Wisdom of Life

Collection Development Policy


The Robertson Davies Rare Book Library, Massey College

  1. Introduction and statement of purpose

    The Massey College Robertson Davies Library is one of 44 Campus Libraries that make up the University of Toronto Libraries, ranked as one of the top three library systems in North America. The Library’s unique research collection consists of approximately 22,000 volumes and 7 metres of archival material about and related to the history of the printed book. Included in its holdings are several working 19th century and one early 20th century printing press in addition to related printing type and equipment. All collections are non-circulating.

    The primary mission of the Robertson Davies Rare Book Library is to support and enhance research and knowledge in the material aspects of the history of book production including bibliographical principles and fundamental skills in letterpress printing. This includes fostering collaboration and support for the University’s graduate program in Book History and Print Culture and the Faculty of Information (iSchool).

    The role of the Library in accomplishing this mission is to collect, develop, preserve, and provide access to materials in the areas described below. The goal is to build upon the strengths of the collection with a focus on rare and unique resources not acquired by the main U.of T. Library system and other campus libraries.

  2. Types of programs supported by the collection

    1. Research

      Material is collected and made accessible to support the research of book historians, design historians, printing historians, graduate students, undergraduate students, college students, the book trade and others with related general and scholarly interests.

    2. Acquisitions

      The library acquires material through donation and purchase. It does not generally accept material on loan or deposit. Purchases are financed by income from the Robertson Davies Endowment Fund, Massey College and cash donations. Cash and in-kind donations are pursued since they are necessary for sustaining development and maintenance of the collection. Funding through government grants is generally not pursued due to limitations in staff required to administer and support special projects, potentially diminishing the level of routine care and service of the collection.

    3. Cataloguing

      The library is committed to providing access to researchers from around the world through detailed descriptive cataloguing of material in the collection according to accepted international standards of rare book and special collections cataloguing. Items are catalogued within the University of Toronto’s Online Public Access Catalogue (OPAC) which then uploads these records into the world’s largest cooperative online database of library content, OCLC’s “WorldCat.org”.

    4. Preservation and Security

      The library is committed to preserving the collection for future generations through preventative measures and proper maintenance in professional handling, repair and storage. All material is non-circulating and maintained in key-controlled areas. Researchers are supervised in a reading room with food and drink and handling policies in place. Tours of the collection are limited to a maximum of 10 people at a time, divided into two groups for alternately viewing the two areas of the Bibliography Room – the presses and the stacks. Proper temperature controls and a fire suppression system have been recommended and are under investigation.

    5. Exhibitions

      The library provides four small exhibition cases to showcase and foster interest in the collection, and for graduate students in the BHPC Program and interested Massey Fellows to curate shows and learn how to handle rare materials. The cases are also open to collaborative exhibition ideas from others within the University community. The College cannot provide insurance for material exhibited from outside of the library’s collection. The library also considers requests to loan or reproduce materials for exhibitions outside of the College with appropriate credit and insurance arrangements. Material will not be loaned without documentation through the Robertson Davies Library’s “Special Collections Exhibition Loan Agreement” form.

    6. Education and Outreach

      The Librarian will occasionally supervise second-year Professional Practicums and mentor volunteers from the iSchool in managing rare book collections, including processing, cataloguing, research and reference. Tours of the collection and hands-on demonstrations on the library’s printing presses serve to teach the history of printing technology, book construction, typography, and book illustration. Students from the BHPC Program and Massey Junior Fellows are apprenticed annually to the College Printer to learn the basic skills of letterpress printing and the proper care of the presses and equipment. Space is provided in the College’s Colin Friesen Room for classes to meet and consult material in the collection. Workshops in letterpress printing are offered through the Canadian Bookbinders and Book Artists Guild (CBBAG).

    7. Printing and Ephemera

      Special keepsakes and other ephemera are printed on the presses by the College Printer, apprentices and volunteers for College events and in an effort to promote and support the Library.

