York University Libraries is also home to a number of special collections acquired from collectors, antiquarian book dealers and accumulated from our founding collections. Below is a short descriptions of the major collections in the Clara Thomas Archives & Special Collections with links to holdings in the library catalogue.
General Special Collections of York University
Our general holdings include rare, scarce and atypical published items related to the university's research strengths in interdisciplinary research, the fine arts, Canadian literature, communications and culture, and social reform. Items are catalogued using numeric call numbers and Library of Congress call numbers. The core of the university's library holdings was established with the wholesale purchase of the inventories of two bookshops in the 1960s: the Ducharme Bookstore of Montreal, Quebec and the Ernest Starr bookstore of Boston, Massachusetts. As a result, the university's special collections have a strong representation of early or rare editions of American literature and French-Canadian literature and history.
Dr. Mary Jane Esplen donated her late husband's archives and extensive collection of historical sheet music in 2011. Arpin's collection of historical sheet music includes over 140,000 items of music ranging from the early jazz period, minstrel music, and popular songs of the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
All items of sheet music in the public domain is being digitized and is available through YorkSpace.
Germain Bazin (1901-1990), museum curator, author and teacher, was appointed research professor at York University in 1971, remaining there until 1976. He had previously served on the staff of the Louvre and was chief curator there, 1951-1965. He also taught at the University of Brussels, l’ Ecole du Louvre, and was the author of numerous widely-translated monographs and articles, including Le Mont-Saint-Michel (1933) and Historie generale de l’art (1953).
This collection is based on format and includes limited run large format publications of single sheet works.
The CPC constitutes a major resource for students and scholars working in the field of Canadian studies. Dating from the 18th century to the present, the collection covers a wide variety of subjects that include social and political issues, religion, fine arts, and women’s studies. The scope of the collection is being refined and new areas being considered are ephemeral materials generated by Toronto refugee groups and environmental organizations in the greater Toronto area.
This collection acquired from women's music festival producer Ruth Dworin consists of a strong collection of lesbian pulp novels from the mid-twentieth century as well as works of non-fiction, popularized science and psychology works and memoirs related to lesbianism. For more information, view our online exhibit highlighting items from this collection or articles about the donation on our blog or in York University's YorkU magazine.
Special Collections holds fire insurance plans for the city of Toronto for the years 1890 and 1917. York University has a number of historical fire insurance maps for a number of Canadian cities held in the Archives & Special Collections, the Map Library and Scott Library's Microtext Department. See a full listing here and here.
Consists of reproductions of historical maps of individual Caribbean islands, dating from the late 16th to the early 19th centuries. The bulk of the reproductions are of maps from the 1700s. Seventeen maps cover groups of Caribbean islands, focusing on islands in different parts of the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico.
This collection is based on format and includes small-scale publications and pamphlets, often ephemeral in nature. Includes art exhibit publications, photography books, political pamphlets, literary works and exhibition programs.
The Gibson Collection was established at the Clara Thomas Archives in 1994 when Robert Chalmers Gibson, after almost fifty years of of collecting rare books and manuscripts, donated his Canadiana collection to York University. The Gibson Collection is particularly strong in early Canadiana, particularly travel narratives and geographic treatises. Some items from this collection have been digitized through the Internet Archives and can be browsed here. A full listing of the collection can be found here.
This collection is a selection of the working research library of feminist theorist, translator and scholar Dr. Barbara Godard (1942-2010) donated in 2011. This collection is stored on-campus but needs lead-time to be pulled, as it is still in the process of being catalogued, and therefore only partially available, please email Archives in advance with specific call numbers/titles.
Collection of artist's publications and artist's books produced by the Granary Press.
The Graphic Novels Collection consists of examples of important graphic novels of the twentieth century in North America and Europe.
The Kellog collection consists of reprints, fan magazines and reproductions of comic strips and illustrators of the early to mid-twentieth century.
This collection includes a strong collection of lesbian fiction from the later half of the twentieth century as well as feminist 'zines (mostly west coast) from the 1990s.
The Lambrinos Collection, which houses over 650 children’s textbooks, teacher’s manuals and novels (published between 1843 to 1992), is a rich source of insight into a distinctly Canadian, colonial and post-colonial, understanding of the world.
