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 (ex. “McLean F”) in the search box.