On this page
- 2022 exhibits: Depicting Dante; Writing Canadian Women (Write) Out of the Archive
- 2021 exhibits: Early writing materials and technologies; Henry James
- 2020 exhibits: BC fine and private presses; fairy tales and fables
- 2019 exhibits: Venetian Renaissance illustration
- 2018 exhibits: Women of Wordsworth
- 2017 exhibits: "Allied Arts' Affirmative;" modern first editions; Canada 150; student-curated exhibits; Alcuin Society awards
- 2016 exhibits: Komagata Maru documents; Wordsworth Country; Charles Olson
- 2015 exhibits: Thank you to donors; Robin Blaser; Komagata Maru; William Morris
2022 exhibits: Depicting Dante; Writing Canadian Women (Write) Out of the Archive
View Depicting Dante: The Divine Comedy in Book Art and Illustration (January to March 2022)
About the exhibit
Special Collections and Rare Books is pleased to feature an exhibition of art and book illustrations inspired by Dante's The Divine Comedy, in commemoration of the 700th anniversary of Dante’s death.
2021 exhibits: Early writing materials and technologies; Henry James
Visit the Special Collections exhibit: Dutton Collection of Early Writing Materials and Technologies (September to October 2021)
This exhibit features items from the collection of emeritus faculty member Paul Dutton. The collection reflects Paul’s interest with the materiality of writing systems; this provides some important context to our book history holdings.
Visit the Special Collections exhibit: Dr. Paul Delany Donation of Works by Henry James (November to December 2021)
About the exhibit
Special Collections and Rare Books is pleased to have recently acquired a collection of 55 first and early editions of books by the American-British writer Henry James (1843-1916).
Visit the Special Collections exhibit: Wood Engravings as An Art of Book Illustrating (November 2021–February 2022)
About the exhibit
This exhibit features a selection of books decorated with wood engraving techniques. The exhibit traces the revival of the engraving as an artful technique of book illustrating in the nineteenth century after it faded away in the sixteenth century.
The renewed interest in this technique was promoted by Thomas Bewick and William Blake and many followed, including many women artists.This type of artful illustration lost its popularity again in the twentieth century, largely replaced by photography. The wood engraving method was picked up once more in the twenty-first century by the small press establishments that refined wood-engraving methods resulting in an exquisite art form.
What's on display
The exhibit includes:
- Wood engraving history including William Blake’s attempt at creating such illustrations
- Wood engraving methods - presenting a contemporary example of wood-engraving process of Venus and Adonis by Andy English
- Wood engraving illustrations by naturalist Thomas Bewick
- Women engravers including Clare Leighton, Gwendolen Reverat, and Agnes Miller Parker
- Modern engraving by small presses featuring B.C.'s own Barbarian Press
- Evolution of woodcut to linocut illustrations featuring Jim Rimmer’s linocut blocks used in illustrating of Shadow river: the selected and illustrated poems of Pauline Johnson.
2020 exhibits: BC fine and private presses; fairy tales and fables
Visit the Special Collections exhibit: A Decade in British Columbia — Fine and Private Presses (January to February 2020)
We are displaying a small sample of our Book Publishing and Book Arts collections, including monographs and ephemera created by fine and private presses in British Columbia throughout the 2010s, with an emphasis on on book design, typography, illustrations, covers, paper making, and paper choices.
Featuring the work of many talented designers, printers, photographers, papermakers, bookbinders, and artists over the last decade, this exhibit highlights the attention to detail and collaboration required to create these limited editions. After the exhibit, readers may consult these titles in the Special Collections and Rare Books reading room (Room 7100).
What's on display
The exhibit includes a selection of limited edition books and ephemera, featuring fine press catalogues, prospectuses, invitations, and more, including:
- Lead, tin & antimony: specimens of metal type held in cases or cast fresh at the Greenboathouse Press, a showcase monograph for rare and freshly-cast types, and A selection from the meditations of Marcus Aurelius, sort of, by Jason Dewinetz (Greenboathouse Press).
- Cutting paper and Around the world in colour : a multi-hued tour of rocks & bugs, by Claudia Cohen & Barbara Hodgson (Heavenly Monkey)
- Atlantic Canada : contagiously mournful / photography and BASH poetry, and Conjoin : to come together to form a single unit (Merriam-Webster), by Charles Mayrs (Black Stone Press)
- How it goes : a convocation address, by Robert Bringhurst, Richard Wagener : a dialogue with wood engraving, and Between rainfalls, by Tim Bowling (Barbarian Press).
