The Thomas Fisher Rare Book Collection

Anishinaabemowin Language Texts
Kanien’keha:ka Language Texts

Anishinaabemowin Language Texts

Our focus was on the Fisher Rare Book Collection located at Robarts Library, University of Toronto. While searching for books we found fifty-eight individual copies which we have added to the Google Map. When we began this project we did not expect to find any correlation between works written by missionaries. Considering these are religious texts for missionary purposes, it was considered likely that private publishers or small printing houses would agree to print these books as they would not receive a wide circulation. We predicted that, as these smaller printing houses would buy or rent land where they could and where there was a demand for their work, a wider geographic sprawl was considered likely as this would potentially mean printing houses would not be competing with one another.

We found, as expected, no grouping of printing houses. However our sample size is extremely small and there were a large number of publishers whose addresses at the time of printing these books remain unknown. As such our conclusions are, tentatively, that there was no particular ‘printing neighbourhood’ in New York, London or Toronto, where we had the largest amount of data.

The one pattern, in particular, we could find was that Sarnia seemed to have a large market of hymnbooks in Anishnaabemowin or a combination of English and Anishnaabemowin. This was possibly due to the popularity of Ojibway singers as a tourist attraction for visiting Americans in the area.[1] This pattern could also be due to the proximity of Sarnia to the Anshnaabe people. Although it should be noted that this is a conclusion based on four books so should be seen as tentative.

In terms of Language, London, England printed more books in English than in Anishnaabemowin or a combination of the two languages. Meanwhile, other cities such as New York, Toronto, Boston and Montreal printed books in a combination of English, Anishnaabemowin and/or French, the latter in the case of Montreal.

These conclusions are drawn based on a very small sample size, fifty-eight books in total and so, should be seen as tentative. Further research from other libraries, archives etc. would be useful.

Further Reading:

Lockhart Fleming, Patricia and Lamonde, Yvan, editors. History of the Book in Canada. (University of Toronto Press; Toronto, 2004-2007)

Fauteux, Aegidius. The Introduction of Printing into Canada. (Rolland Paper Company; Montreal, 1930)

Kanien’keha:ka Language Texts

[1]  “Among the Ojibways,” Daily Mail and Empire, October 2,  1895,


Toronto Fisher Rare Book Library 

The Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library of Toronto is a large collection of rare books published in both English and Indigenous languages. They are technologically advanced with a strong collection of digitized and digital archives alongside the rest of the library. Furthermore, the Fisher library has excellent conservation and preservation strategies for rare books.
The map created has a great deal of overlap in publication location, and there are connections between dates and location of publication. Almost every single book published in New York was before the 1830s. Of the entire Fisher collection, 23 books were published in New York, whereas the other cities—Quebec, Toronto, Brantford, Ottawa, Hamilton, Philadelphia, and London England—had at most three books published in the given city. The years prior to the 1830s show a large presence of religious books, most translated, published primarily in New York City. This gives one an understanding of the development of white people in natively indigenous areas, where they started teaching indigenous peoples their religion and culture and the assimilation began.

The previous map shows a wider range of locations where publications of rare books in the Fisher collection happened. There was a wider range of cities of publication in America, whereas this map shows a greater presence in various Canadian cities (besides the large number of published literature in New York City).

The location of printing in this map shifted over time. In the pre-1830s, almost every publication was in New York City, but as decades passed, publications shifted to Canadian cities like Ottawa, Brantford and Quebec.


Suggested Further Reading:

Hokowhitu, Brendan, Nathalie Kermoal, Chris Andersen, Anna Petersen, Micheal Reilly, Isabel Altamirano-Jimenez and Poia Rewi. Indigenous Identity and Resistance: Researching the Diversity of Knowledge. New Zealand: Otago University Press, 2010.

Lutz, John Sutton. Myth & Memory: Stories of Indigenous-European Contact. Vancouver: UBC Press, 2007.

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