Image from Wither's EmblemesThis past spring term, Rare Books and Special Collections hosted a number of classes from a wide variety of disciplines, including English, history, art history, German studies, Asian studies, and many more. We love hosting classes, as it allows us to introduce so many more students to our amazing collections. We especially love to see the results of the students’ work with our collections and the incredible insights they bring to their topics. Now we’re very happy to share some of this great student work with you!

One of the assignments for Professor Patsy Badir’s course, “Image and Text in Seventeenth Century Literature,” was an in-depth exploration of a single book from a selection of 17th-century items here at RBSC. Students were asked to research the history of the item and introduce it to a public audience online. We have a few of these student projects to share with you and hope you enjoy them. Perhaps you will be inspired to stop by RBSC to see one of the items for yourself!

First up: Aiden Tait’s exploration of George Wither’s Collection of Emblemes, Ancient and Moderne:


Many thanks to guest blogger Ashlynn Prasad for contributing the below post! Ashlynn is a graduate student at UBC’s School School of Library, Archival and Information Studies and the curator of our new exhibition of photographs from the Uno Langmann Family Collection of B.C. Photographs.

When I first began perusing the Uno Langmann Family Collection of B.C. Photographs, which is available for public viewing in Rare Books and Special Collections in the Irving K. Barber Learning Center, and digital copies of which can be found online, I approached the photographs with the awareness that many of them were between 100 and 150 years old, and I therefore began the project with the expectation of finding photographic evidence of how much British Columbian scenery and landmarks have changed in the past century, after rapid advancements in technology as well as continuing urban development.

While I did find evidence of change, I was surprised to also find that many of the landmarks closely associated with British Columbia have varied very little in appearance in the past century. I got the sense while looking through the photographs that certain images, though they were taken up to 150 years ago in some cases, could have been taken a mere few days ago. With this in mind, I designed the exhibition in the spirit of a before-and-after, except that instead of juxtaposing new images with old images, I juxtaposed turn-of-the-century images with each other, showing on the one hand images which seem dated (from a modern observer’s perspective) and on the other hand images that look quite familiar. For a more traditional before-and-after comparison, please see below for contemporary versions of the scenes depicted in the exhibition.

Something else that I tried to keep in mind during the curation of this exhibition was the audience to which the photographs would likely be exposed while on display in Ike’s Café. On a personal note, I was born in the lower mainland and spent the earlier half of my life here, before moving to the United States and spending the latter half there. Because of this, I found myself tangentially familiar with a lot of the names I encountered during the curation of the exhibition, and in some instances the scenes in the images themselves were also intimately familiar to me. However, having been away for so long, I also had to do quite a bit of Google Maps searching of place names that would likely be extremely familiar to someone who had spent their entire life here.

I tried to keep in mind that the individuals coming through the café will have varying levels of familiarity with British Columbian landmarks – some will know them well, some will be experiencing them for the first time, and many will fall somewhere in between. I tried to curate an exhibition that could appeal to people at any position on the spectrum by showcasing landmarks that are generally quite well known, and which a large majority of people – even if they’re completely new to the area – will at least have heard of, such as Stanley Park or Fraser River. This way, the exhibition is ostensibly capable of drawing an emotional response from almost anyone, whether that’s the curiosity and nostalgia of seeing a turn-of-the-century version of a place one knows very well, or whether that’s a piqued interest in a place one has never seen before. For at least some of the photographs, I hope we can all enjoy the intrigue of noticing how much has changed in the last 100 years, and perhaps even more so, how much has not.

– Ashlynn Prasad, Exhibition Curator and MAS/MLIS Candidate at the University of British Columbia


Rare Book and Special Collections at UBC Library and the Department of English is delighted to host a symposium to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Library’s acquisition of the Norman Colbeck Collection of Nineteenth Century and Edwardian Poetry and Belles Lettres.


An Unmatched Devotion: A 50th Anniversary Celebration of the Colbeck Collection at UBC Library
Wednesday, October 25, 2017
10 a.m.-4 p.m.
Dodson Room (301), Irving K. Barber Learning Centre


The Colbeck Collection, which comprises some 13,000 rare and often unique volumes – in addition to literary manuscripts and letters – is one of the world’s most comprehensive collections of Victorian and Edwardian English and Anglo-Irish literature. We’re delighted to be joined by scholars from around the globe for this fascinating discussion on Colbeck-related scholarship and research.


“The Victorians Come to Vancouver and Delaware”
Mark Samuels Lasner
Senior Research Fellow, University of Delaware Library


“Out and Out from the Family to the Community: the Housmans and the Politics of Queer Sibling Devotion”
Kristin Mahoney
Associate Professor of English, Michigan State University


“The Mirror of Everyday Life: William Morris’s Book Collecting and the Kelmscott Press”
Yuri Cowan
Professor of Language and Literature, Norwegian University of Science and Technology


“The Pre-Raphaelites in the Colbeck Collection”
Florence Boos
Professor of English, University of Iowa


The symposium is free, open to the public, and will include a complimentary lunch and a post-event reception. If you are interested in attending the symposium, please register by October 13, 2017 at

In conjunction with the symposium Rare Books and Special Collection and the Department of English has planned a major exhibition in the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre from October 23-December 20, 2017. We hope you can join us!

For more information, please contact Rare Books and Special Collections at 604 822-2521 or

John Cooper Robinson was an Anglican missionary who lived and worked in Japan in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. The Cooper Robinson collection consisting of over 4,600 photographic prints, negatives, glass lantern slides, and postcards is one of the most valuable photographic records of this era.