View the Fairy Tales and Fables Exhibit (January to February 2020)
This exhibit features a selection of fairy tales and fables mostly published in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, with stylish illustrations and eye-catching covers to capture readers' interest. After the exhibit, readers may consult these titles in the Special Collections and Rare Books reading room (Room 7100).
2019 exhibits: Venetian Renaissance illustration
Saints, Sinners and Souvenirs in Venetian Renaissance Illustration (September to November 2019)
Currently on display at SFU Library Special Collections and Rare Books is "Saints, Sinners and Souvenirs in Venetian Renaissance Illustration,” an exhibition showcasing highlights from SFU Library’s Wosk-McDonald Aldine Collection. The exhibition, curated by Ralph Stanton, former Head of Special Collections and Rare Books at SFU, is a themed collaboration with the Burnaby Art Gallery. The BAG’s exhibition, entitled "Saints, Sinners and Souvenirs: Italian Master Prints and Drawings from Western Canada", features Italian Master prints and drawings from Vancouver-area public and private collections. The exhibitions run until November 17. A catalogue featuring essays by Ralph Stanton, guest curator Dr. Hilary Letwin and Dr. Julian Brooks is available.
In his essay published in Festina Lente: A Celebration of the Wosk-McDonald Aldine Collection at Simon Fraser University (1996), Dr. Yosef Wosk noted that, “Gutenberg may have developed mass production moveable type for the Western printing press, but Aldus developed the moveable book.” Thanks to the interest of Publishing@SFU and the skill of the Library’s Digitization Centre, more than 40 titles from the Wosk-McDonald Collection have been digitized. These titles can be consulted from the Library’s digitized collections as well as from a prototype interpretative website. We’d like to think that Aldus himself would approve of such innovative efforts to make his editions more portable to every kind of reader.
SFU Library is grateful to the University of Manitoba Archives and Special Collections for a loan of Hypnerotomachia Poliphili for this exhibition. We are grateful to the authors Ralph Stanton, Dr. Hilary Letwin, and Dr. Julian Brooks whose words provide the foundation for these collaborative exhibitions. We also acknowledge the continued generosity of donors, especially Jerry, Daniel, David, and Kini McDonald and Ralph Stanton and Dr. Sabine Mabardi who recently enabled us to purchase more Aldines to enhance our already magnificent collection.
2018 exhibits: Women of Wordsworth
View the new "Women of the Wordsworth Collection" exhibit (August 2018)
Special Collections and Rare Books is pleased to announce a new exhibit on the "Women of the Wordsworth Collection" curated by Kate Moffatt, an MA student in the Department of English. Located on the third floor of the W.A.C. Bennett Library until August 31, 2018, the exhibit was developed through in-depth research and analysis of the Library's William Wordsworth Collection undertaken by Moffatt during a Directed Study in Special Collections and Rare Books.
The women in the collection are all related to Wordsworth in some form or another: they are contemporaries from the period, such as Ann Radcliffe; authors of the Lake District, such as Harriet Martineau; or related to Wordsworth himself, as is the case with Dorothy and Dora Wordsworth. But each of these women – along with the others in this exhibit: Helen Maria Williams, Elizabeth Lynn Linton, and Marguerite Gardiner, Countess of Blessington – carry value beyond their reflection of, or relation to, Wordsworth and his works.
Dorothy Wordsworth’s observations of nature in her posthumously published journals compare to (and occasionally inspired) Wordsworth’s; Dora Wordsworth, Helen Maria Williams, and Ann Radcliffe wrote and published journals of their travels through various parts of Europe; the Countess of Blessington published extensively, both travel narratives and novels, as a means of income; and Elizabeth Lynn Linton and Harriet Martineau, both female journalists at various points in their careers, wrote works describing the walking tours of the Lake District and its mountains. Their talents as varied as their lives, these women make up only a small portion of the women writers in the Wordsworth Collection.
This exhibit hopes to introduce you to who these particular women were and prompt, perhaps, a curiosity about the many other accomplished women in both the Collection and the period.
