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Collections held in Special Collections

Special Collections holds over a thousand early-dated books, published 1475-1700. Our 18th century collections are exceptionally strong; particularly noteworthy is our 18th Century British Political Pamphlet Collection.

Queen's University is also the proud repository of the Private Library of John Buchan, Lord Tweedsmuir, novelist and Governor General of Canada, 1935-1940, and the Private Library of Roberston Davies, 1913-1995.

Other areas of concentration include works by Dickens, Galsworthy, Masefield, Dante, Hugo and Disraeli in the British and Anglo-Irish literary collections and the Children's Literature Collection.

The British and Anglo-Irish literary collections also includes:

  • Cuala Press imprints
  • Darwin Yarish's Collection of George William Russell (AE)
  • Monk Gibbon Collection
  • many editions of Yeats and other lesser known writers

The three significant science research resources are:

Other publications in various formats include pamphlets, maps, urban plans, fire-insurance plans, broadsides, posters, CIHM microfiche, sheet music, theater programs, post cards and other ephemera.

Private papers and manuscript materials are housed separately in the Queen's University Archives.

Please refer to the following documents regarding which materials are most likely to be found in W.D. Jordan Special Collections Library:


The Edith and Lorne Pierce Collection of Canadiana is the centrepiece of our Library. The resources available at Queen's for Canadian historical and literary studies pre- and post-Confederation are outstanding. The collection of early North American travel and exploration literature is extensive. Supplementing this collection is the Library's complete holdings of microform and online reproductions produced by CIHM.

Rare Book Collections

Building on the existing strengths of our collections, we acquire old and rare volumes - mostly published before 1800 - with fine printing, binding or illustrative plates and books which are special because of their format, historical or monetary value, fragile condition or distinguished provenance (former ownership). Also included are many limited editions and private press books.

Mitchell Gift

The original six volumes donated to Queen's in 1840 by Judge James Mitchell, M.A. are still in the Jordan Library collection. Judge Mitchell's gift consisted of:

  • a Latin Bible (1592)
  • a Greek New Testament (1760)
  • a French New Testament (1664)
  • a Greek lexicon (1821)
  • a copy of Locke's Essay concerning Human Understanding (1760) in two volumes

18th Century British Political Pamphlet Collection

This collection began at Queen's in the mid-19th century and has some notable donations from Dr. Duncan MacArthur (1934) and Dr. A.R.M. Lower (1965). Real development of the collection was undertaken by Dr. John A.W. Gunn, the Sir Edward Peacock Professor of Political Studies at Queen's and a world-renowned 18th century scholar. As a result, Queen's has an outstanding research collection that includes some very scarse material. In addition, the extensive 18th century book collection has been developed to provide strong supportive, contextual research resource.

Before the development of general, non-partisan newspapers, the pamphlet was the most important medium for public discussion of a wide range of issues.

The range of coverage for this collection extends from 1642 and includes:

  • the Civil War period
  • the Standing Army Controversy
  • the struggles for reform in the 1780s and 1790s
  • the Reform Bill of 1832

The Queen Anne Pamphlets Bibliogrpahy by William F.E. Morley documents the imprints from 1701 to 1714 which are held in Special Collections (Z2027 .P3 Q52 1987t).

This collection is also available and searchable online through QSpace.

British and Anglo-Irish literary collections

Other areas of concentration are early editions of works by Dickens, Galsworthy, Masefield, Dante, Hugo and Disraeli. The Anglo-Irish literature collection is extensive, including the entire Cuala Press imprints (acquired from the family of Mr. & Mrs. W.B. Yeats), Darwin Yarish's Collection of George William Russell (AE), the Monk Gibbon Collection, and many fine editions of Yeats and other lesser known writers. Queen's also is the proud repository of the private library of John Buchan, Lord Tweedsmuir, novelist and Governor General Canada, 1935-1940.

Art and Architecture Collection

Queen’s Library’s primary collection supporting the University’s fine arts, art history and art conservation programmes is located in the Stauffer Library Art Collection.

In addition, Special Collections houses the Library's most valuable books on art and architecture, with emphasis on Canadiana and pre-1800 imprints. The Friends of the Library Collection in Architectural History consists of works by Andrea Palladio, Christopher Wren, and others, along with a number of 18th and 19th century British architectural plan and reference books. Many of these are from the collection of George Browne, the architect who designed City Hall, among other prominent Kingston buildings. Special Collections also houses many historical essays on art history and practice, artists’ manuals and biographies. It is an excellent resource for materials on book illumination and illustration, and contains many high quality facsimiles of illuminated manuscripts. International exhibition catalogues, including an extensive set of Paris Salon catalogues, and materials on Canadian exhibitions, galleries, and artists’ associations are held within Special Collections and the Edith and Lorne Pierce Collection of Canadiana.

