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Unpacking the Personal Library

The Public and Private Life of Books

Edited by J.A. Weingarten & Jason Camlot
Subjects Cultural Studies, Literary Criticism, Archival Studies
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Hardcover : 9781771125680, 288 pages, July 2022
Ebook (EPUB) : 9781771124645, 288 pages, July 2022
Ebook (PDF) : 9781771125727, 288 pages, July 2022

Table of contents

Introduction - Private, Public and Personal Libraries In Situ and In Circulation – Jason Camlot
Part I: Private Libraries Made Public
1. In Memory of Alexandria – Alberto Manguel
2. William Osler and the Collecting of the Middle Ages – Anna Dysert
3. A Gift to the Nation Worth While”: The Library of William Lyon Mackenzie King – Meaghan Scanlon
4. Personal Libraries of the State – Bart Vautour
5. Remaindering the Difference: Book Collections of Radical Protest Libraries – Sherrin Frances
6. Serious House: On the Future of Library Print Collections – Andrew Stauffer
Part II: The Personal Library as a Field of Interpretation
7. Virginia Woolf’s Poetry Library – Emily Kopley
8. Unpacking Duncan’s Books: Remarks on the Personal Library of Robert Duncan – James Maynard
9. “Her Books Filed for Divorce”: Embeddedness and the Question of Belonging in Relation to Sheila and Wilfred Watson’s Personal Library – Linda Morra
10. Al Purdy’s Lives and Libraries: A Bibliographical Essay – Nicholas Bradley
11. jwcurry’s Room 3o2 Books: The Small Press Bookstore as Library and Archive – Cameron Anstee
Conclusion: "In My End Is My Beginning": The Library as Heraclitean Archive – J. A. Weingarten
Jason Camlot (Concordia University) – Montreal, QC, Canada
J. A. Weingarten (Fanshawe College) – Toronto, ON, Canada
Alberto Manguel (former Director of the National Library of Argentina) – Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Ottawa, ON, Canada
Anna Dysert (McGill University) – Montreal, QC, Canada
Meaghan Scanlon (Library and Archives Canada) – Ottawa, ON, Canada
Bart Vautour (Dalhousie University) – Halifax, NS, Canada
Sherrin Frances (Saginaw Valley State University) – University Center, MI, USA
Andrew Stauffer (University of Virginia) – Charlottesville, VA, USA
Emily Kopley (Concordia University) – Montreal, QC, Canada
James Maynard (SUNY, Buffalo) – Buffalo, NY, USA
Linda Morra (Bishop’s University) – Montreal, QC, Canada
Nicholas Bradley (University of Victoria) – Victoria, BC, Canada
Cameron Anstee (Independent Scholar) – Ottawa, ON, Canada


Unpacking the Personal Library: The Public and Private Life of Books is an edited collection of essays that ponders the cultural meaning and significance of private book collections in relation to public libraries.
Contributors explore libraries at particular moments in their history across a wide range of cases, and includes Alberto Manguel’s account of the Library of Alexandria as well as chapters on library collecting in the middle ages, the libraries of prime ministers and foreign embassies, protest libraries and the slow transformation of university libraries, and the stories of the personal libraries of Virginia Woolf, Robert Duncan, Sheila Watson, Al Purdy and others. The book shows how the history of the library is really a history of collection, consolidation, migration, dispersal, and integration, where each story negotiates private and public spaces.
Unpacking the Personal Library builds on and interrogates theories and approaches from library and archive studies, the history of the book, reading, authorship and publishing. Collectively, the chapters articulate a critical poetics of the personal library within its extended social, aesthetic and cultural contexts.


For archive rats, librarians, and deep-dive historical lit nerds, Unpacking the Personal Library offers a prismatic lens on how libraries speak.

- Emily Raine, Montreal Review of Books

At a time when the Covid-19 pandemic has forced the wholesale migration of the academic world online, and an urgent re-think of how teaching, learning and research are conducted, this book’s enthusiastic interrogation of issues around the value and purpose of libraries, and of the nature of humanities research conducted within them, is timely. It is fitting in 2022 to be thinking about these things, and this book offers an interesting, stimulating and encouragingly positive answer to the question, “Why libraries?”

- Alice Crawford, Digital Humanities Research Librarian, University of St Andrews