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This Thursday: Toronto Star Photographers Discuss the Power of the Portrait

June 21, 2016 | Nicole | Comments (0)

Join us in the atrium at the Toronto Reference Library this Thursday, June 23 at 7 p.m. for a lively conversation with Toronto Star photojournalists about the enduring power of the portrait.  

Toronto Star Photographers

Award-winning Toronto Star photographers Steve Russell, Melissa Renwick and Tony Bock will be joined by moderator Richard Lautens. The panel will share their favourite portraits – and the stories behind them – and offer tips and advice to aspiring photojournalists. 

What makes for a compelling portrait? How can you capture something new or unexpected in a familiar face? Why do some portraits connect so deeply with viewers? Can a single face tell a whole story? 

Photo by Richard Lautens. Used with permission.


Photo by Tony Bock. Used with permission.


Photo by Melissa Renwick. Used with permission.

This free event is presented in conjunction with The Changing Face of Toronto, an exhibit showcasing a century of portraits from the Toronto Star Photograph Archive and the Canadian Documentary Art Collection. The exhibit is on display in the library's TD Gallery until July 23.

Be sure to stop in to see the exhibit before the talk! 

Free Tours of The Changing Face of Toronto this Saturday for #TUPF2016!

June 15, 2016 | Nicole | Comments (0)


Join us this Saturday, June 18 for free guided tours of our photography exhibit The Changing Face of Toronto, on display in the Toronto Reference Library's TD Gallery. Tours will begin at 11am, 12pm and 1pm. Registration is not required. Please meet inside the gallery.

These special Saturday tours are presented in conjunction with the Toronto Urban Photography Festival (TUPF) which runs until June 25. If you are a budding photographer or just interested in compelling shots of urban life, be sure to check out the festival guide for exhibits, workshops, walks and talks.  



The Changing Face of Toronto offers a glimpse into the lives of ordinary people who lived and worked in 20th century Toronto. The exhibit features photographic portraits from the library's Special Collections, which now include over a million photographs from the complete Toronto Star Photograph Archive. The exhibit runs until July 23. 

Want to learn more? Guided tours are a great way to discover more of the stories behind the faces in the exhibit. 



Interested in seeing more faces from Toronto's past? Be sure to explore our Digital Archive

Save Big on Sherlock Holmes!

June 13, 2016 | Peggy Perdue | Comments (3)

Original advertising broadsheet for The Hound of the Baskervilles in Strand magazine

This week, a single sheet of Arthur Conan Doyle's manuscript for the Sherlock Holmes thriller The Hound of the Baskervilles will go up for sale at Christie's auction house with an estimated starting price of US$80,000. The actual sales price will likely exceed that by a significant amount.

[Updated June 23: The manuscript page was sold for US$158,500!]    

Conan Doyle's gripping tale of a spectral hound and death on the moor is probably his best known work, and it remains well worth reading today. This is where your library card is going to offer you the deal of the century -- instead of paying tens of thousands of dollars for a single page of this book, you can come to the library and read the entire thing for free.

You can borrow the original work from the library's circulating collections, or try one of the many audio, film and graphic adaptations.

  Regular print edition including the Hound of the Baskervilles and other Holmes stories   1939 Movie version starring Basil Rathbone   1988 TV Movie version starring Jeremy Brett

There are even eBook, eAudiobook and eVideo copies available to download on your phone and other devices right now.

   OverDrive ebook  OverDrive mp3 audiobook  Hoopla eVideo of 1959 movie starring Peter Cushing

Even with all these choices, you may still want to see a manuscript. There is, after all, a certain special thrill about seeing a favorite author's handwriting in person. For this experience you can visit the Toronto Public Library's Arthur Conan Doyle Collection to see a variety of manuscript items including this letter that Conan Doyle wrote to his editor discussing the work he was doing on The Hound of the Baskervilles.

