Through the Revolving Door: The Fisher Library Blog

Cover of Poetry of Flowers
Date posted: Mon June 1, 2020

As a new month begins, it seems a good time to begin  a new feature on the Fisher Blog: An Internet Archive Book of the Week, which will highlight a book from the 25,000 or so Fisher items that are freely available on the Internet Archive. Our first, researched and written by one of the Fisher's TALInt students, Samantha Summers, looks at a book and a topic that is... Read more

Page from Bible of 1307
Date posted: Wed May 27, 2020

At the end of this week, Jews around the world will be celebrating the holiday of Shavuot (Pentecost; literally: “weeks”). While in the Hebrew Bible Shavuot is primarily an agricultural holiday, marking the wheat harvest, Jewish tradition has come to identify its date (6 Sivan) as the day on which the Torah (the Pentateuch) was given to the Israelites on Mount Sinai (a date that is not specified in the Bible). Consequently, this holiday has... Read more

Title page for The Art of Scribbling
Date posted: Wed May 20, 2020

Going over some of the catalogue records in our general collections in preparation for the switch to a different library platform is an experience not entirely unlike walking through the stacks. While I can’t see the volumes themselves, going through the catalogue by call number, rather than title or subject as we are wont to do, offers a rough equivalent to the shelves beneath the Fisher’s reading room. Record by record, rather than volume... Read more

Image from manuscript
Date posted: Thu May 14, 2020

The Fisher has an excellent, and growing, collection of medieval manuscripts in French. Recent additions include: the earliest known copy of a French translation of the Secretum secretorum (MSS 01027), one of the most widely read works of the Middle Ages; a fine, and unusually large, copy of the Roman de la rose (MSS 07012); a beautifully illuminated copy of Clément Prinsault’s introduction to heraldry, the Traité de... Read more

Painting by Max Eljowicz from Scheid Papers
Date posted: Tue May 12, 2020

Exactly forty-six years ago today, on 12 May 1974, Otto Schneid passed away in Toronto. In 1998 Schneid’s widow, Miriam, donated his archive to the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library. The initial donation of 1998 was followed by two additional, smaller, installments of materials from his archive, in 1999 and in 2001. Miriam describes her late husband’s... Read more

Romance in Precarious Times: Harlequin Medical Romances
Date posted: Mon May 11, 2020

The drama of the medical world has long captured the cultural imagination across various forms of media and entertainment. We see this popular genre perhaps most prominently on television, from Dr. Kildare in the 1960s and 1970s to Chicago Hope and ER in the 1990s and Scrubs and Grey’s Anatomy in the early 2000s [1]. These medical fictions draw in our attention as their settings are, by their very... Read more

Branfill tomb watercolour
Date posted: Thu May 7, 2020

Between 2016 and 2018, three new archival collections came across my desk that had one thing in common – the creators, nineteenth-century upper-class British men, had all been in the Royal Navy and all three were talented watercolourists. Before I became a librarian, I studied art history, and I was intrigued by this connection between the Navy and art. I turned to our library catalogue to see what our collections could teach me about... Read more

Opening page of Christine de Pizan presenting manuscript to the Dauphin Louis
Date posted: Mon May 4, 2020

By the time Christine de Pizan (1364–1430) wrote Le livre de paix (The Book of Peace), a manuscript of which the Fisher recently acquired (MSS 05041), she was approaching the end of her career as an author. She would live to see, and write about, French defeat at Agincourt and French victory at Orleans but Le livre de paix, begun in 1412 and completed in... Read more

Page from medieval manuscript
Date posted: Thu April 30, 2020

Over these last weeks many of us have been trying to find our way to the future through the past, hoping to discover lessons for this ‘new normal’ by comparing our situation to such earlier events as the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918. I have personally found myself delving even further into the mists of time, looking back to that fourteenth-century pestilence known as the ‘Black Death’ which, it is estimated, carried off somewhere between... Read more

Title page from Ha-Mesilot
Date posted: Tue April 28, 2020

One day last year, as I was working as a graduate student on the Judaica collection of the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, a box of old Hebrew and Yiddish books was brought to my attention. Apparently, it had been in the library for quite a while, as there had not been anyone to process it. Many of the books contained in the box contained owners’ signatures and inscriptions, indicating that they had belonged to one family, and they appear to... Read more

Date posted: Fri April 24, 2020

Have you found yourself doing more cooking and baking during the Coronavirus pandemic? You’re not alone! Orders to work from home have led to a surge in home baking, and many consumers are finding their local stores unable to keep up with the demand for items like sugar, flour and yeast. 

Homemakers throughout history have dealt with shortages and isolation, and some of the recipes and stories in our culinary collection reflect their... Read more

Arabic manuscript detail
Date posted: Tue April 21, 2020

Deep in the belly of the Fisher Library, there is an entire wall of shelves dedicated to Arabic manuscript materials. While many of these are uncatalogued, those that are can be found by searching for “arab mss” call numbers in the University of Toronto Libraries... Read more

Retana image
Date posted: Thu April 16, 2020

The antiquarian booksellers Simon Beattie, Justin Croft, Ben Kinmont, and Heather O’Donnell recently issued a joint catalogue, At Home with Books (9 April 2020), in an effort to share their favourite books with members of the rare book community. As I read the descriptions of the forty items, I think how this catalogue is the product of a... Read more

Martin Luther
Date posted: Tue April 14, 2020

At first glance, one might think it highly unlikely that the sixteenth and the twenty-first centuries would have much in common. The pandemic of 2020, however, has aligned our two eras in a way unimaginable, even as recently as a few months ago. An unknown virus to which no one is naturally immune? Meet the bubonic plague. Beginning in the middle of the fourteenth century somewhere in the Far East, the disease which came to be known as the ‘... Read more

Card catalogue image
Date posted: Thu April 9, 2020

As we adjust to working from home, one of the projects that we have been working on is cleaning up older catalogue records, which is leading to some interesting discoveries as well as opportunities to make these items easier for researchers to find.

Many of our earliest catalogue records actually have their origins in the physical card catalogue, which were made into digital records in the early 1990s. As a result many of these records... Read more

Bringing the Sarajevo Haggadah home to my Passover Seder
Date posted: Fri April 3, 2020

Around this time last year, I was looking back on a semester in which I developed some new research interests in Judaica materials, from exploring Hebrew letterforms at the Massey College Bibliography and Print Room to becoming totally captivated by the story of the Yiddish Book Center in Amherst,... Read more

Censorship and the Fisher image
Date posted: Tue March 31, 2020

The issues of book censorship and book banning are always paramount among librarians. The head of our department, PJ Carefoote, is one of the foremost experts on this important topic. Back in 2005, his exhibition Nihil Obstat asked visitors to imagine what their world would look like if various banned, censored and challenged books had been successfully suppressed by legitimate authorities. It is a subject he lectures on frequently. 

... Read more

Image of Fisher interior
Date posted: Mon March 30, 2020

Hello to our Fisher Library community!

We know these are difficult days for everybody. Moreover, it is tough to be closed and not providing access to our materials and our exhibition space. But we will all get through this and we will re-open as soon as it is safe to do so. We thank everybody for their patience and understanding.

In the meantime, to keep in touch with our community, we are creating this blog space. It is our... Read more