British Literature

The general collections of the Fisher Library contain first editions of many of the most significant English literary works as well as important and extensive holdings for several individual authors. Late seventeenth-century drama, with particular emphasis on the plays of John Dryden, as well as the editions of the major eighteenth century playwrights are collected. The works of the important eighteenth century writers of prose and poetry, in particular Swift, Pope, Gay, Fielding, Richardson, Johnson, Boswell, Gray and others, are added whenever possible to the already significant holdings of these authors. As well, there is a fine collection of the extensive writings of Daniel Defoe. A concerted attempt has been made to collect poetical miscellanies of the eighteenth century. Scottish literature of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, including the works of Robert Burns, is well represented.

W.H. Auden Collection

Auden - Letters from Iceland The gift of Professor Ian Lancashire in 1987, this collection contains over 200 books and pamphlets of first and subsequent significant editions of the works of Wystan Hugh Auden (1907-1973). Included among the holdings are presentation and association copies, his numerous translations, editions of other writers, as well as musical settings to his works by Benjamin Britten and others. Additionally, there are copies of many periodicals and anthologies in which Auden's work appeared, critical and biographical works, and several sound recordings made by him.

Claude Bissell Collection

Named after Claude Bissell, former President of the University of Toronto, this growing collection focuses on literary works written by authors who came to prominence in the first half of the twentieth century, concentrating particularly on the years between 1930 and 1960. Among the many authors represented are: Joyce Carey, Lawrence Durrell, Geoffrey Grigson, Anthony Powell, David Walker and P.G. Wodehouse.

Joseph Brabant Lewis Carroll Collection

The Joseph Brabant Lewis Carroll Collection was donated to the Library in 1997 by Joseph Brabant and Nicholas Maes. It is one of the finest private collections focused on Carroll to have been in private hands, and among the largest and most valuable single-author collections in the Fisher Library. The collection contains first editions and related material by Lewis Carroll and Charles L. Dodgson, including long runs of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland from 1865 through to the end of the 1990s. Alice in Wonderland text and image

Joseph Brabant built up his collection over 40 years, accumulating some 10,000 items. His career offered opportunities for world-wide travel and he was therefore able to establish a network of antiquarian booksellers who could search out choice Carroll items for him. Among them are an 1866 New York edition of Alice with the 1865 English sheets and a cancel title-leaf, and a first edition of Through the Looking Glass with a presentation inscription by Tenniel along with a drawing by him of the Mad Hatter.

The collection is well-represented by countless illustrators of the Alice books; translations in over 30 languages; critical and biographical material about Carroll and Dodgson; as well as pamphlets and ephemera.

Of particular interest is the original photograph of Dymphna Ellis and her two sisters, Mary and Bertha, taken in 1865, accompanied by a 4-page presentation letter (MS. Coll. 371, Box 2). A pioneer photographer, Carroll was very active in this hobby between 1856 and 1880. Although he took some 3000 photographs, most have been lost or destroyed.


The Library has a representative collection of these little stitched booklets which were so popular among the common people of Great Britain during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, and which now provide a rich resource for the social historian. Fairy tales, lives of heroes such as Robin Hood and Dick Whittington, stories of trials and executions, romances, humour and poetry all provided material for chapbooks, often written and printed by the same men who then hawked them around the country. A card file in the public catalogue brings together the Library's holding in this field.

Many of the chapbooks in the Library were collected by the wood-engraver, illustrator and humorist Joseph Crawhall (1821-1896) who, with Andrew Tuer, initiated a brief revival of the chapbook form at the Leadenhall Press in the 1880s.

De Lury Collection

Delury - Cuala Press Broadside for August 1908 Dean De Lury, professor of mathematics at the University of Toronto for forty years and Dean of Arts (1922-1934) centred his collection on the works of W.B. Yeats and his circle. Through his friendship with Elizabeth Corbet Yeats, some of whose letters are now in the Fisher Library, he was able to assemble along with other rare items what was certainly the first extensive collection of Cuala Press books in Canada. Especially strong in the editions of W.B. Yeats, this collection also includes the works of other members of the Yeats family, J.M. Synge, Lady Gregory, G.W. Russell (AE) and other figures of the Anglo-Irish renaissance. De Lury conscientiously collected the work of minor writers as well, and the Library has continued this practice by collecting across the whole spectrum of Anglo-Irish literature, both the celebrated and the obscure.

Douglas Duncan Collection

Douglas Duncan, the Toronto art collector and bibliophile, collected widely in the field of modern art. His fine library editions of Max Beerbohm, Richard Aldington, Norman Douglas, Aldous Huxley and D.H. Lawrence form the basis of an excellent research collection. The Lawrence holdings are especially interesting as they include a heavily annotated typescript of Women in Love and a typescript of Birds, Beasts and Flowers. Duncan's bequest also contains manuscripts by Beerbohm, Aldington and William Sharp.