   Arthur Conan Doyle. Letters to H. Greenhough Smith no. 18   Letter page 2

The Arthur Conan Doyle Collection, located on the 5th floor of the Toronto Reference Library also has many first and special editions of Conan Doyle's work. Come in for a visit -- we won't bite!

  First English edition   Miniature art binding edition by Jan and Jarmila Sobota   Graphic edition by Ian Edginton and I.N.J. Culbard

To read more about the sale of the Hound manuscript page, visit Randall Stock's Best of Sherlock Holmes website.




The Writers’ Room

June 13, 2016 | Michal | Comments (0)

  Pen on paper

Opened in January of 2015, The Writers' Room is a space for writers, published or unpublished, on the third floor of the Toronto Reference Library. It is equipped with a welcoming lounge, office workstations, power outlets and access to wireless Internet.

Membership in the Writers' Room requires a valid Toronto Public Library card and an application. Acceptance depends on availability, and writers must be working on a current project. Admission to the Writers' Room is for a period of six months -- January to June, or July to December. A new application is required for each six-month residency period, but applications are accepted throughout the year.
For further information, please go to The Writers’ Room page on our website. 

Genealogy and Local History Moves Downtown

May 30, 2016 | Richard | Comments (0)

Genealolgy wordle -4

The genealogy and local history collection formerly housed in the Canadiana Department at the North York Central Library was recently transferred downtown to the Toronto Reference Library’s Humanities and Social Sciences Department (HSS).

This included a variety of materials in different formats:Pcr-2191

  • genealogical periodicals
  • church and parish histories
  • historical atlases
  • city directories and yearbooks
  • indexes to births, marriages and deaths
  • passenger lists and census on microfilm
  • local histories
  • general works on conducting genealogy research
  • how-to guides for those starting to explore their family history

To search for these items, you can use the Toronto Public Library catalogue or the Local History & Genealogy webpage.

The HSS department is also continuing the library’s partnerships with three Genealogical Societies:  the Canadian Society of  Mayflower Descendants (CSMD), the Jewish Genealogical Society of Toronto (JGS) and the Ontario Genealogical Society (OGS).   Materials in these collections include:

  • self-published family histories  
  • cemetery transcriptions
  • family charts
  • genealogical newsletters and periodicals.  

Ohq-pictures-s-r-616These collections are now located in the closed stacks of the Humanities and Social Sciences Department (2nd floor) where they will complement and augment the existing local history and genealogy collections.

Search their unique catalogues for items of interest at the following links: OGS Catalogue, JGS Catalogue and CSMD Catalogue.

Materials are for use in the library only and can be requested at the Humanities Social Sciences Reference desk on the 2nd floor of the Toronto Reference Library, in person, by phone (416-393-7175) or by email at

Family history buffs will have a much larger collection to aid them in their research, as well as access to online resources such as Ancestry Library Edition (In Library Access Only) and the Digital Archive, in one location.

Posted by Richard for Tom


Discover Special Collections: A Look at Dolls in Books at the Osborne Collection

May 26, 2016 | Nicole | Comments (1)

Our latest Discover Special Collections drop-in at the Osborne Collection of Early Children's Books featured dolls in early and vintage children’s books. 

Two hundred years ago, British children’s stories featuring dolls had an educational theme. In these stories, a little owner would carefully teach her doll manners and deportment. Such books offered different levels of learning: the children reading the story absorbed what the doll was being taught, and also how to care for young charges. Children in the story can be careful or inattentive “parents”: some learn to take splendid care of their dolls, while others are easily distracted, and the poor dolls come to grief. These were valuable early lessons in child care.

The Well-Bred Doll

Mallès de Beaulieu, The Well-Bred Doll: Intended for the Instruction and Amusement of Children. 3rd. ed. London: Charles H. Law, 1848.