Reflections of the Curator
"Working with the Wordsworth Collection to create this exhibit has been a bit of a dream - I've been studying Dorothy Wordsworth since my undergrad, and women's authorship has always been a focus of mine. There are more than 70 works by women in the Wordsworth Collection, despite its focus on the Romantic poet William Wordsworth, and this exhibit allowed me to really showcase a few of them. It's been a neat experience, working in Special Collections - there's something very magical about touching and working with physical copies of texts that existed when your favourite authors did." -- Kate Moffatt
2017 exhibits: "Allied Arts' Affirmative;" modern first editions; Canada 150; student-curated exhibits; Alcuin Society awards
Visit the "Robert R. Reid: ‘Allied Arts’ Affirmative" Exhibition (January to March 2017)
Special Collections and Rare Books is pleased to announce the following exhibition produced by the CAUSA Research Curators, and located on the 3rd floor and 7th floor of the W.A.C. Bennett Library (SFU Burnaby).
A fifth generation Canadian (b.1927), Robert R. Reid, at age fourteen, taught himself to operate a ‘hand press’ –so as to channel his absorbing interest in the practicalities of letterpress printing.
His subsequent association with architects, landscape designers, poets, graphic artists (and editors for magazines and journals) has become emblematic of a post-WWII ‘Allied Arts’ Movement in Canada.
In 1949, in an introduction to the first ‘artisanal’ private press book printed in Canada -- his redesigned edition of Alfred Waddington’s The Fraser Mines Vindicated (1858) -- Reid remarks: “Fine books have literary value … but it is their value as works of art which distinguishes them from other books.” In 1962, he became the first ‘design practitioner’ to be awarded a Canada Council Visual Arts Award.
Having taught printing and graphic design at the Vancouver School of Art [now Emily Carr University of Art and Design], from 1957 to 1962, Reid moved to Montreal. He functioned, there, as Director of Design and Production for McGill University Press. Subsequently, before returning to Vancouver in 1997, he remained active as a freelance designer in New Haven and New York City,
Robert R. Reid’s current practice sustains a digital-experimental typographer’s teleportation presence –and a mindful/regenerative global village aesthetic. In that regard, the present exhibition presents an assemblage of documents generated between 1949 and 2017. Components of the present exhibition will be intermittently replaced (and/or rearranged), in order to maximize the scope of an exploratory curatorial initiative.
About the curators
Developing from affiliations with the Free International University for Creativity and Interdisciplinary Research (as initiated by Joseph Beuys and Heinrich Böll), CAUSA – Collective for Advanced and Unified Studies in the Visual Arts – aims to develop autonomous scholarly analysis and interpretation of visual culture (including problems of intelligibility) within specific historical contexts. CAUSA functions in association with a 'global village' network of independent and institutional scholars – in tandem with a pluralistic community of socially engaged contemporary artists.
Highlights of the Paul Whitney Collection of modern first editions on display (April to May 2017)
Currently on display outside Special Collections and Rare Books is a selection of recently arrived material from a major collection of modern literary first editions. The collection was donated to Simon Fraser University Library by the former City Librarian of Vancouver, Paul Whitney, a lifelong collector.
The Whitney donation consists chiefly of numerous in-depth collections of the works and various editions of leading modern British, Canadian, American and world writers, including Martin Amis, J.G. Ballard, William Boyd, William Burroughs, Peter Carey, Angela Carter, J.M. Coetzee, Mavis Gallant, B.S. Johnson, Malcolm Lowry, Cormac McCarthy, Ian McEwan, Alice Munro, Haruki Murakami, Rohinton Mistry, Michael Ondaatje, Carol Shields, William Vollmann, David Foster Wallace, and many others.
The collections are comprised of rare and valuable volumes and first editions, including signed and advance copies, as well as more common books. In addition, the donation includes a smaller number of works in translation, plus in-depth collections of several leading literary and fine presses, including McSweeney's (San Francisco), Gaspereau (Nova Scotia), and Blackfish (Vancouver).
Visit the "Celebrating Canada 150: Nineteenth Century First Editions Published on and in Canada" exhibit (May to June 2017)
Exploration, the fur trade, the railway… All well-known components of Canada’s history in becoming a nation. This exhibit, by SFU MA Candidate in English Reese Irwin, reflects this past in first edition books published either in Canada, America, or Britain, and showcases a nation on either side of confederation during the nineteenth century. The books date fairly evenly from either side of 1867, with eleven titles pre-confederation and ten after.