Gifts from Charles Fisher strengthen the De Lury and Duncan collections, reinforcing Dunsany holdings of the former, and adding an impressive group of Norman Douglas books and manuscripts to complement the latter.

Endicott Collection

This collection is named after Professor Norman J. Endicott, a Professor of English at University College whose gift to the Library of his books form the nucleus of this collection. Its focus is on English literature written between 1880 and 1930. First and significant editions of selected authors, ranging from Robert Louis Stevenson and Thomas Hardy to T.S. Eliot and Robert Graves, are added to this collection when possible.

Excluded from the Endicott Collection are those specially named collection of authors writing in the same period such as Kipling, Morris, and Powys, as well as those authors who are elsewhere represented in the Duncan and DeLury collections.

Rudyard Kipling Collection

This outstanding collection of over 1200 items was formed in part from a donation made by Charles Fisher to which the Library's own holdings were incorporated. There are first and many subsequent editions of the works of Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936) and members of his family, including contributions to periodicals and books, biographical and critical works and association copies. The inclusion of the rare Schoolboy Lyrics printed in Lahore in 1881 makes the holdings of the Fisher Kipling Collection unique.

Margery Pearson William Morris Collection

This is a growing collection of some 450 works by and about William Morris (1834-1896), the renowned English designer, craftsman, poet and early socialist. Among the holdings are examples of works produced at the Kelmscott Press - including the most famous book it produced, the Kelmscott Chaucer - and two original wallpaper sample books by Morris & Co. While the Library had been acquiring Morris material for a number of years, the collection was renamed in 1998 in memory of Margery Lane Pearson, Librarian at the Fisher from 1971-1998.

Handscombe Powys Collection

Chiefly the gift of Richard J. Handscombe in 1987 and 1988, this is a comprehensive collection of over 1100 books and pamphlets by and about John Cowper Powys (1872-1963), and his younger brothers, Theodore Francis (1875-1953) and Llewelyn (1884-1939). It is comprised of first editions and variant printings, rare and limited editions, as well as association copies and secondary sources. There are also some works in translation, primarily French.

Sidney Fisher Collection of Shakespeare and Shakespeareana

Shakespeare - fourth folio Formed by Sidney T. Fisher, this is a collection of editions of Shakespeare's works and books pertaining to his writings and to his world. It contains copies of the four folios and most of the significant collections edited during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. There are also early editions of some of the books believed to have been used as sources by Shakespeare, including the histories of Halle (1550), Grafton (1569), and Holinshed (1577); North's translation of Plutarch's Lives (1579); and Chaucer's Workes (1561). Also included are first editions of works by several of Shakespeare's contemporaries and friends: Ben Jonson's Workes (1616); Beaumont and Fletcher's Comedies and Tragedies (1647); Spenser's Faerie Queene (1609); Coryat's Crudities (1611); and Chapman's Caesar and Pompey (1631). Of special interest is a manuscript account of the life of Richard III originally written by Sir George Buck around 1620. Buck, whose ancestors had lost their estates because of their support of Richard at Bosworth Field, attempted to correct what he believed to be the false and libelous picture of Richard given in Holinshed's chronicle and perpetuated in Shakespeare's play. The most complete of the extant versions, this manuscript is in the hand of Buck's great-nephew.

Biographical and critical works on Shakespeare range from the contemporary tribute contained in Jonson's Timber (1641) and the first attempt at a full life in Thomas Fuller's Historie of the Worthies of England (1662) to a substantial number of scholarly nineteenth and twentieth century studies. Included as well are works associated with the publication and subsequent exposure of the forgeries of William Henry Ireland in 1796 and John Payne Collier in the 1850s. Contemporary histories, early books on heraldry and genealogy, sixteenth and seventeenth century dictionaries, herbals and works on hunting and on forest law provide background information on various aspects of Shakespeare's world.

Yellowback Collection

The "yellow-back" was a Victorian innovation, an inexpensive reprint edition of a popular work of the day. It is readily identifiable by its cover, usually of bright yellow glazed paper over boards, with a striking illustration printed on the front and advertisements on the back. The British reading public, greatly expanded by the spread of education, had begun to demand cheap popular literature. These eye-catching volumes, priced from sixpence to a shilling, satisfied the demand for over sixty years and while scarce in fine condition, nevertheless provide an important research resource in the history of publishing and illustration.

The collection consists of some 400 volumes, originally assembled by the Reverend Walter Scott of Stirling, Scotland in the 1880s and 1890s.