The Victorian Era was known for its sentimental stories. The “Lost Doll” was a popular motif, used in a poem by Charles Kingsley, author of The Water-Babies (1863), shown below with an illustration by M. Dibdin Spooner from The Golden Staircase anthology, edited by L. Chisholm and published in London by E.C. and T.C. Jack (1906):

The Water-Babies


The Little Doll
Charles Kingsley

I once had a sweet little doll, dears,
The prettiest doll in the world;
Her cheeks were so red and so white; dears, And her hair was so charmingly curled.

But I lost my poor little doll, dears,
As I played in the heath one day;
And I cried for her more than a week, dears; But I never could find where she lay.

I found my poor little doll, dears,
As I played in the heath one day:
Folks say she is terrible changed, dears, For her paint is all washed away, And her arm trodden off by the cows, dears, And her hair not the least bit curled: Yet for old sakes' sake she is still, dears,
The prettiest doll in the world.



Another example is Miss Pardoe’s Lady Arabella, or, The Adventures of a Doll, illustrated by George Cruikshank, published in London by Kerby and Sons (1856), in which a once-beautiful, once-dignified doll recounts her sad decline in fortune, from a cherished, elegantly dressed plaything of a spoiled girl (“Miss Tantrum”), to a cast-off, broken wreck on a dust heap.

Lady Arabella, or, The Adventures of a Doll


Arguably one of the most influential doll stories, and one that ushered in a host of anthropomorphic dolls-coming-alive tales, Carlo Collodi’s Pinocchio (1883) tells of a talking puppet who makes endless mistakes and blunders, until he finally takes responsibility for his own actions, and no longer allows himself to be controlled by others. Pinocchio’s reward is to become a real boy.

Carlo Collodi’s Pinocchio 1883

This theme was later explored by Margery Bianco in The Velveteen Rabbit (1922), in which a worn toy becomes “real” because he was so well loved. One popular variation is the child finding his or her doll is not only alive, but it is exasperated or angry at its ill-treatment, as in Edith Nesbit’s The Revolt of the Toys, shown below in a 1902 edition published in London by Ernest Nister. In this story, Kitty’s maltreated toys, led by her favourite but much-abused doll, disappear, and only return when Kitty writes them a “Magner Charter” promising never to “brake” toys, pull out their “hares” or make them play “cirkusses” [sic] again.

The Revolt of the Toys

The turn of the century, with its advances in print technology and illustration techniques, ushered in a lively array of colourful picture books. Henry Mayer’s The Adventures of a Japanese Doll, published in London by Grant Richards (1901) tells of the doll Ting-A-Ling. A dog punished for biting her takes his revenge by sending Ting-A-Ling sky-high, tied to a balloon, but she is rescued by a friendly stork, and escorted around the world. Ting-A-Ling visits the Sphinx in Egypt, the Alps, deserts, and the North Pole, among other scenic locations.

The Adventures of a Japanese Doll

A popular form of jointed wooden dolls, called “Dutch” dolls, features in many stories. Best known among these are Kathleen Ainslie’s adventure tales of Catharine Susan and her companion Maria, who celebrate holidays and adore parties, but also work at odd jobs to “make an honest penny” and agitate for “votes for women” in a series of small, bright, paperbound books, published from the very early 1900s.

Dutch dolls

Other famous doll stories include The Golliwog books (1895 and on) by Florence and Bertha Upton; Anne Parrish’s Floating Island (1930), a Robinsonnade about a family of dolls shipwrecked on a desert island; Johnny Gruelle’s Raggedy Ann books, (1918 and on) and a series of fine doll stories by Rumer Godden: The Doll’s House (1947), Impunity Jane (1955), The Fairy Doll (1956), The Story of Holly and Ivy, (1958), Candy Floss (1960), and Miss Happiness and Miss Flower (1961) and Little Plum (1963).

Some of the most famous children’s authors of the twentieth century specialized in doll stories. British writer Enid Blyton’s Noddy became a publishing phenomenon of the 1950s (and led to the use of the iconic elf images for Kellogg Cereal’s Snap, Crackle and Pop).