  3. Clientele served by the collection

    1. Scholars and other professionals

      Scholars from around the world visit the library to consult the collection or view the Bibliography Room and the College Presses. Book and printing historians, independent researchers, members of the book trade, and faculty from colleges of Art and Design and departments within the University of Toronto consult the library’s detailed catalogue records and inquire online about items in the collection or visit in person to consult specific publications or printed material, or request further details and/or reproductions. Senior Fellows and Junior Fellows of Massey College also visit and often volunteer in the Bibliography Room.

    2. Graduate and undergraduate students

      Students and classes from many different departments within the University of Toronto and from Colleges and other Universities around the Greater Toronto Area consult the collection and/or visit for tours or demonstrations on the presses, including the Book History and Print Culture Collaborative Program, the English Department, the iSchool, the Book and Media Studies Program, the Department of Architecture, the Department of Fine Art, the Music Department, York University, OCAD University, Ryerson University, Humber College and Sheridan College.

  4. Priorities and limitations of the collection

    1. Description of collections and present identified strengths (Bibliography Room)

      1. Ruari McLean Collection

        The Library’s largest rare book collection is the Ruari McLean collection, the majority of which was collected by British book designer and printing, typography and graphic design historian, Ruari McLean (1917-2006). In 1991, the library added to this collection with the acquisition of Fianach Jardine’s collection of 19th century publishers’ bookbindings. Jardine was a close friend and partner of McLean and built her collection working closely with him. These books were originally collected as examples of 19th century book production – especially colour printing and decorated publishers’ bindings. The collection includes examples of a wide range of 19th century publishers’ bindings, yellowback books, miniature books, children’s books, and other printed materials. It also covers a wide range of subjects and genres, reflecting the uses made of the printing processes of the nineteenth century – to reproduce works of fine and decorative art, to illustrate children’s books, popular works of natural history, and art instruction manuals, and to embellish “gift books” of poetical and other literary works. The decorations and illustrations contained within the volumes are complemented by decorative or illustrated bookbindings of leather or cloth, often blocked in gold and colours from brass dies or made of papier-mâché; or other speciality binding processes. Of particular interest are examples of colour printing and other graphic processes of illustration such as wood engraving, colour wood-engraving, lithography, chromolithography, steel engraving, etching, aquatint and early photomechanical processes.

        Current collecting focus: filling gaps within the collection, variants of works already in the collection, examples of illustrated books, examples of special bindings, copies of works in original parts

      2. Roy Gurney Collection

        The Roy Gurney collection is the library’s second largest rare book collection. It was collected as examples of early printing and binding by Roy Gurney who was Plant Superintendent at the University of Toronto Press in the 1960s and one of the original “Quadrats”, a group of printers and graphic designers who worked with the printing presses in the Bibliography Room at Massey College with the Founding Librarian, Doug Lochhead, and other Canadian book and graphic designers, typographers and artists such as Carl Dair, Alan Fleming, Sam Smart, Peter Dorn, Harold Kurschenska, Will Rueter, John Dyment and Denis Milton. Both Roy Gurney and Carl Dair (among others) were instrumental in helping Doug Lochhead and Robertson Davies establish the printing collections at Massey College in acquiring and donating presses and other printing equipment. In addition to his rare book collection, Gurney donated his wood type collection and the College’s Washington Press, still in use today.

        The Gurney collection consists of a wide range of printed books, predominantly from the 16th and 17th centuries, but also includes examples from the 19th century, and other examples of earlier forms of text transmission such as the Otto Ege Leaves and an example of a cuneiform tablet. Italian, German, Swiss, French, English, Scottish, Dutch, and other imprints from a range of printers are represented in the collection including books printed by Aldus Manutius, Christophe Plantin, House of Elzevir, and others.

        Current collecting focus: Generally, this collection is not added to, except for early examples of illustration to support the focus of the McLean collection. Appropriate gifts are accepted.