All books but two are from the Canadian History Collection within Special Collections, and showcase a range of genres, from fictional narratives to travel writing to railway reports. The publication of these titles in Canada, as well as in Britain and America, demonstrate an increasing interest in Canada, particularly Vancouver Island and British Columbia, as colonies and as places of potential emigration. With this exhibit, Irwin has tried to capture that expansion and how the world envisioned our northern nation in the midst of its formation.
This exhibit was created as part of a Directed Studies in Special Collections and Rare Books course offered through the Department of English.
Visit Special Collections and Rare Books exhibits curated by English 377 (June to August 2017)
Special Collections and Rare Books (SCRB) is pleased to announce two new exhibits curated by English 377 Field School I students (Instructor Michelle Levy) and on display on the third floor of the W.A.C. Bennett Library. Each exhibit focuses on a distinct selection of rare books held by SCRB.
The British Imposition: Eighteenth-Century Exploration Narratives on North American Indigenous Women
Curators: Bernice Puzon, Courtenay Connor, Hannah Guse, Kate Moffatt, Maggie McKoen, Vicky Chio, Zakkiyya Khan for English 377
Poverty in Poetry and Print: Contact between social classes in Romantic era England
Curators: "ENGL 377: The Wordsworth Circle": Grace Chen, Joshua Graham, Gurleen Grewal, Nick McLeod, Tanya Taneva, Joanne Xiao, Carina Yuen
View the 2016 Winners of the Alcuin Society Awards for Excellence in Book Design in Canada (July to August 2017)
Since 1981, the Alcuin Society has sponsored the oldest competition recognizing fine book design in the country, the Alcuin Society Awards for Excellence in Book Design in Canada. Every year, The Alcuin Society generously donates a selection of the annual award winners to SFU Library’s Special Collections & Rare Books Division. The Alcuin Society Collection is part of our larger Book History Collection. On display is a selection of award winners from the following categories:
- Prose Illustrated
2016 exhibits: Komagata Maru documents; Wordsworth Country; Charles Olson
Komagata Maru documents on display in Special Collections (May 2016)
In 2014, nearly 100 years after the Komagata Maru incident, Mr. Amarjit Singh Brar and his family donated to Simon Fraser University Library, Special Collections and Rare Books a suitcase full of his father’s documents, scrapbooks, diaries, photographs and other unique items chronicling the history of South Asians in Vancouver from the time of the Komagata Maru. Arjan Singh Brar originally came to Canada in 1926. An active member of the pioneer South Asian Canadian community, he held numerous roles with the Khalsa Diwan Society at Vancouver’s first Sikh Temple located at 1866 West Second Avenue, and was at the centre of the religious, political, economic and social life of the community.
The Arjan Singh Brar Collection contains many original records documenting the Komagata Maru incident from the local South Asian community and others' perspectives, several of which will be on display at Special Collections from May 16 to May 18. These include:
- Arjan Singh Brar’s diary. Started in the 1920’s, it documents the history of the community beginning in 1904 and ending in 1947. A significant highlight of the diary is its account of the Komagata Maru episode from a South Asian perspective – recorded chronologically is the community’s response to the ship’s arrival, including the activities of the Shore Committee, and events leading to the ship’s eventual departure
- An alternate version of the official Komagata Maru passenger list, written in Punjabi
- Letters from J. Edward Bird, the attorney for the Komagata Maru passengers, to the Khalsa Diwan Society of Vancouver concerning Bird’s correspondence with Gurdit Singh and his son Balwant Singh
- Scrapbooks filled with newspaper clippings documenting early South Asian history in Vancouver, in particular the Komagata Maru incident
To learn more about the Komagata Maru incident and to view related material visit the SFU Library's website Komagata Maru: Continuing the Journey.
Visit the "Wordsworth Country: The English Lake District and the Pacific Northwest" Exhibition (June to October 2016)
This joint exhibition with the Wordsworth Trust celebrates the 50th Anniversary of Simon Fraser University and is inspired by the Lake District as a renowned cultural heritage site and popular tourist destination.
Curated by Dr. Margaret Linley and her team, the exhibition explores the enduring impact of the life and writings of William Wordsworth on the Canadian Pacific Northwest’s literary and visual responses to nature. It showcases a range of Lake District travel writing, poetry and rare postcards from SFU Library’s Special Collections.