Miss Happiness and Miss Flower Raggedy Ann  Learn to read about Animals with Noddy

Dare Wright’s The Lonely Doll (1957) and its sequels feature photographic illustrations of a doll posed with Teddy Bears. Edith is frequently in trouble, but all generally ends well. These stories spark some controversy today because in one illustration, Edith is being spanked by Mr. Bear. 

The Lonely Doll  1957


On the whole, though, contemporary doll books are cheerful and bright. This brief look at early doll stories was followed by modern favourites: Ainslie Manson’s Just Like New (1995), Edward Ardizzone’s The Little Girl and the Tiny Doll (1966) and many others.

We finished off with a look at the famous Doll House: created by Toronto antiquarian bookseller Yvonne Knight, the dollhouse was donated to Osborne by her family, where it continues to delight visitors.

Dollhouse detail, the sitting room

Detail: The Sitting Room

Doll House by Yvonne Knight

Please visit soon, to enjoy these and other Osborne Collection highlights. If you have a special request or want to bring a group, please call (416) 393-7753.

If you enjoyed this blog post, you may also like to visit the Canadian Toy Collectors’ Society

And check into the Antique Toy Collectors’ Show

“A show for toy collectors across Ontario takes over the International Centre in Mississauga this November. Attendees can mingle with other collectors and peruse a huge selection of antique and rare toys, teddy bears, trains and holiday decorations.

Enthusiast Doug Jarvis has been organizing collector’s events for more than three decades and has turned the Toronto Toy, Doll and Train Collector’s Show into the biggest event of its kind in Canada.”

When Someone You Know has Dementia

May 24, 2016 | Pam | Comments (0)

DementiaFrontCoverOn Tuesday, May 31st in the Toronto Reference Library Atrium, there will be a special program on dementia with Dr. June Andrews. Dr. Andrews is a nationally recognized specialist in the UK on improving the public understanding of dementia.

Dr. Andrews was Director of the University of Stirling's Dementia Services Development Centre for 10 years. She has worked to heighten public and professional awareness of the many practical things that can be done to make life better for people with dementia. She has created a design guide for care homes and hospitals. She has worked internationally, consulting on improving health and social care for frail older adults.

June Andrews(1)This program will address topics such as early diagnosis, avoiding dementia and how hospitals and nursing homes can be made safer. She will provide practical and realistic advice to caregivers, families and people directly affected by dementia, in an accessible and easy to understand style.

This is a free program. No registration is required.

The presentation will be followed with a question and answer session with Mary Shulz, Director of Education, Alzheimer Society of Canada.


Here are some additional resources about dementia and Alzheimer's at Toronto Public Library:

Caregiving in Alzheimer's and Other Dementias

Caring for a Loved One with Dementia: A Mindfulness Guide for Reducing Stress and Making the Best of Your Journey Together

Developing Excellent Care for People Living with Dementia in Care Homes

Living Better with Dementia: Good Practice and Innovation for the Future

Caregiving in Alzheimers and Caring for a Loved One with Dementia Developing excellent care for people living with dementia in Living Better with dementia










Urban Farming: Ryerson University's Rooftop Farm

May 19, 2016 | Pam | Comments (0)



Join us this on Thursday May 26 as Arlene Throness, Urban Agriculture Coordinator for Ryerson University, discusses Ryerson's quarter-acre rooftop farm just steps from Yonge and Dundas Square. This innovative project demonstrates the potential for architecture and urban agriculture to intersect in what may become a new industry in Toronto known as agri-tecture.

Ryerson's 10,000 square foot vegetable garden is atop the George Vari Engineering and Computing Centre.

With the help of students, staff and faculty, Arlene has created an urban farm with more than 30 crops and over 100 varieties.

