Fisher Special Collections

The Fisher Library's collections are many and diverse, and include local digital collections that were developed here at the University of Toronto in collaboration with the staff of Collection Digitization and Information Technology Services Department. All of our local digital collections provide page images, enhanced indexing features, and the capability to conduct full text searching on the contents of the documents themselves. Our work has been made possible through the generous support of funding agencies and individual donations. Please see the Sponsors section of each project's homepage for fuller details.

Also below are highlights from our print and manuscript collections.

Digital Collections

The Agnes Chamberlin collection consists of original paintings of Canadian flora and mushrooms by Agnes Chamberlin (1833–1913), dating from the period 1863 to the 1900s. In addition to the original paintings, the Chamberlin digital collection also includes early editions of Canadian Wild Flowers and two editions of Studies of Plant Life. Most of these original paintings have not previously been reproduced.
Anatomical head image
This collection features approximately 4,500 full page plates and other significant illustrations of human anatomy selected from the Jason A. Hannah and Academy of Medicine collections in the history of medicine at the Fisher Library. Each illustration has been fully indexed using medical subject headings, and the plates can also be searched or browsed by artist, engraver, lithographer and printer.
Tyrrell in Artic gear
Drawing on materials, including photographs, original field notes, maps and published reports, from the J.B. Tyrrell, James Tyrrell and related collections, this site documents two exploratory surveys of the Barren Lands region west of Hudson Bay, in northern Manitoba and Saskatchewan and the area now known as Nunavut.
A collection of Canadian pamphlets that includes items printed in Canada, by Canadian authors, or about Canadian subjects, mainly of a non-literary nature.
The initial phase of a larger project to digitize Canadian periodicals, this site will present the first 20 years of the most significant Canadian trade journal documenting the history of the printing and publishing industry.
Iconic photo of Banting and Best
This online site documents the initial period of the discovery and development of insulin by presenting over 7,000 page images reproducing original documents, from ranging from laboratory notebooks and charts, to scrapbooks and printed ephemera.
Portrait of General James Wolfe
The Fisher Library is privileged to be the custodian of the single most important archive of Wolfe manuscript records in the world. This collection is of exceptional cultural and historical importance for all Canadians.
fragment of manuscript scan
Collection of 190 pieces of vellum in Greek and Latin illustrating the history and development of handwriting from the 4th century until the end of the Middle Ages. Items 1-21 (which are Coptic in origin) illustrate the development of uncial writing from the beginning up to its decline in Egypt in the 9th century. A detailed finding aid is available in the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library.
The Fisher Library is the third largest repository for the artistic works of Wenceslaus Hollar (1607-1677) after Windsor Castle and the National Gallery Collection of Prints and Drawings in the artist's native Prague, the Czech Republic.