      3. Bibliography Collection

        The Bibliography (BIB) collection is the library’s largest collection and consists of books about book production and history, ranging from the 19th to the 21st century. The collection ranges from modern, contemporary and historical scholarship on the history of the book, libraries, book illustration and binding, calligraphy, papermaking, book collecting, bibliography, paleography, typography and printing to historical and modern technical manuals on letterpress and other kinds of printing, press mechanics and machinery, papermaking, binding and illustration techniques such as wood engraving, steel engraving, etching, aquatint, lithography and chromolithography. Included in the BIB collection are current subscriptions to a range of periodicals relating to book and printing history and contemporary practice, including Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America, The Devil’s Artisan, The Journal of the Printing Historical Society, Parenthesis: The newsletter of the Fine Press Book Association, Letter Arts Review, Wayzgoose Anthology,Quaerendo, Amphora, Matrix, Papers of the Bibliographical Society of Canada, and others. The Library’s collection of older periodicals consists of a complete run of the Inland Printer, a near-complete run of the Penrose Annual, and other periodicals relating to typography and the graphic arts (The Fleuron, Verve, Graphis), books and book collecting (The Bookman), and the printing industry (Lithopinion, Linotype Matrix, The Book-Binding Trades Journal).

        Current collecting focus: Contemporary and modern works on typography, printing history, the history of book illustration, general works on the history of the book, and historical printing manuals

      4. Type Specimen Books, ephemera and broadsides

        James Mosley in “British type specimens before 1831: a hand-list” (1984) quotes from H. D. L. Vervliet’s introduction to “The type specimen of the Vatican Press, 1628” (1967): A type specimen may be understood to mean an orderly and preferably complete conspectus of the typefaces available in a particular typefoundry or printing house, offering a choice of types for sale in the one case and for use in the other. It may be a single sheet or a book. The text is of no importance in itself; it serves only to display the types (In a note, the definition is extended to include type specimens that advertise the development or availability for use of some one particular type)

        The Massey College Type Specimen Collection consists of around 250 books and 1,000+ pamphlets and advertising ephemera ranging in date from the latter part of the 18th century to photo-typesetting specimens of the late twentieth century, just before the ascendance of digital type. The collection includes printed specimens of metal type from foundries such as Caslon, John Baskerville, Vincent Figgins, Stephenson Blake & Company, American Type Founders, Monotype, Linotype, Letraset, and printed specimens of wood type manufacturers such as the Hamilton Wood Type Company, Robt. D. Delittle, William H. Page & Company, and many others.

        Current collecting focus: 19th century British and American type specimen books

      5. Private Presses Collection

        In the preface of his “The Private Press” (R.R. Bowker Company, 1983), Roderick Cave asks the question “What is a Private Press?” and concludes that “no simple or concise definition is possible.” However, he offers a good “rule of thumb” from John Carter (1961): “… the fundamental principle of private press printing; the principle that, whether or not the press has to pay its way, the printer is more interested in making a good book than a fat profit. He prints what he likes, how he likes, not what someone else has paid him to print. If now and then he produces something more apt for looking at and handling than for the mundane purpose of reading, remember he is concerned as much with his own pleasure and education as with yours.”

        Generally speaking, private presses are presses which prioritise the art and craft of the creation of the book over purely commercial concerns. The Massey College Presses Collection consists of books, pamphlets and other printed ephemera published and/or produced by private presses, printers, artists and artisans within Canada, the United States and Europe from the 1890s to the present day, including volumes from the Kelmscott Press, Gregynog Press, Golden Cockerell Press, Stanbrook Abbey press, Officina Bodoni, Merrymount Press, Rampant Lions Press, the Art Society Press, Bird & Bull Press, l’imprimerie dromadaire, Lumiere Press, Aliquando Press, Pointyhead Press, and others. It also includes a small uncatalogued collection of Artists’ books.

        Current collecting focus: Generally, this collection is not added to, except for filling gaps within the collection and examples of Aliquando Press publications. Appropriate gifts are accepted.

      6. Otto Ege Leaves

        The Library holds one of the forty unique portfolios of medieval manuscript leaves compiled by art historian Otto F. Ege in the late 1940s. Assembled from fifty manuscripts in Ege’s personal collection, the portfolios consist of one leaf from each of the fifty original manuscripts. The manuscript leaves were mostly taken from religious texts such as missals, prayer books, breviaries, psalters, and Books of Hours. Ege intended the portfolios to be useful in art education and inspiring to book designers and book artists.