 Arlene is passionate about growing, sharing and enjoying food. Prior to Ryerson, she was the coordinator of Concordia University's Rooftop Greenhouse. She has worked in farms, kitchens and greenhouses across Canada. An avid enthusiast of urban permaculture, she is always looking to share and trade ideas about innovative ways to incorporate local resources into the food cycle.

Ryersonroof-14In November 2015, Arlene was honoured at the Third Annual Aster Awards along with Canadian astronaut Roberta Bondar, and Evergreen founder and CEO Geoff Cape. She was chosen for her commitment and achievements in urban farming. Come hear this dynamic woman speak.

Toronto's Emerging Agri-tecture Industry: Ryerson University's Rooftop Farm

Thursday, May 26, 2:00 - 3:30 pm

Hinton Learning Theatre, 3rd floor, Toronto Reference Library

Free program. All are welcome.


Here are a few titles about urban agriculture and vertical farming.

The urban farmer Essential urban farmer Public produce Eat Up







The Urban Farmer. Growing Food for Profit on Leased and Borrowed Land

The Essential Urban Farmer

Public Produce: Cultivating our Parks, Plazas, and Streets for Healthier Cities

Eat Up: The Inside Scoop on Rooftop Agriculture




Discover Special Collections: Walter Crane

May 17, 2016 | Nicole | Comments (0)

Randolph Caldecott, Kate Greenaway and Walter Crane are often described as forming a triumvirate of great British illustrators of children’s picture books in the late Victorian period. At a recent Discover Special Collections program at the Osborne Collection of Early Children’s Books, the focus was on Walter Crane. 

Born in 1845, Walter Crane was the son of Thomas Crane, an artist, lithographer and portrait painter. Crane first learned art from his father. At age 13, he was apprenticed to William James Linton, a wood engraver. When he was 18, Crane met Edmund Evans, an engraver and skilled colour printer. Crane and Evans would collaborate on many projects over the years.

The earliest work by Crane and Evans in the Osborne Collection is The True, Pathetic History of Poor Match written by Holme Lee in 1863. 

The True Pathetic History of Poor Match-Holme Lee

Crane and Evans worked closely together on a series of toy books published by George Routledge and Sons between 1865 and 1876. “Toy book” was a term used to describe a type of picture book with six or eight colour pages bound in paper covers. Crane usually illustrated editions of fairy tales, pictorial alphabets and nursery rhymes. These toy books were said to have made Crane’s reputation.

Puss in Boots 1873

In this illustration from Puss in Boots, first published in 1873, in which Puss is begging for boots, his master is Crane’s self-portrait as a young man. 

Beauty and the Beast 1875

Crane demonstrates an eclectic mix of styles in this illustration from Beauty and the Beast, published in 1875. The Beast is attired in 17th-century costume and sitting on an early 19th-century Empire-style sofa. The wallpaper in the background resembles a William Morris-designed pattern. 

Crane also worked with Evans on a set of small square pictures books which were also published by Routledge. The Baby’s Opera (1877) and its companion The Baby’s Bouquet (1878) both contained traditional nursery songs and rhymes, such as, “Little Jack Horner,” “Sing a Song of Six-Pence” and “Polly Put the Kettle On.” In addition to the text illustrations, Crane designed the covers, title-pages, end-papers and calligraphic text. His sister, Lucy, collected and arranged the tunes.

The Babys Opera 1877

Illustration from The Baby’s Opera for “I Saw Three Ships.”

The popularity of these two volumes led to the publication of The Baby’s Own Aesop (1887), which was similar in format but even more sophisticated in its artwork. 

Frontispiece from The Babys Own Aesop 1887

The frontispiece from The Baby’s Own Aesop.

In his preface, Crane writes, “For this rhymed version of the fables I have to thank my early friend and master WJ Linton, who kindly placed the [manuscript] at my disposal.” Crane’s ability to draw realistic animals had been acquired during his apprenticeship: he would regularly visit the Zoological Gardens in London and sketch the exotic animals and birds. 

