Archives: Special Collections

The Archives has responsibility for Special Collections and Rare Books as well as for historical manuscripts. See the Special Collections policy mandate.

The Collection currently consists of over 13,000 items and they are catalogued in Omni, the Bata Library online catalogue. These materials do not circulate but are retrieved by staff from closed stacks for consultation in the Northway Reading Room or in the Michael Treadwell Rare Books and Special Collections Room.

Special Collections: Overview

  • Camping Book Collection: Books related to all aspects camps, especially camps for children and youth, as well as the camping movement.
  • Canadiana books:. Several early funds were established to collect general books in the area of Canadian history, geography and culture for the library: Messecar, Shell, Donner, Ray, etc. Most books purchased with these endowed funds are in the stacks but some are gradually being relocated to Special Collections.
  • 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 located in the Michael Treadwell Rare Books and Special Collections Room. A bibliography of the Margaret Laurence Collection has been created by Librarian Janice Millard.
  • Ernest Thompson Seton Collection: All books, in several editions, written by Ernest Thompson Seton as well as dozens of other book 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.

Other Resources and Services

  • There are other important literary collections interspersed throughout Special Collections, including Melville and Twain editions from the library of the late Professor Gordon Roper.
  • The Archives also maintains all theses written by Trent students in the graduate programs and selected fourth-year honours programs. These items are catalogued in Omni.
  • In addition, 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.
  • A selection of rare books is available digitally through the Octavo link.
  • A few examples from Trent's Special Collections are available.
  • Finally, the digitization of older publications has been going on for many years.  Many of the books in the Special Collections are available digitally on sites like the Internet Archive.


Librarian Janice Millard has created a number of subject bibliographies which researchers will find useful:

  • The North: The holdings are very strong in books about the North and Northern exploration. Many are rare and some may be unique. The Polar and Arctic Books bibliography serves as an excellent resource which brings together all the items relating to the North. See also a link to a list of selected Northern archival resources which are related to some of these books.
  • Canadian Literature: The Trent Library has significant holdings of Canadian literature; many items are located in Special Collections. Click here to see a bibliography. The list 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.
  • Local and Regional Published Material: Those interested in researching the Peterborough and Trent Valley areas will find this bibliography of local materials useful. These materials are all located in Special Collections and complement the manuscript holdings located in the Archives.