Sheila Thibaudeau Lambrinos (1934-2011) donated her collection to the Clara Thomas Special Collections and Archives so that a snapshot of Canadian history might be preserved and made available to researchers. Lambrinos was a graduate in Canadian Studies from Atkinson College, York University, a former teacher and Trustee on the North York Board of Education and an avid heritage campaigner for the Grey County Historical Society. Researchers interested in education and curriculum, women’s studies and children’s literature will find a wealth of resources in this collection.
The Wyndham Lewis Collection was acquired from Toronto antiquarian book dealer Hugh Anson-Cartwright in 2010. A comprehensive collection of first editions and contemporary accounts of the Vorticist artist and Modernist author, this collection also includes archival material.
Collection consists of early, rare and scarce publications related to the Finnish community and diaspora in North America. Includes almanacs, periodicals, song books, history books, and the contents of the Finnish Organization of Canada (FOC) circulating library of plays, musicals and librettos.
Consisting of items from the personal library of Donald S. Macdonald, former cabinet minister and member of Parliament.
York University holds a small collection of medieval and early modern manuscripts, including a Books of Hours, The Koran, prayer books, antiphonal leaves and other works. Please contact archives staff for more information.
Consists of selections from the personal library of CBC broadcaster and reporter Knowlton Nash. Donated in 2011.
Desmond Neill Collection
This collection of former librarian of Massey College has strength in book, print and publishing history, censorship, the history of homosexuality, biography, memoir, travel narratives and British history. This material was donated in 2010 and is still in the process of being catalogued.
Rabbi Wolf Gunther Plaut was a Reform rabbi and author. An important figure in the history of the Jewish community in Toronto, he served as rabbi of Holy Blossom Temple from 1961 to 1977 and later as a Rabbi Emeritus and Senior Scholar of the temple.
The original order in which Rabbi Plaut arranged his books was also preserved, reflecting his intellectual process and how he conceptualized certain issues. As well as a constant interest in theological issues, the library reflects Plaut's interest in contemporary politics, the social sciences and the arts. The range of subject matter also reflects Plaut's ongoing efforts at social reform and campaign against intolerance and his advocacy of interfaith dialogue. The library also reflects some of his lighter entertainments: the odd pulpy mystery novel from the 1950s and a scattering of books about chess. This collection is stored on-campus but needs lead-time to be pulled, please email Archives in advance with specific call numbers/titles.
Collection of pamphlets, small publications and ephemeral material produced by or related to socialist movements of the nineteenth, twentieth and twenty-first century. Includes materials regarding communism, socialists states, the Soviet Union, the German Democratic Republic, union movements, political organizations and other aspects of the socialist movement.
Collection consisting of student projects for course on theatre history and research directed by Dr. Judith Rudakoff. Projects focus on individuals, organizations, theatre companies, production companies and other figures operating in the theatre arts. Up to date inventory available upon request in Archives Reading Room.
Donated by Ian Young, a researcher and book dealer based in Toronto. This collection consists of works of twentieth century fiction and non-fiction focusing on gay men, sexuality and popular culture. This collection is stored on-campus but needs lead-time to be pulled, please email Archives in advance with specific call numbers/titles.
The Yolton Collection is a collection of rare books ranging from the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries, collected and donated by John W. Yolton (1921-2005), professor of Philosophy at York University from 1963-1978 and former acting president from 1973-1974 . The collection focuses on early editions by or connected to Scottish philosopher John Locke, the subject of Yolton’s doctoral thesis.
Prof. Yolton, even after leaving in 1978 for a position at Rutger’s University in New Jersey, maintained his contacts with York University. On Oct. 23, 2003, he returned to donate his rare collection of antiquarian books to the university’s special collections. The collection now resides in the Clara Thomas Archives & Special Collections and is considered to be one of the finest in the world. His wife, Jean Yolton (nee Sebastian), was pivotal to compiling the collection. She often combed antique bookstores and libraries for editions, and her work resulted in the publication of a definitive Locke Bibliography, which is still used as a key resource by Locke scholars.
Collection of pamphlets, small publications and ephemera produced by or related to the history and operations of York University.