Through the Revolving Door: The Fisher Library Blog

Bookplate by Alexander Scott Carter
Date posted: Thu August 13, 2020

In 2015, the Fisher purchased a large collection of drawings and sketches by Alexander Scott Carter (1881-1968), documenting over eighty projects designed by him from 1920 to 1960, including bookplates that Carter designed for Toronto patrons. Most people have noticed bookplates in volumes owned by libraries or other institutions: they’re labels pasted, usually inside a book’s upper cover, to indicate ownership. Almost as long as books have... Read more

The cover of this edition of Anne of Green Gables.
Date posted: Mon August 10, 2020

Every Monday we take a close look at one of the thousands of Fisher items available, for free, on the Internet Archive. This week Samantha takes a look at a true Canadian classic: Anne of Green Gables.

... Read more
Busy streetscape in Rio de Janeiro, with view of hotel
Date posted: Thu August 6, 2020

Over 100 twentieth-century photographs of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil mounted in this manuscript album (MSS 04075) housed at the Fisher Library, have recently been digitized and made available in our latest Flickr album. The manuscript album is bound in wooden covers, with pictorial marquetry of Rio de Janeiro’s Guanabara Bay depicted... Read more

Cover page of Pitman's Shorthand Instructor
Date posted: Fri July 31, 2020

Every Monday (even holiday Mondays!) we like to feature a text from the Fisher's extensive holdings on the Internet Archive. This week, Samantha takes a look at Pitman shorthand, a surprisingly popular method for making writing that much faster.

As we enter what feels like week one thousand of quarantine measures, you may be getting bored. Perhaps... Read more

Image from a New Song
Date posted: Fri July 31, 2020

We're fortunate at the Fisher that for many years we have been able to draw upon the student talent of the university's iSchool. In fact, many of the full-time staff that currently work at the Fisher started out as student employees, and we've seen many others who have come through our workroom move on and establish careers at other institutions. It's always sad, however, when we have to say goodbye to one of our students. Megan Fox, who... Read more

Title page of "Cycling!"
Date posted: Mon July 27, 2020

Every Monday we take a dive into the Fisher's holdings on the Internet Archive, all of which are available for free access. This week, Samantha takes a look at a book all about a favourite Torontonian activity: cycling.

If you take a walk through any major Canadian city, you are sure to encounter a good number of bicycles. For every bicycle there... Read more

Photograph of Caroline Louisa Lock
Date posted: Wed July 22, 2020

Each year the library puts out an issue of The Halcyon: The Newsletter of the Friends of The Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library (the most recent issue was released a couple of weeks ago) dedicated to items and collections purchased by the library in... Read more

Title page of Guilietta e Romeo
Date posted: Sun July 19, 2020

Every Monday we feature an Internet Archive Book of the Week, which highlights an item from the ~25,000 Fisher items that are freely available on the Internet Archive. This week, Samantha Summers takes a look at Italian libretti and the classic tale of Romeo and Juliet.

Have you ever been to a ballet and not been entirely sure what is taking place... Read more

Date posted: Wed July 15, 2020

A flock of watercolour-painted hummingbirds, roosters, grouse, pheasants and various waterfowl can be found in this discrete untitled manuscript album, housed at the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library (call no. MSS 01024). The album contains 42 watercolour portraits, each painted on a small card and mounted two... Read more

Page 65 (the title page) of this issue of Death Warrant
Date posted: Tue July 14, 2020

Every Monday, we feature an Internet Archive Book of the Week, which will highlight an item from the 25,000 or so Fisher items that are freely available on the Internet Archive. This week, Samantha Summers takes a look at the Victorian era's fascination with death and darkness. 

Have you ever heard the term “penny dreadful”? Penny dreadfuls are... Read more

Title page for Inquiry Into the Variolae Vaccinae Known as the Cow Pox
Date posted: Thu July 9, 2020

Nearly three months into the global COVID-19 crisis, epidemiologists and medical researchers continue to debate when a successful coronavirus vaccine might be developed and to what extent it will help quell the pandemic. Of concern are the several factors that are as yet unknown, including how long the virus incubates, exactly how contagious it is, and, importantly, whether or not being exposed to the virus creates permanent immunity. Oxford... Read more

Cover of Hamilton the Electric City
Date posted: Mon July 6, 2020

Every Monday, we feature an Internet Archive Book of the Week, which will highlight an item from the 25,000 or so Fisher items that are freely available on the Internet Archive. This week, Samantha Summers takes a look at the city of Hamilton. 

It is an ill-kept secret that many Torontonians are fleeing the city for Hamilton, choosing to move to... Read more

The Body Politic cover
Date posted: Fri June 26, 2020

The last few weeks, our constant companions have not only been virus and contagion but protest as well. Around the world, people have been expressing their indignation openly and freely in reaction to the injustices they have seen committed, particularly against members of the black and indigenous communities. In so doing, they are exercising one of the most fundamental of their democratic rights, that of freedom of expression, both in person... Read more

cover from 41 Maricones
Date posted: Fri June 26, 2020

On 17 November 1901, police raided a crossdressing ball in Mexico City and arrested a group of 41 men, half of whom were dressed as women. The initial reports of el Baile de los 41 quickly introduced Mexican readers of the time to the "sordid" lives of homosexuals, and instantly sparked the first major social and political scandal to openly confront the subject of homosexuality in modern Latin America. The men were publicly... Read more

Page from Brahe's book about supernovas
Date posted: Mon June 22, 2020

Every Monday, we feature an Internet Archive Book of the Week, which will highlight an item from the 25,000 or so Fisher items that are freely available on the Internet Archive. This week, Megan Fox looks up toward the sky. 

The Fisher has wonderfully rich collections on the history of science, and some of the stars of these holdings have been digitized and are now... Read more

Cover of Mazepa
Date posted: Thu June 18, 2020

In 1819, a prominent English poet of the Romantic period Lord George Byron (1788-1824) wrote a narrative poem about a Ukrainian historical figure Ivan Mazepa (1639-1709), who was little known to Western Europeans at the time. Over the course of the nineteenth century, Byron’s poem Mazeppaof which the Fisher library holds the ... Read more

Date posted: Mon June 15, 2020

Every Monday, we feature an Internet Archive Book of the Week, which will highlight an item from the 25,000 or so Fisher items that are freely available on the Internet Archive. This week, Samantha Summers picks up a Toronto newspaper from over 100 years ago.

The Toronto World, which was published daily between 1820 and 1921, was a famous Toronto newspaper. By... Read more

Date posted: Fri June 12, 2020

The infamous outbreak of plague known as the Black Death, which swept through Europe from 1347 to 1351, was just the first in a series of such outbreaks that lasted until the 19th century. Taken together, this series is known as the second plague pandemic. But if this was the second, what was the first?

The first plague pandemic began nearly a thousand years before the second with the Plague of Justinian, which struck in 541-549. It is... Read more

Date posted: Mon June 8, 2020

Every Monday, we feature an Internet Archive Book of the Week, which will highlight an item from the 25,000 or so Fisher items that are freely available on the Internet Archive. This week, Samantha Summers takes us to Italy

Having spent a few weeks in quarantine and largely confined to our homes, it is only natural that we might become preoccupied with thoughts of... Read more

Date posted: Fri June 5, 2020

Towards the end of the last century, during the few brief years that I spent teaching high school history, nothing heralded the long-awaited coming of summer vacation for me more than the annual erasing of the textbooks. On one glorious June day every year, students would sit in my class, pencil and ink erasers in hand, going page by page, removing (as far as possible) any annotations that they had made before returning the books to me... Read more

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