Special Collections and Rare Books

Special Collections includes more than 13,000 books and other publications, which are catalogued in Omni. These materials cannot be checked out, but can be consulted in the Archives’ Northway Reading Room.  

Collection strengths include early Canadiana, Canadian literature, material by and about Indigenous peoples, the Arctic, early exploration, literary works, camping, Trent University, and local history. Items are acquired for Special Collections according to the provisions in the Special Collections Guidelines.

Named Collections 

In addition to its large collection of rare and important books, Special Collections includes several named collections: 

  • Camping Book Collection: Books related to all aspects of camps, especially camps for children and youth, as well as the camping movement. 
  • Floyd S. Chalmers Collection of Canadian Explorations: Includes books on the Arctic and rare books by early explorers of North America. 
  • George M. Douglas Arctic Collection: Books on the North donated in 1963 by George Douglas, mining engineer and explorer of the Coppermine River. 
  • Charles E. Feinberg Collection: Over 100 monographs by and about Walt Whitman as well as dozens of pamphlets and offprints. Included are many editions of Whitman's Leaves of Grass as well as some photographs of Whitman.  A small number of novels by Mark Twain are also in the collection.  On permanent loan from the Peterborough Public Library. 
  • Holm Collection of Children's Books: Donated in 1982; British and American children's books published between 1850 and 1920; 300 volumes. 
  • Robert L. Hunter Collection of Canadiana: 558 monographs related to Canada and 71 maps - generally drawn in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and depicting North America and Canada. 
  • Margaret Laurence Collection: Books from the personal library of Margaret Laurence. A bibliography is listed below. 
  • Ernest Thompson Seton Collection: All books, in several editions, written by Ernest Thompson Seton as well as dozens of other books from Seton's personal library. Acquired from his daughter Dee Seton. 
  • A.J.M. Smith Collection of Canadian Poetry and Literature: Canadian literary collection from the library of the poet and anthologist, Arthur James Marshall Smith. Shelved in the Smith Conference Room of the Thomas J. Bata Library and retrieved by archives staff for use in the Reading Room. 
  • Trent Collection: Books written about the Peterborough and Trent Valley areas or written by Peterborough-area authors;  includes books by Trent faculty and alumni. 

Special Collections Bibliographies 

Librarian Janice Millard created a number of subject bibliographies. 

  • Polar and Arctic Books Bibliography: The special collections holdings are very strong in books about the North and Northern exploration. Many are rare and some may be unique. This bibliography serves as an excellent resource which brings together all the special collections items relating to the North.  
  • A guide to selected Northern archival resources connects our archival holdings to this book collection. You can also browse descriptions of archival records related to Northern Studies in the archives database. 
  • Bibliography of Canadian Literature: The Trent Library has significant holdings of Canadian literature; many items are located in Special Collections. This bibliography includes books in the Robertson Davies Collection which were donated by Dr. Hugh Anson-Cartwright. Many are autographed and rare editions of Davies books, and copies of Davies books dedicated by him to personal friends and acquaintances; they complement the Davies letters and photographs located in the archival holdings. We also focus on private press editions of poetry; our substantial collection of Ryerson Chap Book Series books is listed in the bibliography. 
  • Bibliography of Local and Regional Published Material: Those interested in researching the Peterborough and Trent Valley areas will find this bibliography useful. These materials are all located in Special Collections and complement the archival holdings. 
  • Bibliography of the Margaret Laurence Collection of Books 

Other Resources and Services 

Theses and Dissertations

In Print

  • Graduate theses and dissertations: The Archives holds paper copies of Masters and PhD theses and dissertations, up to 2019. 
  • Undergraduate honours theses: Trent University Honours theses are available only in hard copy in the Archives Reading Room and catalogued in Omni


  • Graduate theses and dissertations (2013-present) are available online in Digital Collections.

More guidance on locating theses and dissertations 

Inter-Library Loans 

Books requested via the Inter-Library Loan system, which have been provided by lending libraries under special conditions, are made available in the Archives Reading Room. 

Digitized Rare Books 

  • Many of the books in the Special Collections are available digitally on sites like the Internet Archive
  • A selection of rare books is available online through The Rare Book Room