University of Toronto - Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library

120 St. George Street (University of Toronto)
Toronto, ON, M5S 1AS



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The Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library houses the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections including books, manuscripts and other materials; and the University of Toronto Archives and Records Management Services (UTARMS), which holds the official records of the University. The present building was opened in 1973. It is named in honour of Thomas Fisher (1792-1874), who came from Yorkshire to Upper Canada in 1821 and settled by the Humber River. There he operated a grist mill, and played an active role in the public life of the community. In 1973 his great- grandsons, Sidney and Charles Fisher, donated to the Library their own collections of Shakespeare, various twentieth century authors, and the etchings of the seventeenth century Bohemian artist, Wenceslaus Hollar. Since that time the Library has grown to approximately 600,000 volumes and 2500 linear metres of manuscript holdings.

The collections are many and varied, reflecting the wide diversity of research conducted at the University of Toronto by its own faculty and students, visiting scholars, and the general public. Chronologically, the range is from a 1789 B.C. Babylonian cuneiform tablet from Ur, to original drafts and printed works of contemporary Canadian writers. Among the oldest printed books in the collection are the Concilium zu Constencz, printed in Augsburg in 1483, with hand-coloured woodcuts, four of which illustrate the martyrdom of Jan Hus; the Compost et Kalendrier des bergères, an almanac printed in Paris in 1499; and a copy of Johannes Balbus's Catholicon, printed in the 1460s, possibly by Johann Gutenberg.

The Fisher Library is actively involved in digitization in order to increase access to our print and manuscript collections. All of our projects provide both page images, enhanced indexing features, and the capability to conduct full text searching on the contents of the documents themselves. The Fisher digital collections were developed here at the University of Toronto in collaboration with the staff of Collection Digitization and Information Technology Services Department.
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