Blog Archives

New Findings on Thomas Chatterton

This past Summer Chris Jones travelled from Scotland to spend one month in the Reading Room to investigate several rare editions from the Rare Books stacks attributed to the young poet, Thomas Chatterton (1752-1770).  Professor Jones was the recipient of …

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Fashionable Northern Tours

Summer is the perfect time for a holiday get-away. Maybe you are in the midst of looking into various guides and maps to get to your perfect destination and make the most of it. Travellers of the nineteenth century did …

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“I fear our cypher is detected”: When agony ads go awry

The “FLO. Ciphers,” sent between September 1853 and January 1854, were a lovers’ correspondence that appeared in the Agony Column of “The Times”. Identifiable only by their addressee, the correspondence was the subject of much intrigue due to the unique numeric cipher in which it was written. The cipher was broken and later intercepted by Charles Babbage, a Victorian mathematician with a knack for code breaking. The ever-witty Babbage let the correspondents onto his discovery by correcting the grammar and spelling of one of their messages. Finding themselves exposed, the lovers ended their secret correspondence in haste.

By: Ronny Litvack-Katzman, Research Assistant, ROAAr At first glance, the Agony Column appears a perfect outlet for clandestine correspondences. Throughout the 19th-century, thousands of writers across the British Empire successfully sent and received cryptic messages through popular Victorian newspapers such …

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Enduringly Paw-pular

John McCrae and his dog Bonneau

Trends in dog breed popularity come and go – but our love of dogs is here to stay. July weather brings us into the dog days of summer so we’ll take a moment to explore some canine curiosities and the …

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10 McGill Library activities to do with visitors in town for convocation

A crowd of graduates in caps and gowns seen from behind at a ceremony.

It’s that time again! After more than two years of virtual ceremonies and convocation-themed Zoom backgrounds, happy graduates and their families are back on McGill’s beautiful campuses. To celebrate, we’ve compiled a list of ten fun Library-related things to do …

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A Victorian-era funeral notice and the story behind it

Funeral notice featuring an illustration of a landscape with angels.

By Eden Autmezguine, 2nd year student, Faculty of Arts and Science and Student Project Assistant in Rare Books and Special Collections. Eden’s position is made possible thanks to funding from the SSMU Library Improvement Fund. Pictured above from the holdings …

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Caption This – Finders Keepers

girl holding a broken egg

Our thanks go to Richard Orlando, (McGill, MLS Class of 1979) for this month’s caption. This month’s post evoked some egg-cellent responses! There were so many in fact, that we ran a poll on our social accounts to choose the …

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Rebus Puzzles; A Second L👀k at Visual Riddles

Lire la version française by Jacquelyn Sundberg, Outreach and Special Projects, ROAAr, McGill Library Curiosity, As the 🌲🌲 t of all evils, 🐝ware oh  👩,  Of [temptation] the be🧙‍♀️ing  ch💪 Of curio🏢🏙️🌉🌇; Set 4 rebus cards. 1780. Rare Books and Special Collections, Sheila R. Bourke Collection …

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Hiding in Plain Sight: Fore-Edge Painting in Rare Books and Special Collections

a fanned fore-edge painting held by two thumbs

Lire la version française By Christopher Lyons, Head Librarian, Rare Books and Special Collections I love attending antiquarian book fairs. There is nothing like seeing rare books in the flesh.1 Imagine my surprise when a book dealer picked up a …

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Caption This – Head in the Clouds

woman on a chairlift

By Labiba Faiza, ROAAr, McGill Library On the occasion of International Women’s Day last month, ROAAr shared this image of a woman bravely riding a chairlift at Mount Norquay as a prompt for its Caption-This series. Community members were invited …

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