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A Guide to the William Ready Division of Archives and Research Collections


Composite image includes a book with rope, a room with colour posters and a room with desks and lampsWelcome to the William Ready Division of Archives and Research Collections!  We hold an internationally renowned collection of rare books and archives, ranging from 12th century manuscripts to contemporary science fiction, from the archives of pacifists to letters from soldiers in both world wars, from classical literature to experimental poetry, from the archives of an atheist philosopher to local church registers, and much, much more.   

Our collections support teaching, learning and research at McMaster for undergraduates, graduates and faculty, and contribute to scholarship all over the world. They also offer something for the curious from all walks of life. Our holdings include invaluable material which meet the research needs of our faculty, students, our community, and an international community of scholars.

All students, faculty, and other members of the McMaster University community are welcome to make use of the incredible resources available in our archives and research collections!

Where can you find us?

We are located in the lower level of Mills Memorial Library, 1280 Main St W, Hamilton, ON.

The Bertrand Russell Archives is located at 88 Forsyth Ave.

What can you find at the William Ready Division of Archives and Research Collections?


Primary source letters, manuscripts, diaries, photographs, emails, films, sound recordings and other original documents covering the following topics and more. 

Book Cover the Best Laid Plans

Canadian Literary Papers

Some of Canada's best known writers: novelists Margaret Laurence, Marian Engel, Austin Clarke, and Matt Cohen; legendary non-fiction writers Pierre Berton, Farley Mowat and Peter C. Newman; poets Susan Musgrave, David McFadden and Jamaican-Canadian 'Miss Lou'; more recent writers such as novelist Trevor Cole, the humourist Terry Fallis, and science fiction stalwart Robert J. Sawyer; First Nations writers ranging from E. Pauline Johnson and Basil Johnston; and many more.

Black and white, two men in suits

Canadian Publishing Archives 

One of the largest collections of publishers’ archives in Canada: McClelland & Stewart, Jack McClelland, Douglas Gibson, Macmillan Canada, the Book Society of Canada, Clarke Irwin, Copp Clark, Key Porter Books and Peter Martin Associates; fine presses such as Locks’ Press and the avant-garde Curvd H&z Press; and much more. 

Handwritten text on light brown background dated January 10, 1917

First World War and Second World War Collections 

Nearly 100 collections relating to the two World Wars, especially from the British and Canadian perspectives—diaries, propaganda, posters, trench maps, photographs, correspondence from soldiers, scrapbooks, narratives of convalescent soldiers, records kept by nurses, medical descriptions of gas attacks, minute books of tribunal hearings, accounts of battles, Holocaust and underground resistance materials, and more. 

Yellow and Black with Text that reads Mrs Dalloway, Virginia Woolf

British Authors 

Samuel Beckett (Nobel Laureate); Anthony Burgess (includes his manuscript of the iconic novel A Clockwork Orange); George Catlin (political scientist and philosopher, husband of Vera Brittain); C.K. Ogden (founder of Basic English); Siegfried Sassoon (WWI poet); Virginia Woolf (letters).   

Yellow circle with red and green text that reads "Canadian Peace Congress: Peace is Everybody's Business" 1981

Peace and Social Activism 

Personal archives of Vera Brittain.  Organizational archives of: Canadian Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, Combined Universities Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, Canadian Peace Congress, Peace Brigades International, East Timor Alert Network, National Federation of Canadian University Students (NFCUS), Company of Young Canadians; and a pacifist pamphlet collection. 

Green, gold and yellow ribbons with medals

Labour Unions

Archives of over 20 Canadian labour unions, including dozens of locals in the Hamilton area, particularly USW (United Steel Workers), CUPE (Canadian Union of Public Employees), SEIU (Service Employees International Union), United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers, Local 504/550 (the workers of Westinghouse Canada). 

Blue background with white shapes. Text reads General Steel Wares Limited Annual Report 1948

Business archives 

Pirate Group Inc.; Westinghouse Canada; General Steel Wares Limited; Pigott Construction Company of Hamilton, made up primarily of diaries of company founder Joseph M. Pigott. 

