Collections

The Library’s collections centre around the history of the book and the technical and material aspects of the book arts, including the history, practice and technique of printing, illustration, typography, graphic arts, papermaking and binding from the late 18th century through to the mid 20th century. To access library materials, search the U of T Library Catalogue for a call number, and contact the College Librarian, PJ MacDougall (library@masseycollege.ca), to make an appointment or for more information about particular collections. All collections are non-circulating. Many items are still being catalogued; if you are interested in a particular publication and you are unable to locate it using a title search within the UofT Library Catalogue, please contact us. Call ahead to make an appointment at 416-978-2893 or email library@masseycollege.ca

Click a collection to view details.

Archival Collections:

Ruari McLean

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.

The McLean Collection is organized by size which is reflected in the call number – for example, McLean F for folios, McLean FF for flat folios, McLean Q for quartos, McLean O for octavos and McLean D for duodecimos. Browse the McLean collection in the U of T Library Catalogue by searching “call number” and entering the first part of the call number (e.g.“McLean F”) in the search box.

See also: Printing Picture Printing: Books, Art, and the Art of Reproduction in Nineteenth-Century England by Chelsea Humphrie

Roy Gurney

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 Oto 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.

Only parts of this collection are catalogued; those interested in accessing it should contact the Librarian. Like the McLean collection, it is organized by size (folio, quarto, octavo, duodecimo, miniature) and the call number begins with the prefix “Gurney”. It can be browsed in the U of T Library Catalogue  by searching “call number” and entering the first part of the call number (e.g. “Gurney Q” or “Gurney”)  in the search box.

Bibliography

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.

The Bibliography collection is catalogued with a call number beginning with “BIB” and can be browsed by call number in the U of T Library Catalogue by entering “BIB” with the addition of a letter A-Z to narrow down your search (for example “BIB A” or “BIB P”) or by entering the relevant subject or subjects in the advanced search, and limiting your search to “Massey College (Robertson Davies)” under ‘Library’.

Coach House Press

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 Oto 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.

Only parts of this collection are catalogued; those interested in accessing it should contact the Librarian. Like the McLean collection, it is organized by size (folio, quarto, octavo, duodecimo, miniature) and the call number begins with the prefix “Gurney”. It can be browsed in the U of T Library Catalogue  by searching “call number” and entering the first part of the call number (e.g. “Gurney Q” or “Gurney”)  in the search box.

Private Press 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.

Some of the Presses Collection is catalogued, with the call number prefix “Presses”, and can be browsed in the U of T Library Catalogue by searching within “Call number” with the term “Presses” in the search box. (see here for instructions).

Periodicals

The Robertson Davies Library holds current subscriptions to a range of periodicals relating to book and printing history and contemporary practice, including Papers of the Bibliographical Society of AmericaThe Devil’s ArtisanThe Journal of the Printing Historical SocietyParenthesis: The newsletter of the Fine Press Book AssociationLetter Arts ReviewWayzgoose AnthologyQuaerendoAmphoraMatrixPapers 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 FleuronVerveGraphis), books and book collecting (The Bookman), and the printing industry (Lithopinion, Linotype Matrix, The Book-Binding Trades Journal).

Browse the current periodicals in the U of T Library Catalogue by entering “BIB PER” in the search box and searching within “call number” (see here for instructions). Many of the older periodicals are still being catalogued; if you are interested in a particular publication and you are unable to locate it using a title search within the U.of T. Library Catalogue, please contact the Librarian.

Otto Ege Leaves

The Library holds one of the forty 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. See here for more information.

Interested researchers can access photographs of the Massey Library’s portfolio of the Otto Ege leaves here.

The Ege Leaves are catalogued in the Gurney Collection with the call number “Gurney FF 0001”.

Collection of Gitton Ephemera

This collection consists of seventy pieces of ephemera, mostly 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. Many items are printer’s proofs, with spike holes and notes of date and number of copies printed. An inventory of items in this collection is available by request.

Type Specimen Books

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.

Not all of the Type Specimens are catalogued. Some of the printed ephemera is catalogued with the call number prefix “Type Pam” (for “pamphlet”). They can be browsed in the U of T Library Catalogue  by  searching  within “Call number” with the term “Type Pam” in the search box (see here for example). The printed specimen books can be searched by the subject heading “Printing – Specimens”. Please contact the Librarian if you are interested in accessing uncatalogued material in this collection.

Ballinson 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.

For more on this collection, see here.  Also, see the Visual Guide to the Balinson Hebrew Type Collection by Leora Bromberg.

Most of Massey College’s printing collections are uncatalogued. If you are interested in this collection, please contact the Librarian.

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.

The majority of the types were a gift of Roy Gurney in 1974. Additional types were donated by Mary Williamson in 1999.

An index for the collection, which includes a growing number of printed type specimens, can be accessed here.

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.

 

The Library holds his papers, correspondence, design work, and reference library. Dair’s reference collection can be located within the U of T library catalogue by entering “Dair” in the search box, and searching within “call number”. A finding aid to the fonds can be found here: Carl Dair Fonds Finding Aid. 

In addition to the Carl Dair fonds, the library also holds Dair’s personal reference collection. It 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 catalogs from his time spent in the Netherlands, tourist guides of places to which he traveled, type specimens, and a range of other publications are also contained within this collection. These materials can be located within the U of T library catalogue by entering “Dair” in the search box, and searching within “call number”.

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.

The Library holds William Rueter’s correspondence, proofs, working papers, reference materials and designs for the Aliquando Press as well as for his work as a book designer for U of T Press, in addition to a near complete run of Aliquando Press publications. More details can be found here: Aliquando-Finding-Aid-2-Accessions-Merged.

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