        Current collecting focus: This collection is a unique copy and is complete. Additional copies will be accepted.

      7. Paleography Collection

        Current collecting focus: This collection is not added to. Appropriate gifts are accepted.

      8. Gitton Ephemera Collection

        The Gitton Ephemera Collection consists of pieces of ephemera printed by the Bridgnorth, Shropshire printers George Gitton and George Robert Gitton. Pieces date from 1803 to 1875, and range from theatre tickets and playbills, to auction and election notices, official forms and advertisements. Most items are printer’s proofs, with spike holes and notes of date and number of copies printed.

        Current collecting focus: Generally, this collection is not added to. Appropriate gifts are accepted.

      9. Dair Reference Collection

        Dair’s reference library consists of his personal collection of books about design and typography, as well as examples of interesting design or art-related materials collected during his career. Exhibition catalogues from his time spent in the Netherlands, tourist guides of places to which he traveled, type specimens, and a range of other materials are also contained within this collection.

        Current collecting focus: This collection is closed and further accruals in the Carl Dair fonds are not expected.

      10. Balinson Hebrew Type Collection

        The Balinson collection consists of 9 fonts of Hebrew metal and wood type. Acquired from Joan and Morley Balinson in 2013, the type was used by Morley’s father Henry Balinson, who founded Hamilton’s International Press Printers which operated from 1911 to the late 1960s, as well as a Yiddish Newspaper, Jewish Voice of Hamilton (1933-1943). Henry Balinson was able to speak and compose type in 11 languages, and was an outspoken, intelligent, dynamic member of the Hamilton community. Morley began helping out in the shop as a child and continued International Press Printers until the late 1960s.

        Current collecting focus: Generally, this collection is not added to. Appropriate gifts are accepted.

      11. Roy Gurney Wood Type Collection

        Eye-catching, iconoclastic, grotesque, ornamented, and instantly recognizable – wood display faces were the raw material for advertising, posters, and public announcements throughout the nineteenth century and into the twentieth. The Wood Type Collection consists of 356 fonts of wood printing type dating from the 1850s to the 1960s, primarily of pantograph-and-router-cut endgrain hardwood but representing a range of manufacturing methods including die-cut, hand-cut, and veneer types and ornamental borders. The collection is a valuable resource for researchers interested in the development, design, manufacture, and use of wood type over the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries – including designers, printers, printing historians, typography historians, book history/print culture students, and others.

        Current collecting focus: Generally, this collection is not added to. Appropriate gifts are accepted.

      12. Printing Blocks, Type, Ornaments, and related printing equipment

        Wood Block Collection (Magic blocks, Dalziel blocks), Stereotype/Electrotype Blocks Collection, Detlev Voss Collection of Wood blocks, Collection of Magic Blocks,Golden Dog Collection of Electrotype Blocks, Lead Type Collection, Ornament Collection, Collection of working Printing Presses, Samples Collection (binding cloth sample books (1950-1999, 20th century paper sample books, collection of 19th century binding tools and other printing equipment), Pat Fleming’s Teaching Collection.

        Current collecting focus: Illustration blocks, lead type, wood type, storage cabinets. Appropriate gifts are accepted.

      13. Carl Dair fonds

        Carl Dair (1912-1967) was a prominent Canadian graphic designer and typographer who is best known for designing the “Cartier” typeface, the first Canadian-designed text face. As a fervent advocate for good typographic design, Dair made an indelible impact upon Canadian graphic design and typography. Largely self-taught as a designer, Dair became the Typographical Director for the National Film Board of Canada in Montreal, and later established Everleigh-Dair studios with designer Henry Eveleigh. In 1946, E.B. Eddy Company published Dair’s Design With Type, which would influence generations of design students as a textbook. Moving to Toronto in 1951 to work as a freelance designer, his ambition to create a national typeface for Canada led him to learn type design and metal typecasting at the Joh. Enschedé en Zonen type foundry in the Netherlands. He was a founding executive member of the Typographic Designers of Canada, the sole Canadian contributor to Libor Librorum, and exerted influence through the strength of his work and through his eloquent writings on the subject of design. On January 1, 1967, Dair presented his typeface Cartier as a centennial gift to the people of Canada. He died later that year at the age of fifty-five.