Queen's University Archives also holds a large number of plans and drawings of local Kingston architecture, notably material by William Coverdale, William Newlands, and John and Joseph Power.

Bible Collection

This collection contains a number of versions printed from 1491 to present in large and small formats. More than 60 languages are represented, including some North American native dialets and other obscure languages.

Not all bibles are rare books; some are facsimiles of earlier manuscripts.

  • Geneva Bible, 1560
  • Bishop's Bible commissioned by the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1568 to counter the German and puritanical influence of the Geneva version
  • Roman Catholic Douai version
  • King James Authorized version, first edition, 1611
  • Dove Press Bible published in Hammersmith, 1903

For more information about the Bibles Collection, see the 2002/2003 exhibit Bible Through the Ages.

A Bible Checklist, prepared by Dr. Daniel Fraikin (Queen's Theological College) in 2002, contains a list of the bibles available. It is an updated and expanded version of the bibliography complied by Donald Redmond, former Chief Librarian, in 1974.

A list of bibles held in Special Collections is also available in QCAT, Queen's Library catalogue.

Broadside/Poster Collection

There are thousands of broadsides and posters in this rich, diverse collection which range from Canadian poetry and Alcuin Society Keepsakes to history (local and national), politics, arts, culture, and travel, as well as international topics. Included are a series of Canadian and British broadsides and proclamations dating from 1700 to the present.

Other topics covered in the collection include:

  • Word War I and II
  • Victory Bonds
  • War Loans
  • Conscription and recruitment issues
  • Russian politics and economics
  • Nazi Germany
  • Propaganda and the arts
  • Chinese Cultural Revolution

The Chinese posters were a 2002 acquisition from Evelyn Reid, former Dean of Women, who visited China in the 1970s.

A finding aid, prepared by Vivien Taylor in 2012, contains a subject list of the broadsides available.

Some of this collection is also available and searchable in QSpace.

For more information about this collection, see the following former exhibits:

Canadian Sample Journal Collection

The library holds a small collection of sample journals, ranging from items with a local interest, to national. Please consult the online checklist for the complete list of holdings.

Canadian School Textbooks

The focus of this collection is 19th century Ontario textbooks.

As this collection is not catalogued, please use the online checklist to locate material.

Children's Literature Collection

This collection is an amalgam of a number of donations and purchases over the years, beginning with the 1944 gift of about 50 volumes from Harry Hereford. By 1966, with the addition of donations by Elizabeth Gray, John E. Gow and Wilfred Knight, the collection had grown to approximately 600 volumes. It now numbers includes more than 2000 volumes.

The aim of the collection has been to represent the development of the genre (mostly in English) up to the end of the 19th century, although there are a select number of newer Canadian publications being purchased for the Edith and Lorne Pierce Collection of Canadiana.

Note that this collection is supplemented by the Education Library's post-1900 K-12 Collection.

Canadian Institute for Historical Microreproductions (CIHM)

Special Collections holds the complete set of microfiche issued by the Canadian Institute for Historical Microreproductions (CIHM) since it's inception in 1978. As one of the original participants, Queen's has made significant contributions to this comprehensive filming project by lending books, serials, pamphlets and government documents to the Institute for copying. This comprehensive undertaking aims to provide wide access to all Canadiana publications of historical significance.

Early Canadiana Online

In 1999, CIHM lauched a digital, web-based collection known as Early Canadiana Online. All CIHM documents are now published here rather than in microfilm, although an archival microfiche copy is reatained by CIHM.


W.D. Jordan Library has acquired a substantial collection of cartographic materials. Our rare and historical maps include Kingston, Canada, North America and the world. A main subject specialization is historical cartography--maps illustrating the growth of cartographical knowledge and of geographical discovery with particular reference to North America. The collection also houses 17th and 18th century maps that illustrate the discovery and exploration of Canada. A large number of these have come into our possession through generous donations.

The Ruddell Collection of Early maps is a strong holding of 175 maps that includes maps of the world and North America, detailed maps of Canada, and several nineteenth and twentieth century atlases. Among the historical maps are copies of maps by famous early mapmakers such as Ramusio, Magini, Ortelius, Mercator, Blaeu, Hondius, Delisle, d'Anville. Please consult the checklist for an inventory of the holdings.

Fyfe Maps: these maps provide an excellent depiction of the development of Canada; from geographical discoveries in the 17th century to the technological growth of the 19th century. Also included in this material is an illustrated interpretive depiction of the far north and Arctic regions. The Fyfe checklist can be consulted for an inventory of the material.

The Charles N. Bell Collection of maps contains almost 200 maps of primarily North America and Canada. Also included are a number of Blaeu maps. As these items have not been catalogued, please consult the checklist.

Science Collections

There are three important science collections relating to the history of telegraphy, radio astronomy and natural history.

Non-Book Items

Other publications in non-book format included in the Jordan Library are:

Last Updated: 12 April 2016

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