities across Canada, attempting to give new life to old downtowns. Drawing on the experiences of other national trusts worldwide, HCF created and copyrighted a program that would teach willing communities how to get the most out of their downtown’s built heritage and preserve its value.

The program relied on four key principles: Organization/Management, Marketing, Design, and Commercial/Economic Development. Heritage Canada aimed to teach downtowns how to integrate heritage into economic development, setting a base that would help main streets stay profitable for decades. Over the course of the Main Street Program, which terminated in 1994, Heritage Canada affected over 200 communities across Canada. One regional department of the program, in Quebec, stayed open with funding from the provincial department of culture and still operates today as Fondation Rues Principales.

Heritage Canada The National Trust has announced the theme of the 2015 Heritage Day as "Main Street: At the Heart of the Community." In the Heritage Canada Foundation fonds at ARC, records of the Main Street Program make up a large part of the fonds. These records include correspondence, educational material, publications and reports as well as an extensive collection of slide photographs documenting the program's effects in different towns.

1981 poster for Heritage Day; Proposal sketches; restored bank in Perth, ON


ARC has aqcuired two titles from the Robertson Davies library:

  1. A General System of Surgery by Dr. Laurence Heister, 1753
  2. The works of Sr William D'avenant Kt by William D'avenant, 1673

Both works contain the bookplate of Davies. The D'avenant work also contains the bookplate of Shakespear scholar Sir Walter Wilson Greg.

A General System of Surgery by Dr. Laurence Heister, 1753


Bourrut-Lémerie. Analyse Géographique des Départments de la France. Paris: [Bourrut-Lémerie], ca. 1830 2nd ed.

Library Call Number: G1840 B77 1830

Created 4 January 1790, the French departments replaced the country's former provinces, based on regional and historical differences, with a new system designed to bind the regions into a unified nation through a rational administrative structure.This complete set of 90 cards measuring 13cm x 8.3cm includes index cards and 86 hand-coloured engraved cards of the French départments folloowing the revolution. Housed in the original gilt wooden box, each card contains a map of the featured Department and a description of characteristics. The second edition is remarkable for its increased embellishment and lavish illustrations. Though the maps were very similar to those used in the first edition, the second edition relied on entirely new plates to capture additional agricultural and historic details about the departments. You can see a difference between the first and second editions here. There is only one other copy of the second edition of this very rare set of educational cards housed in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris.

You can also check out more photos of the cards in our photo album on the ARC Facebook page.

Title card from the Bourrut-Lémerie card set
Title card from the Bourrut-Lémerie card set


The Gentleman’s Recreation! In Two Parts!, Richard Blome, Nicholas Coxe (London: S. Rotcroft, 1686)

Library Call Number: AE4.G46 1686

The Gentleman’s Recreation! In Two Parts! is a compendium of knowledge of the arts, sciences, and leisure activities divided by subject. Published for the cultivation of the English country gentleman, this publication along with Blome’s others suffered the reputation of plagiarism. The book’s originality, however, can be found in the illustrations accompanying the text, most remarkably the elliptical diagrams. Blome’s Gentleman’s Recreation is often credited to artist Nicholas Coxe for this reason.

The first part of Blome’s Gentleman’s Recreation considers the arts and sciences from philosophy to science, mathematics, and astronomy with chapters on warfare, navigation, geography, and painting. The second part is reserved for what is today considered ‘recreation’; discussing hunting, hawking, and fishing among other activities. Though ostensibly the book’s intention is to be a comprehensive education for an English country gentleman of the Age of Enlightenment, it may have been published to capitalize on the growing popularity of the image of the highly educated and well-rounded man.

Richard Blome began his career as a heraldic painter and became one of the first publishers to finance his operations by advance subscription. As a publisher and cartographer, Blome set himself against John Ogilvy, who became the King’s Cosmographer and Geographic Printer. Both publishers made use of their patronage connections to publish atlases, with Blome printing an atlas of Great Britain titled Britannia shortly before Ogilby. This rivalry is considered to have begun a new era of cartography in Britain.