        Current collecting focus: Further accruals are not expected. Appropriate gifts are accepted.

      14. Aliquando Press fonds

        The Aliquando Press is one of Canada’s most prominent and well-respected private presses, demonstrating elegant and inventive book design, illustration, and printing. It was founded in 1962 by William Rueter, sole proprietor and printer. Educated at the Ontario College of Art, Rueter worked as a graphic designer at the University of Toronto Press between 1969 and 1998, designing and printing books through the Aliquando Press during this time. Rueter was co-founder of The Devil’s Artisan in 1980, and is a founding member of the Society of Canadian Book Designers and a member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts. He has taught extensively on the book arts, published on the subjects of book design and printing, and continues to publish meticulously printed and beautifully made books, most recently Pressing Matters (2013), published on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of The Aliquando Press. The Press has garnered many awards, and in 2013 William Rueter received The Alcuin Society’s Robert R. Reid Award and Medal for lifetime achievement in the book arts.

        Current collecting focus: Further accruals are expected.

      15. Toronto Designers Collection

        Peter Dorn Archives (1 half archival box), Harold Kurschenska Archives (3 archival boxes), material related to Gerry Moses (1 bankers box).

        Current collecting focus: Further accruals are not expected. Appropriate gifts are accepted.

      16. Fellows Collection

        Publications written by former Senior Fellows, former Masters and other associated with the beginning years of the College.

        Current collecting focus: This collection is not added to. Appropriate gifts are accepted.

      17. Davies Collection

        All of the published works and currently available translations of the College’s founding Master, Robertson Davies. Included are some works about him.

        Current collecting focus: This collection is not added to. Appropriate gifts are accepted.

      18. Collection of later 19th and Early 20th Century Publishers’ Bindings, American, Canadian and British

        Current collecting focus: This collection is not added to. Appropriate gifts are accepted.

    2. Present collecting level

      Because of limited funding and space restrictions, collecting is very selective within all areas. The current collecting level is at the research level. Importance is placed on acquiring items unique to the University of Toronto Libraries, filling gaps, and building on current strengths rather than expanding into broader or related areas.

    3. Present identified weaknesses

      Areas for addition include more examples of earlier illustration processes, more examples of 19th century type specimen books, gift books, albums and literary annuals, photographically illustrated books, printing manuals, illustrated art instruction books and architectural histories.

    4. Geographic areas collected

      The Library’s focus is on Victorian Britain and the United Kingdom but the McLean collection includes some American imprints and some European imprints. Contemporary publications cover a wider historical geographical perspective. Canadian private press and graphic design material is selectively collected if it complements and is relative to current holdings.

    5. Subject and genre areas collected

      The following subjects and genres are from Ruari McLean’s original cataloguing categories for his collection:

