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The Rare Book Collection

Scope of the Collection and access

The mandate of the Library's Rare Book Collection is to collect all Canadiana printed before 1868 and rare works printed after 1868. Canadiana is defined as works printed in Canada or printed outside of Canada but concerning Canada, written or illustrated by Canadians.

The National Library's Rare Book Collection is strong in:

  • pre-1800 Canadian printing (one of the largest collections in Canada with over 300 items)
  • early exploration of New France
  • John Law and la Compagnie des Indes
  • Arctic exploration including the search for the Northwest Passage
  • Canadian 19th century plate books
  • Canadian broadsides
  • pre-Confederation Canadian government documents
  • 17th-19th century French and British government publications relating to Canada
  • Native language imprints to 1950
  • Canadian Livres d'artistes
  • primary sources on major Canadian historical events such as the Seven Years War, the War of 1812, the Lower and Upper Canada Rebellions, the Riel Rebellion
  • trade catalogues
  • the Simmins Paperback Collection
  • the The Ronald I. Cohen Lucy Maud Montgomery Collection

The Rare Book Collection also contains some important non-Canadiana such as European incunabula, early printed books, literary first editions, 19th century illustrated books on Natural History, Geography and other subjects.

Bibliographic records for all of the materials listed above are accessible in the National Library of Canada's on-line catalogue, Amicus.

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