As publishers, both Blome and Ogilvy compiled existing knowledge rather than conduct their own surveying or undertaking their own translations. Viewed sceptically by the next generation of English authors, the works of both publishers came to be seen as opportunistic, at times plagiaristic, making use of patronage networks to publish books for financial gain. For these reasons, the reputations of both authors suffered into the following centuries as new authors undertook original translations and surveys. It is only within the past century that the works of Ogilby and Blome have been reconsidered on their merits, specifically, the illustrations. The works of both publishers include engravings by Bohemian artist Wencenclaus Hollar. (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

Blome’s Gentleman’s Recreation was acquired by ARC to support studies in English, History, Art History, and Design.

Title page, plates, and illustrations from Blome's Gentleman's Recreation


Page from the bookFrancis Sandford, Lancaster Herald at Arms, A genealogical history of the Kings of England and Monarchs of Great Britain, &c. From the conquest, anno 1066. To the year, 1677.

Library Call Number: DA28.1 .S26 1677

A new acquisition for the rare book collection, Sandford's British Genealogy includes genealogical information and biographies of English and British Monarchs from William the Conqueror to Charles II. Though it provided no new information at the time of its publication, Sandford's work amalgamated existing knowledge accompanied by etchings of royal tombs and portraits.

Sandford’s position as a herald at the College of Arms brought him to document royal lineages and state ceremonies. His first major work, A Genealogical History of the Kings of Portugal, was Sandford’s first tribute to the royal family to commemorate the wedding of Charles II and Catherine Braganza, included a detailed account of the wedding ceremony. Following the book’s publication, Sandford was commanded by Charles II to produce an account of the death and state funeral of the Duke of Albermarle.

Sandford’s British Genealogy would be his major work, building on the systematic organization and extensive illustrations of his previous works. This book was planned during Sandford’s role planning the reconstruction of the College of Arms following the great fire of London in 1666. The book became a key reference on the subject.

Following the coronation of James II, Sandford recorded the coronation rituals which he published in The History of the Coronation of James II and his Royal Consort Queen Mary. This book was published shortly before the Glorious Revolution of 1688 and the establishment of William of Orange as monarch. In protest, Sandford sold his office and Lancaster herald. (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

Sandford's British Genealogy was acquired by ARC to support studies in History, Art History, Literature, and Design.

Selection of pages from the book


Art from Fables NouvellesFables nouvelles, Antoine Houdar de la Motte, (Paris: Dupuis, 1719)

Library Call Number: PQ1993.L46 F33 1719

This book contains 68 etchings by the French artist Claude Gillot, whose work is often confused with that of his protégé, Jean-Antoine Watteau. Gillot (1673 – 1722) worked in several media including painting but was best known for his printmaking and his role as mentor of Rococo artist Jean-Antoine Watteau (1684 - 1721).

Gillot’s style was characterized as witty and ornamental, and his use of arabesques influential on Watteau’s work. The two artists’ work is often confused because their styles at the time of the apprenticeship are so similar, and it has been found that Watteau, in his early career, copied a great deal of Gillot’s prints.

This work is a collection of fables compiled by Antoine Houdar de la Motte, published in 1719 and containing a dedication letter to King Louis XV. The book, while not a part of the W. McAllister Johnson collection, has been put forward by McAllister Johnson as a supporting work for his collection. The quantity of prints and its reference to fables and mythology coincide with W. McAllister Johnson Collection's strengths.

This book was acquired by ARC as part of the W. McAllister Johnson Collection to support studies in History, Art History, the Humanities, and Design.

Cover page and art from Fables Nouvelles


Title page of Connoissance et la mythologie

Connoissance de la Mythologie, par Demandes et par Reponses, François-Xavier Rigord (Paris: Etienne-Francois Savoye, 1753)

Library Call Number: BL720.R54 1753

A fourth edition, this book's avertissement states its purpose is to educate young people about ancient myths and fables. According to the author, the first three editions did not sufficiently outline the untrue nature of the myths, and therefore did not perform their intended duty. These stories were seen as integral to moral education as well as pointing out the errors of pagan religion and reaffirming the principles of Christianity.

The book, true to its pedagogical intention, is written as a series of questions and answers. The answers provide detailed information about the deities and their  associated myths, and are organized by deity in a table of contents at the front, and an index at the back.

This book was intended as a pedagogical tool for young people to learn about mythology, which, according to the author, was necessary in order to appreciate poetry and fine arts. This was a common opinion among academic artists and critics, as classical mythology ranked highly on the hierarchy of artistic subjects, classified as “history painting”. After history painting came portrait, genre painting, landscapes,animal painting and finally still life painting.

