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Canadian Studies: The Collection

The Yale Canadian collection, believed to be among the two or three best in the United States, owes much of its early growth to William Inglis Morse. A Nova Scotian and historian of the Maritime Provinces, Dr. Morse donated to Yale substantial collections of scarce books and maps centering on his native province. In 1946, he endowed a fund for the purchase of Canadian materials for Yale libraries, which annually supplements the much larger amount the library spends on the subject from general appropriations.

Building on Morse's foundations, the library has broadened his intent to include all of Canada, developing rich and useful resources in a number of libraries and collections. The largest collection is located in the stacks of Sterling Memorial Library. They hold an estimated 30,000 books in Canadian history, with special strengths in the history of the Maritime Provinces and Quebec, the study of Native Americans, local histories and the studies of the many ethnic groups so important to the Canadian mosaic. Though smaller, Sterling's Canadian literature collections, both English and French, are very strong and inclusive, with unusual holdings of small press publications, modern poetry and fiction, and French Canadian literature. Newspapers constitute another strength; several major papers are received on current subscriptions, others come in on microfilm, and there are also historical backfiles on film. A group of lesser-known newspapers includes several published by blacks who fled to freedom in Canada from the United States. About 250 Canadian periodicals are received in the Periodical Reading Room, with several hundred more housed in Sterling's stacks. The library has also acquired the Papers of the St. Louis Fur Trade, 1752-1925, a microfilm collection with great relevance to Canadian history.

Other troves of Canadiana in specialized Sterling collections and in other libraries of the Yale system provide resources for students with many different interests. The Map Collection houses manuscript and printed maps ranging from the eighteenth century to the most recent publications of the National Topographic System. Manuscripts and Archives houses two manuscript collections focused directly on Canada -- the papers of Sir Wilfred Grenfell and those of William Inglis Morse. Parts of numerous others deal with Canada tangentially, particularly in the field of twentieth-century diplomacy. Microfilm collections include extensive sets of U.S. consular dispatches for the nineteenth century and British Colonial Office records on Canada for the period 1700-1922, as well as the papers of Henri Bourassa, the politician and editor of Le Devoir, and William Lyon Mackenzie King, Prime Minister of Canada.

The Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library contains a number of early works on French Canada, eighteenth-century imprints in English on Canada, and scarce nineteenth-century items, with travelers' accounts being especially notable. At Beinecke, the Western Americana Collection is especially useful for researchers on western Canada, since the "western" definition includes territory west of the Missouri River and north to the Arctic. There are especially valuable collections on the early history of Vancouver Island and British Columbia, with special strength in guidebooks and personal accounts of the gold strikes of the Fraser River and the Cariboo. There are also more than 400 volumes on the search for the northwest passage (with manuscript and cartographic materials of importance), on the fur trade, and on the Hudson's Bay Company.

For research with a more modern focus the Library receives both provincial and, at the Government Documents Center at the Mudd Library, federal Canadian government publications. Some 1,000 items were received in the past year as part of the Library's "partial depository" relationship with the Canadian government, and an increasing number appear on the Internet. The documents include complete parliamentary proceedings and publications, statistical publications and those of executive departments, with a generous sampling of government publications in other fields. Other related collections exist in the Law Library (including environmental and native law) and also in the Forestry Library.

(Adapted from Susan J. Steinberg, "Canadiana in the Library," Nota Bene vol. 1 no. 1, Spring 1987, pp 2-3.)


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