Monthly Highlights

Current Monthly Exhibition

Cover of Nelvana comic book
Fri, Nov. 01, 2019 to Fri, Nov. 29, 2019

Almost every young person is introduced to the wonders of reading through illustrated works. For many, the marriage of words and images remains an intoxicating and seductive mix, even as one's reading tastes mature. That will often mean graduating to comic books. But comics themselves will often reflect that increasing maturity by providing sophisticated and dense stories with exciting visuals. Stories, in other words, that are not necessarily geared soley toward young readers.

This month's display features an array of visual works from the Fisher's collections: from graphic novelist Chris Ware's format-busting "book" Building Stories, to a visual retelling of The Handmaid's Tale, along with early and important Canadian comics and "wordless" narratives from one of the inventor's of the genre. Lynd Ward, to more recent examples from Canadian artists George A. Walker and Wesley Bates.

This exhibiton was co-curated by Liz Ridolfo and John Shoesmith, and installed by Linda Joy.

Previous Monthly Exhibitions

Cover of Goluska's Brooklyn Bridge
Mon, Jan. 07, 2019 to Thu, Jan. 31, 2019

Glenn Goluska has been called Canada’s finest letterpress designer and printer. Born in Chicago, he studied at St. Michael’s College of the University of Toronto and moved to Canada permanently in the early 1970s when he began working with Stan Bevington at Coach House Press. Inspired by others in Toronto’s close-knit letterpress community – including Will Rueter of Aliquando Press and Robert MacDonald of Dreadnaught – Goluksa started his own imprint, imprimerie dromadaire. On display are examples of Goluska’s work, along with materials from his contemporaries.

Cover of Donald in Numberland
Mon, Sep. 03, 2018 to Fri, Sep. 28, 2018

The truly revolutionary aspect of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, when it was published in 1865, was its refusal to instruct. With its steadfast rejection of moralism and didacticism, Lewis Carroll’s fantasy made a radical break with the long tradition in children’s literature of stories with "lessons." This outlook is especially surprising given that Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, the historical person behind the Lewis Carroll pseudonym, was both a clergyman and an educator, spending his entire career as a lecturer in mathematics at Christ Church, Oxford.

In the Alice books, imagination is an end in itself. Nevertheless, individuals and institutions have been trying to put Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland to educational use ever since it appeared. To celebrate the beginning of the academic year, this month’s showcase explores Dodgson’s educational writings and the educational applications of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The materials on display are from the Joseph Brabant-Lewis Carroll Collection, one of the world’s finest collections of Carrolliana, generously donated to the Fisher Library in 1997.

Oscar Wilde image
Mon, Jun. 03, 2019 to Fri, Jun. 28, 2019

Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) was an Irish poet and playwright, famed for his wit, his elegant appearance, and his celebration of decadence. The author of popular plays such as Lady Windermere’s Fan (1892) and The Importance of Being Earnest (1895), he also wrote a collection of stories for children, The Happy Prince and other Tales (1888), and the novel The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890). Themes of male love, friendship, and same-sex desire appear in certain of his publications. Wilde faced libel and criminal trials involving his ‘indecent’ activities in the gay underworld of London, and in 1895 was convicted of gross indecency and sentenced to two years’ hard labour.  His reputation as a ‘homosexual martyr’ and ‘moral rebel’ was quickly embraced by those within the first wave of the gay-rights movement. This display showcases a selection of Wilde’s literary works, essays, and poetry from the De Lury Collection of Anglo-Irish literature.       

Detail from illustration of Dickens' A Christmas Carol
Mon, Dec. 03, 2018 to Fri, Dec. 21, 2018

As Christmas approaches, many of us will read, listen to, or watch adaptations of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. This story, which is so closely associated with the holiday season in the English-speaking world, marks its 175th anniversary this year. The first edition, released on 19 December 1843, sold out  almost immediately, and was reprinted eight times within the first six months. The ghostly tale, with its emphasis on care for the poor, and keeping one’s priorities in order, remains timely in 2018. Numerous artists have tried their hands at depicting the key moments in the story, and it is their efforts which this exhibition particularly celebrates.

Take a walk with the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future!

