Monthly Highlights

Current Monthly Exhibition

Cover of Donald in Numberland

The Reluctant Teacher: Education in the Joseph Brabant-Lewis Carroll Collection

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.

Previous Monthly Exhibitions

Spread from Kelmscott Chaucer

The Fisher's Tale: Modern and Early Modern Settings of Chaucer's Works

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

Caxton & Co.

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!

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.

Cordel pamphlet cover

Literatura de cordel: Images of everything for everyone

Tue, May. 01, 2018 to Fri, May. 25, 2018

Literatura de cordel, or “string literature,” is the tradition of popular pamphlet poetry that emerged in the Brazilian Northeast at the turn of the nineteenth century. Its name is derived from the manner in which poet vendors suspend their pamphlets by strings to display them at the weekly local literary fairs (feiras) at which pamphlets are sold.  Cordel poems are notable because they catered to the diverse but specific interests of audiences with various degrees of literacy. They are also known for the woodcut illustrations featured on their covers, known as xilogravuras. First appearing in the 1920s, these images were originally meant to visually represent the stories of each poem for illiterate folheto buyers, and to make cordel pamphlets more perceptibly-enticing. As such, they depict as diverse a range of topics as their textual counterparts, and appear in a variety of dynamic styles. Today, these “images of everything for everyone” serve as the visual representatives of cordel culture as a whole, and long been the focus of positive attention from viewers and critics around the world. These illustrations are the primary focus of this month’s display, which highlights the Fisher’s collection of over 2,000 cordel pamphlets published from the early-twentieth century to the present.

Display curated by Philippe Mongeau, TALint student, Fisher Library

Rochdale College magazine cover

Rochdale College: Toronto’s Free University, 1968-1975

Thu, Mar. 01, 2018 to Fri, Mar. 30, 2018

2018 marks the 50th anniversary of the opening of Rochdale College. Rochdale College was first established in 1964 as a solution to the student housing problem at the University of Toronto. It became an experiment in student-run alternative education and community living when Campus Co-Op’s Howard Adelman discovered that the $175,000 annual property tax could be avoided if the building had a functioning educational system.

In 1968 the building opened as a free university, where students and instructors could live together and share knowledge. Rochdale was the largest co-op residence in North America, occupying an 18-storey student residence at 341 Bloor Street West (at the corner of Bloor and Huron Street). Rochdale College never used traditional professors or structured classes; the goal was free expression and a rejection of traditional education models.

The project ultimately failed when it could not cover its financial obligations and neighbours complained that it had become a haven for drugs and crime. It was closed in 1975. Currently the building exists as the Senator David A. Croll Apartments, with little to account for its storied origins. The only surviving nod to its past is “The Unknown Student,” a sculpture of a cross-legged figure hugging its knees to its chest. Some notable Rochdale participants were involved with various cultural institutions in Toronto that still exist today, such as Coach House Press, Theatre Passe Muraille, The Toronto Free Dance Theatre, the Spaced-Out Library (now the Merril Collection of the Toronto Public Library) and House of Anansi Press.

This month’s collection highlights exhibition features a selection of material from our Rochdale College archival collection.