Crane’s master influenced him not only in the realm of art but also in politics. Linton was a Chartist seeking political reform, such as, universal suffrage for men, secret ballots, the removal of property requirements for Members of Parliament and a salary for Members of Parliament. Crane’s association with William Morris reinforced his belief in socialism. Crane illustrated two socialist works written for children to make them aware of this social-political alternative: The Child’s Socialist Reader (1907) and Pages for Young Socialists (1913).

The Child’s Socialist Reader 1907

Title page of The Child’s Socialist Reader (1907).
In this illustration, one can see Crane’s monogram signature: a picture of a crane and letter W within the letter C.

The Child’s Socialist Reader, edited by Alfred Augustus Watts, was published in 1907. This collection of poems, stories and essays includes a fairy tale entitled “The Happy Valley” in which a giant named “Monopoly” enters the valley with this two dwarves “Capital” and “Competition”. Monopoly advises the residents of Happy Valley to switch their economic activities from growing crops to mining gold and, thereby, acquire greater wealth. Monopoly offers to give the residents mining equipment in return for a share of the profit: he tells the people to fill an enormous sack with gold for his share and the rest shall belong to them. Monopoly plays a trick on the people by giving them a bag with holes — no sooner has the bag been filled the workers must start over again to fill the bag again and again without ever getting their share. 

The Happy Valley

Walter Crane and his wife Mary Frances had three children: a daughter Beatrice, born February 1873, and two sons, Lionel, born May 1876, and Lancelot, born January 1880. Crane made a number of private pictorial journals for his children. Within the family these were known as the “Black Books” for the plain black notebooks which Crane used for this purpose. The Osborne Collection holds one of these manuscripts, Beatrice Crane, Her Book (The 2nd), finished June 1st, 1879 containing 46 water colours.

Beatrice Crane, Her Book The 2nd

From Beatrice Crane, Her Book. “Bon” was a family nickname for Beatrice.


Beatrice Crane the disobedient Bon

From Beatrice Crane, Her Book

The Osborne Collection’s extensive holdings of Crane material includes two holograph letters, one of which is to Edmund Evans and several pieces of original art. Some of Crane’s many illustrations for children’s books can be viewed through Toronto Public Library’s Digital Archive.


Hog Town Stories: Photographer Jeremy Korn on Documenting Life in Toronto

May 17, 2016 | Nicole | Comments (0)

Have you had a chance to visit our free photo exhibit, The Changing Face of Toronto

The exhibit, which runs until July 23, is on display in the Toronto Reference Library's TD Gallery. The Changing Face of Toronto features portraits of the people who lived and worked in Toronto throughout the 20th century. Curated from the library's Canadian Documentary Art Collection and the Toronto Star Photograph Archive, these portraits offer a fascinating glimpse into the lives of Torontonians over the century.


New Miss Toronto, Virginia Martin. Photo by Douglas Glynn/Toronto Star, July 24, 1965
. Toronto Star Photograph Archive

As you walk through the exhibit, you might wonder: what faces and stories could you capture on the streets of Toronto today? 

Hog Town Stories

Join us at the Toronto Reference Library this Thursday, May 19 at 7 pm for an illustrated talk with local photographer and urban planner, Jeremy Korn. Over the last year, Korn has set out to capture interesting people of Toronto and the stories they tell through his photography project, Hog Town Stories. He will be speaking about the project, sharing some of his favourite stories and photos, and offering insights for aspiring photographers.   

Frankie Whyte-9466

Frankie Whyte. Photo by Jeremy Korn


Ian Alistaire McWilfred-8870

Ian Alistaire McWilfred. Photo by Jeremy Korn

May June-8186

May June. Photo by Jeremy Korn


No registration is required. The talk will be held in the Hinton Learning Theatre on the third floor. Be sure to come by early to visit the TD Gallery exhibit!

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