Comparisons between the Lake District and British Columbia landscapes reveal how the remarkable influence of ideas that would eventually be associated with Wordsworth Country travelled the globe. In particular, we explore Wordsworth’s call to preserve and sustain what we now call “green space” for all to enjoy.
The exhibition is located at the W.A.C. Bennett Library -- on the 3rd floor and in Special Collections & Rare Books, Room 7100. An online version of this exhibition is also available on the Lake District Online website, a bibliographic database and digital archives aimed at studying book ecology and migrating collections in a global context.
View a selection of volumes from the Ralph Maud Collection of Charles Olson's books in Special Collections (November to December 2016)
In preparation for this book and subsequently spurred on by it Maud began to reconstruct and replicate Olson's library, the original of which is with the poet's archive at the University of Connecticut. Over time the 'Ralph Maud Collection of Charles Olson's Books' grew to more than 4,000 volumes, quite a few of them including Olson's annotations, which Maud painstakingly copied from the originals into the 'replica' books.
Although the collection was largely comprised of copies it also included a number of 'originals', i.e. books that the poet had in fact owned and in many cases signed, inscribed, annotated, jotted notes in, and in at least one case outlined one of his books in. Maud donated his Olson 'originals' to Bennett Library's Special Collections & Rare Books Division over the past decade, while the larger 'replica' library is now housed in the poet's hometown of Gloucester, MA by the local writer's center.
Recently the SFU volumes have been catalogued and placed in the Library's Contemporary Literature Collection, a large special collection of modern English-language avant-garde poetry with Olson at its center that Dr. Maud himself founded upon his arrival at SFU. The display will be featured until December 23.
2015 exhibits: Thank you to donors; Robin Blaser; Komagata Maru; William Morris
Special Collections and Rare Books thanks donors (July to August 2015)
Every year Special Collections and Rare Books received donations of books and manuscripts. These donations help the University support its missions of research and teaching, and the donated items can be securely housed as a valuable legacy for future scholars.
Special Collections and Rare Books thanks our donors for entrusting us with their donations. Thank you very much!
A selection of the donations received in the past year is currently on display in the Special Collections and Rare Books cases on the third floor of the W.A.C. Bennett Library, SFU Burnaby.
Shown is one of the images on display, taken from the Pacific Tribune Photograph Collection.
Visit the Robin Blaser display and learn about this captivating poet, editor, and essayist (September to October 2015)
Former SFU professor Robin Blaser (1925-2009) came north to Vancouver from San Francisco in 1966 to join the newly established SFU English Dept. He taught at the university for two decades, during which time he proved a charismatic and inspiring teacher, as well as a practicing poet, editor and essayist with a steadily rising international reputation.
As part of the 50th Anniversary celebration Bennett Library's Special Collections & Rare Books Division has mounted a display on Blaser's life and work. Materials are drawn from the extensive Blaser archive, housed in the Contemporary Literature Collection of Special Collections and Rare Books.
Visit the exhibit: Komagata Maru & beyond: A cultural history of Indo-Canadians (September to October 2015)
Robert Coupe Collection of works by and about William Morris (December 2015)
In November 2015, the SFU Library recognized the generous donation by Dr. Robert and Rosemary Coupe of an extensive and significant collection of rare books, pamphlets and other items by and about William Morris.
Collector Dr. Robert L. M. Coupe
Inspired by Philip Henderson’s biography of William Morris in the early 1970s, Dr. Robert Coupe purchased his first Morris book -- a new edition of Cupid and Psyche -- approximately forty years ago. Over the intervening decades, he visited book fairs and rare book shops, acquired the services of book dealers locally and internationally and, eventually, used the internet to build up an extraordinary and comprehensive collection of well over 1,000 items either by or relating to William Morris.
Dr. Coupe’s interest in the illustrated editions of Morris’ work led him to write his own book Illustrated Editions of the Works of William Morris in English published by the Oak Knoll Press and British Library in 2002. A second edition was published in 2011.
Dr. Coupe's collection represents the diverse range of William Morris' activities as a writer, typographer, and socialist activist. Some of the highlights of the collection include:
- An extensive collection of volumes published by Morris' Kelmscott Press, including multiple editions of some of the works
- Rare pamphlets and books relating to Morris' socialist activities
- Copies of Morris' Icelandic saga translations