Material Collections

Peony plate from Besler's Hortus Eystettensis
This magnificent oversize flower book first published in 1613 documents the plants that were in the personal collection of Johann Conrad von Gemmingen, the Prince Bishop of Eichstätt near Nuremberg, Germany. It includes 367 engraved plates documenting over a thousand different plants comprising 667 species, with accompanying explanatory text for each plate.
Foxe's Book of Martyrs
First published in 1563, John Foxe's Actes and Monuments, better known as The Book of Martyrs, was one of the most elaborate early books produced, with vivid woodcut illustrations.
The Bissell Collection and James Hanley collection
James Hanley's works are part of the Fisher's Bissell Collection, centering on the literary works of British authors whose reputations were established in the middle third of the twentieth-century.
Canadian small and fine press
The Fisher has one of the most extensive collections of Canadian small and fine press materials in the country.
Canadian Theatre Programs collection
Engaging collection includes programs from several Canadian cities, ranging from an assortment of material from Toronto theatre companies, to obscure programs from cities such as North Hatley, Quebec, and Prescott, Ontario.
Darwin mice
The Fisher Library has one of the foremost collections of Charles Darwin material in Canada.
Dutch sea atlases
The Fisher Library is fortunate to possess two outstanding examples from the golden age of Dutch cartography: a 1666 sea atlas of Hendrick Doncker and the 1686 sea atlas of Jacobus Robijn.
 Erasmus Redacted collection
Heavily censored copy of Adagiorum of Erasmus was among the treasures donated to the library by the late Professor Ralph Stanton.
Bookplate from Flickr collection.
This album of bookplates contains over one thousand specimens of Canadian individual and institutional bookplates, dating to the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
Pulp Fiction
The Gay Pulp Fiction Collection consists of over 1,100 mass market paperback fiction on male homosexual and bisexual themes, published from the 1940s through the 1990s.
Image of page from handwritten Bible
This 33-volume bible was handwritten by Marjorie Griffin Armour between 1938 and 1939.
Hardware Merchandising and C. W. Jefferys Collection
C. W. Jefferys (1869-1951) was a Canadian artist, illustrator, teacher, and historian. His work on Canadian Merchandising is one of several highlights of the trade publications now on the Internet Archive.
The Fisher Library has some two hundred books printed before 1501 and are broadly representative of the range of early western printing.
Image from Juvenile Drama Collection
This collection comprises more than six thousand sheets of engravings and lithographs illustrating the characters and scenery from British and some European plays between 1810 and 1940.
Colophon from the Kelmscott Chaucer
The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer published by William Morris's Kelmscott Press in 1896 is one of the most stunning books ever produced in the 19th century. Consisting of eighty-seven woodcut illustrations by celebrated Victorian painter Edward Burne-Jones, with title, borders and initials designed by Morris, the book is a triumph of book art design.
Knox College Collection
The Knox College collection is of exceptional scope, especially noted for its strength in the biblical, pastoral and historical fields, as well as an extensive collection of works particularly focused on reformed theology.
Lewis Carroll collection
The Joseph Brabant Lewis Carroll Collection, donated to the Library in 1997 by Joseph Brabant and Nicholas Maes, is one of the finest private collections on Carroll and is the largest and most valuable single-author collection in the Fisher Library.
Margaret Atwood Juvenilia
The Margaret Atwood Papers offer a glimpse into Atwood's early writing: it includes books, most of which she bound and hand stitched herself, she did when she was a youngster. The collection also contains books by her brother.
Marshall McLuhan
Compromised of more than 6,000 volumes, the library was used heavily by McLuhan in the writing of his most famous works, including Understanding Media, The Gutenberg Galaxy and The Medium is the Massage. A majority of the books bear McLuhan’s annotations and more than half of them contained material - including notes, manuscripts, and correspondence - laid into the books by McLuhan.
Philip Miller and The Gardeners Dictionary
Philip Miller's 18th century masterpiece The Gardeners Dictionary reached an enormous audience. It was said to have laid the foundation of horticultural taste and knowledge in Europe.
Rene Descartes and the Excellent compendium of musick
One of the scarcest books by philosopher Rene Descartes is his Renatus Descartes excellent compendium of musick. It's among the earliest attempts to define the relationship between the physical and psychological in music.
Ronald Bryden and Tom Stoppard
Ronald Bryden's is often credited with "discovering" the young playwright, Tom Stoppard when he wrote a glowing review of the 1966 world premiere performance Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.
Emblems from a book from the Sidney Fisher Collections
The Sidney Thomson Fisher collection contains some of the Thomas Fisher Library’s most prized possessions, including the first four folios of Shakespeare’s Works (1623, 1632, 1664 and 1685) and a rich collection of Wenceslaus Hollar’s famous engravings.
South African Travel Books collection
This superb collection of books and pamphlets on South Africa is unrivalled in Canada and will enhance the Fisher Library’s rapidly expanding holdings of travel literature.
Image from La Farsa
La Farsa was a weekly literary magazine devoted to publishing the most popular plays represented in Spanish theatres in the years prior to the Spanish Civil War. It's a fine example of the Fisher’s collection of Spanish plays raging from 1842 to 1942.
Szyk Haggadah
The magnificent facsimile of the Szyk Haggadah, sumptuously illuminated by the renowned Polish-born artist Arthur Szyk in the 1930s, is a masterpiece of book production.
Ted Hughes and the Small Press
The Fisher has a virtually complete collection of limited, signed works by British poet Ted Hughes, published in the 1970s and early 1980s by two presses he established: the Rainbow Press and the Morrigu Press.