Monthly Highlights

Current Monthly Exhibition

Emily Warren's watercolour of her extended family
Wed, May. 01, 2019 to Fri, May. 31, 2019

In the late eighteenth-century, two events coincided to bring about the 'Golden Age of Watercolour' in Britain – William Gilpin published his first travel narrative utilizing watercolour sketches and cakes of watercolour were first sold commercially. The rise of colonial activity by the British Empire in this period meant that travel became a necessary and sought-after activity for the upper classes. Packed along in their steamer trunks were sketchbooks, brushes and watercolours to depict their journeys and experiences.

Display curated by Danielle Van Wagner 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.

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!

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.

Image of University College
Mon, Oct. 01, 2018 to Wed, Oct. 31, 2018

In 2016, the University College Archival Collection was transferred to the University of Toronto Archives and Records Management Services (UTARMS).

Serving as the official repository for University records of permanent value and the private records of individuals and organizations associated with the University, UTARMS is fortunate to now house this important collection of material documenting the early history of University College (UC) – the founding member of UofT’s collegiate system. 

The University College Archival Collection includes records documenting UC’s early administrative history, the personal records of prominent faculty and staff, a large collection of records on the University College fire of 1890, many publications from the College’s student body, and a number of records documenting student life. The Collection also contains a number of artifacts which relate directly to the recorded material and serve to liven this rich collection.

This display includes photographs, textual records, and artifacts which highlight the range of material represented in the Collection. From William Lyon Mackenzie King’s textbook and the personal records of Barker Fairley and John McCaul, to relics plucked from the rubble after the College fire, and ledgers documenting UC residence disciplinary actions, UTARMS invites researchers to come and make use of this significant historical resource.

Band of Purple pamphlet
Thu, Nov. 01, 2018 to Fri, Nov. 30, 2018

November 11, 2018 marks exactly one hundred years since an armistice between the combatant nations went into effect and the First World War ended. After more than four years of horrific fighting, a conflict that encompassed the globe and included all of the major powers - Britain, France, Germany, Austria-Hungary, Russia, Italy, Japan and the United States – and resulted in the deaths of over sixteen million people, had finally drawn to a close. Canada as part of the British Empire, played a significant role, with more than 600,000 men enlisting in the Canadian Expeditionary Force, of whom close to 61,000 were killed on the battlefields of France and Belgium. Newfoundland, not yet a part of this country, also suffered grievous losses. This contribution is all the more remarkable when one considers that the population of Canada when the war began in 1914 was just over 8 million. Our soldiers earned a well-deserved reputation as superb fighting troops, a reputation forged in the battles at Ypres, the Somme, Vimy Ridge, Passchendaele and Amiens. Canadian men and women from all walks of life answered the call, including thousands from the Indigenous communities. For those who remained at home the war brought government-imposed restrictions, hardships, and personal tragedy, but it also offered opportunities to engage in war-related public service activities and to begin the process of breaking down sexual stereotypes. Canadian society was never the same.  The unveiling last year of a monument in France dedicated to those Canadians who fought and died during the battle of Hill 70 in 1917, and the recent discovery and identification of the bodies of four Canadian soldiers killed in that fighting and who were subsequently buried with full military honours, illustrate the continuing presence of the First World War in our collective consciousness. We commemorate this important date in our nation’s history as an acknowledgement of the great sacrifices this generation of Canadians made, especially those who never returned and lie in foreign fields far from home. It is to them we pay special tribute.

Cordel pamphlet cover
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