The exhibition, Double Exposure Japan-Canada: Missionary Photographs of Meiji-Taisho Japan, on display at Rare Books and Special Collections was curated by Professor Allen Hockley and Naoko Kato, Japanese Language Librarian. The exhibit highlights four major themes: Robinson and the Economies of Japanese Photography, Robinson and the M.S.C.C. Mission in Japan, Robinson and Japanese Religions, and Robinson’s Photographic Practices. This exhibit features original photographs as well as glass lantern slides and glass negatives that were used by Robinson.

In addition, the Asian Center at UBC features a selection from The Making of History and Artifacts (1888-1926): The Photographs of John Cooper Robinson from Meiji-Taisho Japan exhibit, curated by Robert Bean with an introduction by Bill Sewell.

Check out the John Cooper Robinson Collection Finding Aid to learn more about this extensive photo collection.

Double Exposure Japan-Canada is on display at UBC Library’s Rare Books and Special Collections on the first floor of the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre from March 13–May 31, 2017, and can be viewed Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturdays from 12-5 p.m. until April 8. The exhibition is free and open to the public. For more information, please contact Naoko Kato at

Many thanks to guest blogger Matt Warner, a graduate student in the Department of English at UBC, for contributing the below post!

The Book of Homage to Shakespeare is a strange book. The product of a very distinct moment of British imperial history, it paints a picture of its subject that is at once generously expansive and narrowly possessive. Comprising contributions from some hundred and fifty-odd critics and poets from around the world, the book fits neatly into the category of what George Bernard Shaw once termed “Bardolatry”—over-the-top and hard to justify celebration of Britain’s informal national poet.

Published on the occasion of the tricentenary of Shakespeare’s death in 1916, the Book of Homage is a polyglot compendium of scholarly essays, bad poetry and personal reflection. It shows a Shakespeare who is, the contributors claim, “for all time” as Ben Jonson put it in one of the commendatory poems attached to the First Folio of Shakespeare’s work. Like that earlier poem, much of the verse (and prose) in the Book of Homage is dedicated to Shakespeare’s allegedly unique ability to transcend time and place to move his readers, whatsoever their language and whatsoever their circumstances. Contributions to the Book of Homage include Armenian, Japanese, Persian, Chinese, French, Old Norse, Russian and dozens of other languages. Translations are far from universal—for any reader, some fairly significant portion of this book is guaranteed to be behind a language barrier of one kind or another. (And sometimes, as Gordon McMullen has noted in the case of the Gaelic contribution of Douglas Hyde, the English translation hides a politically subversive original). It is the existence of these encomia that mattered to the editors; what any of them actually says is far less important.

From its origins at the centre of British Empire, then, the Book of Homage took its collected praises and shipped them around the world. 1250 copies were produced; UBC now owns three. Our first copy entered the UBC library catalogue on March 19, 1958, and still circulates—it’s currently checked out right now—and, having changed its fancy buckram binding (complete with the embossed coat of arms of Shakespeare) for a simple library binding, it’s the least interesting, but most accessible, of UBC’s copies. Our second copy lives in RBSC, and came to UBC as a part of Norman Colbeck Collection of Nineteenth-Century and Edwardian Poetry and Belles Lettres. This copy, evidently acquired somewhere in England, has a bit of history to it. From the Colbeck Catalogue description:

Inserted is an ALS [Autograph Letter Signed] of the editor to W. W. Greg~”My dear Greg”-on his Shoot-Up-Hill notepaper dated 6 March 1916: “I’m preparing a rather elaborate Book of Homage to Shakespeare . . .,” some 17 lines, also an ALS from Morton Luce (another contributor), with one of his printed Christmas Greetings, containing an original sonnet.

It’s not clear how either of these letters relates to the copy of the book that UBC owns—given that they represent two different ends to two different lines of communication, but they give an intriguing glimpse into the cultural milieu that produced the Book of Homage (and some might find Morton Luce’s original sonnet to be quite amusingly bad).

Far more interesting, at least here in Vancouver, than Luce’s poetry and the editorial correspondence of the Colbeck Collection’s Book of Homage, however, are the inclusions in our third copy of the Book of Homage. This book, one of RBSC’s latest acquisitions, previously belonged to Mrs. Jonathan Rogers, a prominent member of the Vancouver Shakespeare Society (VSS) in 1916 when the Book of Homage was published. Pasted into the back of the book are a photograph and a letter. The photograph is of Mrs. Rogers and the Vancouver Shakespeare Society, at the ceremonial planting of the “Shakespeare Tercentenary Oak” in Stanley Park, and the letter is from the Vancouver Archives to Mrs. Rogers, January 4th, 1945, responding to her inquiry about the location of the tree—it can, we are informed, be readily located from the telephone poles in the background of the photo. (The tree still exists today).

More than just a strange piece of Vancouver history, the VSS and its tree-planting habits show the “other end” of the imperial Shakespeare project undertaken by the Book of Homage. In this photograph, and the ceremony it documents, international, connected, timeless Shakespeare is reflected locally: from metropolitan London came the Book of Homage, but Vancouver made the tercentenary its own, too, ceremonial silver spade and all.

A Book of Homage to Shakespeare Mrs. Rogers' bookplate The letter and the photo A photo of the planting of the "Shakespeare Tercentenary Oak" The letter from Major Matthews, City of Vancouver archivist Morton Luce's Christmas sonnet

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