Spread from Kelmscott Chaucer
Thu, Jun. 28, 2018 to Fri, Aug. 17, 2018

The University of Toronto is pleased to be welcoming the New Chaucer Society to the city for their biennial congress. In celebration of this event, the Fisher Library is pleased to display modern and early-modern editions of Geoffrey Chaucer’s works from our collections. Beginning with the stunning Kelmscott Chaucer, a jewel of the Arts and Crafts movement, and moving from the 16th century to the 20th, this exhibit shows the variety of ways that people have interacted with Chaucer in print.

Also on display include William Thynne’s second edition of The Canterbury Tales, including woodcuts originally found in Caxton; marginalia from a 1602 collection of Chaucer’s works connecting it with the London landscape; an illustrated Czech printing of The Canterbury Tales complete with modernist illustrations; a beautiful Victorian cloth binding based on illustrations from the famous Ellesmere manuscript; and Eric Gill’s remarkable illustrated wood cuts in the Golden Cockerel Press’s Canterbury Tales. Welcome to Toronto and the Fisher, and enjoy a pilgrimage through our collection!

Spread from Caxton's Cicero
Sat, May. 26, 2018 to Wed, Jun. 27, 2018

To mark the recent acquisition of the oldest English-language book to be found in Canada, William Caxton’s 1481 printing of Cicero’s On Old Age and On Friendship, the Fisher Library offers these treasures for your viewing enjoyment. Issued from the presses of William Caxton, the first English printer, and his disciple Wynkyn de Worde, they remind us that what Gutenberg was to Western printing in general, Caxton was for the English-speaking world.

Also on display is a leaf from Caxton’s 1483 printing of John Gower’s Confessio amantis; the 1507 and 1527 printings by Wynkyn de Worde of Caxton’s translation of The Golden Legend, with Caxton’s woodcuts; and the lesser known Nova legenda Angliae of 1516 – all jewels of early English printing. Welcome to our celebrations!

Carry on Canada image
Mon, Sep. 02, 2019 to Mon, Sep. 30, 2019

Eighty years ago, on 10 September 1939, Canada entered the Second World War, one week after Britain had entered the fray. This second great international conflict in as many generations would eventually see some 1.1 million Canadians serve in the ranks of the Canadian Army, the Royal Canadian Navy, and the Royal Canadian Air Force, as well as in other forces from across the Commonwealth. In the end, approximately 42,000 would be killed and another 55,000 would be wounded. This exhibition tells some of their story, using many of the unique items from the collections found in the Fisher Rare Book Library.

Exhibition curated by Graham Bradshaw, P.J. Carefoote and Danielle Van Wagner.

Image for Latin poetry display
Tue, Jul. 02, 2019 to Fri, Aug. 16, 2019

The great Latin poems of the Classical past were among the first works of literature to find their way into print, and it was not long before early editions of these works were adorned with woodcut illustrations. The epics of Virgil, Lucan, and Valerius Flaccus, which are rich in mythological and historical detail, lend themselves in particular to illustration, as do the plays of Terence, with their vividly drawn characters and lively plots. The poetry of Horace, which tends to have less of a narrative focus, did not receive quite as much attention from illustrators, though some early editions did include woodcuts. Two of the books featured in this display - the Virgil and the Horace - are new additions to the Fisher Library’s collections.

This display was curated by Timothy Perry, and installed by Linda Joy.

Phrenology head
Mon, Apr. 02, 2018 to Mon, Apr. 30, 2018

For the month of April, the Fisher will be highlighting a small collection of recently acquired phrenology material. Phrenology was a set of pseudo-medical theories and practices that developed in the nineteenth century, based on the notion that a person’s character was reflected in the size and shape of their skull. Phrenologists spread their ideas across Europe and Britain through public lectures and demonstrations using skull measurements and charts. Part science, part moral philosophy, part quackery, phrenology was controversial yet important moment in the history of the study of the human mind and brain. The Fisher collection includes printed and manuscript material from Orson and Lorenzo Fowler, American phrenologists who popularized phrenology across North America, plus works by earlier theorists Franz Joseph Gall and Johann Spurzheim. Also on display are original phrenological heads produced by the Fowler brothers.