      • A – Art Exemplar
      • B – George Baxter
      • BF – Benjamin Fawcett
      • BP – Bookbinding & Printing
      • CBC – Children’s Books: Walter Crane
      • CBMC – Children’s Books: Misc. Colour
      • CBP – Children’s Books: Peter Parley Annuals
      • CBT – Children’s Toy Books
      • CF – French & German Chromolithography
      • CM – Major Chromolitho
      • CK – Charles Knight
      • CP – Chiswick Press
      • CR – Gregory, Collins & Reynolds
      • D – Dalziels
      • EE – Edmund Evans
      • EX – Exhibition Catalogues
      • G – William Griggs
      • H – Henry Noel Humphries
      • IB – Illuminated Books
      • J – Owen Jones
      • JC – Joseph Cundall
      • K – J.M. Kronheim
      • L – G. C. Leighton
      • CA – American Chromolitho
      • LM – Miscellaneous Litho Books
      • MC – Miscellaneous Colour
      • N – Thomas Nelson
      • MB – Miscellaneous Monochrome
      • PB (PC) – Publishers’ Bindings: Patterned Cloth
      • PB (CBC) – Publishers’ Bindings: Bindings in Colour-blocked cloth
      • P – Prints & Ephemera
      • PB – Publishers’ Bindings: Bindings using Paper
      • PB (GBC) – Publishers’ Bindings: Gold-blocked cloth
      • PB (L) – Publishers’ Bindings: Bindings in leather
      • PB (PO) – Publishers’ Bindings: Paper onlays
      • PD – Painting & Design
      • PH – Photography
      • S – Henry Shaw
      • V – Vizetelly
      • W – Writing & Illumination
      • WD – William Dickes

      Other relevant collecting keywords are: George Cruikshank, Randolph Caldecott, Birket Foster, George Barnard, Day & Son, Great Exhibition, Lithography, Chromolithography, Wood-engraving, Aquatint, Steel-engraving, Etching, Printing, Printing History, History of Typography/Graphic Arts, History of Illustration, Calligraphy, Paleography, Manuscripts, Type specimens, Bookbinding, Letterpress printing, Art instruction, Book history, Bibliography, Illumination

    6. Languages collected

      The Library focusses predominantly on English language material but includes some French and other European languages, particularly in the case of printing and lithography manuals.

    7. Forms of material collected

      The Library collects primarily printed material but also will occasionally purchase and accept gifts of prints, specimens and broadsides. Archival material is not generally sought, but will be acquired if they are of relevance to and complement the current holdings. Printing equipment is purchased in support of the working presses when funds are available. Gifts appropriate to the printing press operations are accepted.

    8. Exclusions

      Although the library currently has a few in the Private Press collection, it does not collect Artist’s books. Gifts will be accepted if they are of exceptional relevance to the collection.

  5. Cooperative agreements affecting the collecting policy

    No cooperative agreements with other libraries are in effect except the general aim to pursue rare, unique items rather than duplicate holdings of other University of Toronto Campus Libraries. This excludes contemporary resources and reference sources that are of exceptional relevance to the collection

  6. Resource sharing policy

    All items in the collection are non-circulating and the Library does not participate in Interlibrary Loan. Researchers may
    photograph items under supervision in the Reading Room, and requests for limited photocopies and scanning will be considered at cost. Responsibility for identifying copyright owners and obtaining permission remains with the researcher. The Library will consider loan requests for exhibition from other institutions provided that there are appropriate professional handling, exhibiting and insurance policies in place.

  7. Deaccessioning policy

    With the exception of specific differing donor agreements, the Library reserves the right to transfer irrelevant duplicates or retrospective materials that do not fall within its currently defined scope of collecting to a more appropriate collection within the University of Toronto Libraries, or to offer them outside of the University for gift or purchase. Archival material will not be deaccessioned without careful consideration of ethical guidelines as defined in Guidelines for reappraisal and deaccessioning (Society of American Archivists, www.archivists.org.) Other materials will not be deaccessioned without careful consideration of ethical guidelines as defined in “Deaccession of materials” within Standards for Ethical Conduct for Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Librarians, with Guidelines for Institutional Practice in Support of the Standards, 2nd edition, 1992.

  8. Procedures affecting the collecting policy: Gifts

    Gifts to the collection are considered with the same criteria as applied to purchases, and are reviewed by the Librarian before accepted. The Library will not accept materials without a legal transfer of title through the Robertson Davies Library “Deed of Gift” form. Massey College is able to provide a tax receipt for in-kind donations, but generally relies on the donor to cover the cost of appraisals. The Library will generally not accept material on loan or deposit, or material that is not available for access in perpetuity.

  9. Procedures for reviewing the policy and its implementation

    The Library reserves the right to regularly review, evaluate and change elements of this policy according to the changing goals and needs of the Library and Massey College.

    February 2015.

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