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Baldwin Room manuscripts: breathtaking and heartbreaking

I’ve spent several hours this week—and endless hours over the years—perusing items from the manuscript collection in the Toronto Reference Library’s Baldwin Room. This week, my explorations have been in preparation for a hands-on class I’m teaching there. Rather than chasing a specific fact, my aim has been for variety in subjects and time periods, and items with a story to reveal.

Oh, my. There are so many manuscripts with story to reveal.

Over 275 metres of letters, diaries, maps, plans, account books, wills, deeds, and other unpublished documents. From the terms of capitulation of the Town of York during the War of 1812, to John G. Howard’s wonderful architectural drawings, to the 1930 pledge of a young girl to “write in this diary every day”.

You must visit the Baldwin Room in person to use the manuscripts. But you also must be able to get to the Baldwin Room to find out if there’s an item that might be valuable to your research.*

The main access to the manuscript collection is through a traditional card catalogue. It is in two parts—one alphabetical by collection name, the second by subject. I’ve extracted the “A” manuscript names, below, as a sample. The tip of a 26-letter iceberg.

Some of the larger collections are described further in a set of paper finding aids, but again, only available on site in the Baldwin Room.

But, wait, there’s at least a taste of the collection in the 1954 Guide to the Manuscript Collection in the Toronto Public Libraries. It has been digitized and is available on the Toronto Public Library’s web site. Well worth a look, but remember that it won’t include acquisitions in the past 58 years!

* Only a very few items have been digitized on the Toronto Public Library’s web site—with the notable exception of a fine sampling of Toronto maps recently made available.

S 90 Abbott, Anderson Ruffin
S 257 Abbott, Anderson Ruffin additions
178–? Abbott, Edward
Outsize Abby, Jonathan
Fo Account Book (Yarmouth NS)
8vo Account Book 1803 (St Catharines)
Fo Account Book 1821-1827 (York)
S 71 Account Book 1834-1837 (Gananoque)
8vo Account Book 1834-1858 (Dunnville)
Fo Account Book 1835-1836 (Toronto blacksmith)
S 187 Account Book 1837-45 (sawmill)
Fo Account Book 1839-1841 (Prince Edward County)
Fo Account Book 1870-80 (Grafton)
Fo Account Book 1876-87 (Collingwood)
A Active Service Canteen (WWII)
A Adair, William
S 86 Adams, Thomas
S 259a Adamson, Anthony Patrick Cawthra
A Addison, Robert
A Adelaide Township
A Agassiz, Henry Roland
S 243 Agincourt Women’s Institute
1855 Sept 10 Aiken, Catharine (apprenticeship indenture)
8v0 Aikins, James Cox
A Alexander, William W.
8v0 Allan, George William
A Allan, George William (volunteer aid society during Fenian raids)
1852 March Allan, William 1770-1853
S 239 Allan, William 1770-1853
S 123 Allan, William 1793-1892
S 245 Allan, William, section 2, 1772-1853
S 283 Allan, William and George William Allan (donated 2009)
A Allan Line of Steamers
Fo Allen, George
Outsize Allen, John
S  273 Allen, William R., scrapbooks
A Alley, H.
1828 Dec 1 Alliance Life and Fire Office
8vo Allison, Elizabeth
A Allward and Gouinlock, Architects
S 174 Almina (schooner)
A Amherst, Jeffrey, 1st Baron
S 29 Anderson, Thomas Gummersall
A and outsize Andrews, James
A Archbold, George
S 191 Architectural Conservancy of Ontario
Fo Arlington Hotel, Cobourg, register
Outsize Armour, Thomas (Dunnville)
1731 Oct 14 Armstrong, Lawrence (Lt-Gov of NS)
8vo and A Armstrong, Robert R
8vo Arnold, Amelia, autograph album
L 52 Arthur, Eric and Paul
S 224 Arthur, Eric Ross
L 28 Arthur, Sir George, Canadian Papers
L 29 Arthur, Sir George, India Papers
S 211 Ashcroft, Joan Helen (Morton)
S 210 Ashfield, Margaret Stuart, scrapbook
Film Askin, John
A Assizes, Upper Canada 1830
Fo Assizes, Upper Canada 1837
L 50 Association of Women Electors of Metropolitan Toronto
S 1 Association of Women Electors of Toronto
8vo Audain, James
A Auld, John

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