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Feb 18, 2010

A small college cannot hope to have a large library, but if it sets to work along the right lines it may aspire to the possession of a fine one… A book may be a thing of beauty, and an example of a great craft which we must not allow to die. The means of craft and the aspiration toward beauty live on in our College library.

— Robertson Davies, the Founding Master

Since its inception in 1963, the Library at Massey College has developed special collections in the History of the Book as well as supporting a working nineteenth-century hand printing shop.

The holdings of books and manuscripts include material on the history of printing,

from here.

papermaking, bookbinding, palaeography, calligraphy, type design, book collecting, and bibliography. The examples of book production range from the fifteenth century to the present, with a particular strength in nineteenth century colour printing and publishers' bookbindings represented in the Ruari McLean Collection. The collections also include the papers of Canadian graphic designer Carl Dair. In 1981, the Library was named for the Founding Master of the College, Robertson Davies, and contains editions and translations of his writings.

Marie Korey is Librarian at The Robertson Davies Library, and a scholar of the history of the book. We met recently to talk about collecting books in this field. I assumed the role of a rich (difficult) book collector (easy) with a passion for books about books (very easy) who had retained Marie with the goal of acquiring the best of the best possible books and materials related to the development of the book. Please listen here:

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p.s. Here is a list of some of the 'essential' books mentioned by Marie:

Bury, Richard de (1287-1345) Bishop of Durham, wrote “Philibiblon” which survives in many manuscript copies as well as printed editions.
 
“Dialogue” on Calligraphy and Printing in the sixteenth century, attributed to Christopher Plantin; this contains one of the earliest descriptions of typefounding. There was a facsimile done, with an English translation by Ray Nash published in 1964 under the title: Calligraphy & Printing in the sixteenthe century. Dialogue attributed to Christopher Plantin. 
 
Moxon, Joseph (1627-91), hydrographer, instrument maker, author and printer. He began publishing his “Mechanick Exercises” in monthly parts in 1677; the second volume, issued in 1683-84, was devoted to printing and type-founding. It is the first comprehensive manual on the subject in any language.
 
Bosse, Abraham. Traicté des manieres de graver en taille douce. Paris, 1645. Early manual on copperplate engraving.
 
Senefelder, Alois. A complete course of lithography. London: Printed for R. Ackerman, 1819.