The SLC’s first event of the year kicked off on October 4th with a tour of the Thomas Fisher Rare Book library at the University of Toronto. Outreach Librarian John Shoesmith led our tour group through a quick overview of book history and the library.
Founded in 1955, the Rare Books Library has special collections, such as the Joseph Brabant Lewis Carroll collection that contains the first editions of Alice in Wonderland. It also has a role in preserving our country’s literary heritage, acquiring older as well as contemporary works of Canadian literature.
Not only did we learn that the library is open to the public, patrons are allowed to touch the books with their bare (clean) hands! Shoesmith attributed this to the late Library Director Richard Landon, who believed that Thomas Fisher should be a library, not a museum. (Pro-tip for visitors: request your books ahead of time so the staff can retrieve them from the stacks!)
From intricate woodcuts to Margaret Atwood’s very early works, there is so much to see at this special library. While the collection focuses primarily on the humanities, the library owns gems such as Vesalius’ 500 year old anatomy book, <i>Fabrica</i>, and Vesalius’ own copy of the second edition, full of annotations meant for a third edition that was never published. The Rare Books Library also holds exhibitions several times a year, showcasing the diversity and strengths of the collection. (Currently the works of George Barbier are on display).
As Fisher Library’s Outreach Librarian, Shoesmith keeps the library up-to-date on various social media channels, featuring different books and even a demonstration of their concept Gutenberg press. Follow the Thomas Fisher Rare Books library on Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Instagram, and YouTube!
Stay tuned for more events brought to you by the Special Libraries Committee!
– Alexandra Kwan