This book was acquired by ARC as part of the W. McAllister Johnson Collection to support studies in History, Art History, the Humanities, and Design.

Title page and interior chart from Connoissance de la mythologie


Etching from Temple of the Muses

Temple of the Muses (Tempel der Zanggodinnen)

Library Call Number: BL782 .P53 1733

"Pygmalion is inamored with a statue he had made; and Venus at his prayer transforms it into a woman." (p. 44) This book is a Dutch compilation of ancient Greek and Roman myths, accompanied by engravings by Bernard Picart and several others.

Engraving depicting Pygmaleon's sculpture from Temple of the MusesThis engraving, by Picart, depicts the myth Pygmalion from Ovid’s Metamorphoses. In this story, a sculptor falls in love with his own creation which Venus brings to life. This print displays the festival of Venus, at which Pygmalion prays to the goddess to give him a wife “like his statue,” and is shocked and pleased when Venus transforms his beloved sculpture into a living, breathing woman.

The myth has been depicted in paintings by Neoclassical artist Girodet and Romantic artist Gerome. Notably, Picart's engraving, predating these paintings by one hundred years does not depict the sculptor.

This book was acquired by ARC as part of the W. McAllister Johnson Collection to support studies in History, Art History, the Humanities, and Design.


Riddle of Chung Ling Soo Cover

The Riddle of Chung Ling Soo, Will Dexter, (London: Arco, 1955)

Library Call Number: GV1545.S66 D49 1955

“…With his death was revealed one of the great illusions this master of illusions had perpetrated – his own identity.”

William Ellsworth “Billy” Robinson, a native of New York, is best known as Chung Ling Soo. As Soo, he remained silent and only spoke through an interpreter. His first words in public after assuming the identity were his last as his Bullet Catch trick malfunctioned, fatally wounding him.

Billy Robinson began his magic career as Robinson, the Man of Mystery. He and partner Olive Path developed several magic acts. As he continued to practice, Robinson entertained the idea of impersonating an “easterner”, creating personas such as “Achmed Ben Ali” and “Abdul Khan”. Using makeup and mimicry, he filled in for Alexander Herrmann “The Great” and purportedly left no audience member suspicious of his identity. While touring, Robinson and Path found themselves booked alongside a novel act, Ching Ling Foo. This act consisted of a Chinese ex-patriot and his daughter performing magic in a “traditional Chinese style.”

Ching Ling Foo offered a $1000 reward for anyone who could reproduce one of his signature acts, producing a large bowl of water from his robes. Robinson took up the challenge but Ching Ling Foo refused to let him attempt the trick. This gave Robinson the idea to develop his own act based on that of Ching Ling Foo. He joined the more than ten imitators of Foo’s act and developed the Chung Ling Soo character. Soo had soon developed dozens of unique features in his act far surpassing Foo in originality. As this act gained popularity, Foo would challenge him again to perform his tricks, this time for £1000. This challenge may also have been a publicity stunt by Foo, who once again denied Robinson his chance to prove his skill with his absence from the contest.

In The Riddle of Chung Ling Soo, Will Dexter explores the life of Billy Robinson and his personae working backwards from his onstage death at the Willow Green Empire theatre in London in 1912. A magic enthusiast himself, Dexter eulogizes Robinson by explaining the origin of his renowned act which would be his demise.

This book was acquired by ARC as a part of the Art Latcham Magic Collection to support studies in History, Literature, Psychology, and Industrial Design.Cover and interior art of The Riddle of Chung Ling Soo


Artwork from Les traveau d'Ulysse

Les travaux d'Ulysse, Theodoor van Thulden (Paris: Chez Francois L'anglois, 1640)

Library Call Number: PA4033.T48 1640

This book is a set of engravings by Flemish Baroque artist Theodor van Thulden reproduced from the Mannerist frescoes, the Works of Ulysses, by Francesco Pimaticcio and Niccolo dell'Abate housed in the Galerie d'Ulysse in the Palace at Fontainebleau. Thulden's engravings and description of the plates are the only source of information extant of the gallery of Ulysses at Fontainebleau, destroyed in 1739. The artist's “TvT” monograph appears in the bottom corner of many engravings in this collection.

This book was acquired by ARC as part of the W. McAllister Johnson Collection to support studies in History, Art History, the Humanities, and Design.

Title page and artwork from Travaux d'Ulysse