Man playing guitar with brick background


From 19th century classical to 21st century popular: Franz Liszt letters; archives of German conductor Klaus Pringsheim (brother-in-law of Thomas Mann); Hamilton-based conductor Boris Brott; singer-songwriter Bruce Cockburn; Hamiltonians Ian Thomas, Valerie Tryon and Jackie Washington; and more. 

yellowed paper background with grid. Text reads "Burials 1853-1854"

Hamilton and Local History 

Includes collections of local historians Marjorie Freeman Campbell and Mabel Burkholder; the archives of the Anglican Diocese of Niagara, the Hamilton Club, and the Crombie family of Brant County; the Hamilton Spectator WWII photograph collection; the Hamilton Waterworks Drawings collection; and a 19th century Hamilton police register. 

burgundy book cover with text which reads McMaster University 1930

McMaster Collection 

Student publications such as The Silhouette, Marmor, and McMaster Monthly; academic calendars; archives of the Office of the President, H.G. Thode, Arthur Bourns, Alvin Lee and Nobel Laureate Bertram Brockhouse;  photographs; and more. 

Bertrand Russell Archives

Man with pen

Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong, have governed my life: the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind.” 
- Bertrand Russell, 1967. 

The archive and personal library of famed British philosopher, social and peace activist, and Nobel Laureate, Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) have been at McMaster University Library since 1968 and remain among our most heavily used research collections.  Scholars from all over the world visit McMaster to pore over Russell’s manuscripts and correspondence with notable persons including Nikita Khrushchev, John Lennon, Constance Malleson and Ludwig Wittgenstein. 

Russell was one of the most renowned public intellectuals of his time. His principal work, Principia Mathematica, written with Alfred North Whitehead and published in three volumes between 1910 and 1913, is a very significant work in the history of philosophy and mathematics. In addition to philosophy, Russell wrote books on a diverse range of topics such as education, marriage, religion, and politics.

The volume and breadth of Russell's works and correspondence, and his incredibly diverse personal library, have made the Bertrand Russell Archives an important resource for scholars of philosophy, mathematics, history, and politics. 

Learn more at the Bertrand Russell Archives home page found here

Rare Books and Manuscripts

Medieval drawing of a tall armoured figure and small boy.


We are home to one of Canada’s finest collections of published and manuscript books, numbering over 100,000 volumes in total and extending from the 12th century to the present day. Of particular note are our early modern holdings, which include Canada’s foremost collection of 18th-century works. As a living library we hold in trust for present and future generations, our book collections continue to grow. 


Ranging from the 15th to 17th centuries, our library traces the history of printing and publishing in Europe. Ranging from massive incunables like the Nuremberg Chronicle to tiny octavo and duodecimo editions from iconic presses like those of Manutius and Plantin, these works illustrate the rich intellectual and aesthetic life of the early modern period. 

Highlight: The Caselli Collection of early works printed in Italy.


Book page. Text reads: Opticks: Or, a Treatise of the Reflexions, Refractions, Inflexions, and colours of Light


Our collections in the history of science are particularly strong.
These include first editions of Galileo’s Dialogue, Newton’s Opticks, Gessner’s Historia Animalium, and many more. 



As Canada’s foremost library for eighteenth-century studies, we are home to over 20,000 volumes published between 1700 and 1799. From broadsides and pamphlets to a folio first edition of Johnson’s landmark Dictionary of the English Language, these holdings encompass a vast range of subject material. We focus chiefly on works in English and French.

Highlight: 18th Century Journal collection of Dr. R.M Wiles.



Brown book cover. Text reads the Time Machine, H.G. Wells and illustration of a sphinx.CONTEMPORARY HOLDINGS 

Our collections are not limited to books from the distant past. We hold strong collections in literary and historical works relating to the First and Second World Wars, British pacifism, Anglo-Irish literature and children's literature; also includes imprints of the Hogarth Press, modern Canadian poetry, imprints of Canadian publishers, and more than 4,000 Canadian pamphlets.



*Book of Hours, bound manuscript (ca. 1460-1470).
*Isaac Newton, Opticks: or, A treatise of the reflexions, refractions, inflexions and colours of light (London: S. Smith and B. Walford, 1704).
*H.G. Wells, The Time Machine (London: William Heinemann, 1895).

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