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Finding and Using Materials in Rare Books and Special Collections


Canadian History

RBSC has a number of smaller collections which come together to form the overarching Canadian History Collection.

History of the Book

UBC's Rare Books and Special Collections collects rare and historically significant manuscripts and published works. This guide provides an introduction to special collection resources relating to the western history of the book at RBSC, UBC Library, and the web.

History of Science and Medicine

Rare Books in Science and Medicine

The motivation behind acquiring these rare books was to show students "the milestones of science - the first time any new discovery was published". The personal collections of Chauncey Leake, a US pharmacologist and medical historian, Hugh M. Sinclair, an Oxford lecturer and researcher, and Sir Robert MacIntosh, an Oxford professor of anesthesiology, were among the purchases that comprise the core of the collection. Additional collections have since been acquired from Claude Dolman and the Vancouver Medical Association, and special collections in obstetrics and gynecology from Dr. Gerald Korn, and in dermatology from Dr. McLean. 


Alice in Wonderland

The Alice 100 Collection celebrates the 100th anniversary of the first publication of Alice in 1865. In 1965, the collection was donated to the University of British Columbia by the graduating class of 1925 in celebration of their 40th anniversary.

Artists' Books, Fine and Private Press Books

This guide compiles information and resources to provide an introduction to artists' books, fine and private press books, and miniature books in UBC Library’s Rare Books and Special Collections (RBSC).

English Literature

Rare Books and Special Collections features a number of collections significant to the history, development, and art of English language and literature.

Canadian Literature

UBC RBSC collects rare and historically significant Canadian literature. The main focus of this collecting is the province of British Columbia; expanding to the national context, we collect early imprints of Canadian books as well as those which are rare or irreplaceable, of aesthetic importance, or by their nature may be subject to loss or damage.

Historical Children's Literature

RBSC collects children's literature of Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States to 1939 with an emphasis on books that were read by children.


B.C. Fire Insurance Maps

Fire insurance plans are detailed large-scale maps of cities, smaller municipalities, and industrial sites. The object of these maps is to show the character of any insured building. These plans were compiled by the fire insurance underwriters to assist their agents in assessing and controlling the risks of fire.

Historical Map Collections

The main focus of RBSC's historical map collection is British Columbia. Printed and archival holdings include historical maps, charts, engineering and architectural drawings, atlases, and globes. Geographical coverage includes maps and charts of pre-1900 British Columbia, North America, the Canadian Arctic and the Pacific Rim, pre-1800 world/hemispheres, and Japanese maps of the Tokugawa era. 

Archival collections

Archival Materials

Archival material includes primary sources (generally defined as unpublished material) such as manuscripts, letters, photographs, and audio-visual materials.

Asian Canadian History and Archives

This guide compiles over 60 collections featuring the records of Asian Canadians and intends to shine a spotlight on the rich contributions of Asian Canadians to the historical record. The materials in these collections tell the stories of individuals, families, companies, organizations, and communities from a variety of time periods and experiences across the world.

British Columbian Art and Artists

A guide to information on art and artists in British Columbia, not including performing arts, architecture, or arts of Indigenous peoples. Any artist who worked in BC regardless of place of birth is included.


The term "ephemera" refers to documents such as broadsides, leaflets, pamphlets, and posters, which are intended for use for a short period of time. Ephemera can be used as a primary source in a variety of types of research.

Forestry History and Archives

This guide concerns the history of the forestry industry in British Columbia and highlights relevant resources available through the UBC Library and Special Collections, which include records from forestry companies, individuals from forestry companies, individuals important to the development of the industry, and associations or organizations relevant to the industry.

Historical Photographs

This guide is an introduction to resources for finding and using historical photographs both within UBC Collections and externally.

Indigenous Peoples History and Archives

The UBC Vancouver campus is located on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territory of the Musqueam people. The land it is situated on has always been a place of learning for the Musqueam people, who for millennia have passed on their culture, history, and traditions from one generation to the next on this site. This research guide aims to assist researchers looking for materials in RBSC that are relevant to Indigenous peoples in Canada.

Labour History and Archives

This research guide highlights relevant resources and archival material relating to the history of labour in British Columbia, as well as women's involvement in the labour movement.

Malcolm Lowry

Malcolm Lowry was an English poet and novelist. UBC Library has been collecting literary works and archival materials associated with Malcolm Lowry since it acquired Lowry's papers in 1984.

Women's History at RBSC

This guide compiles over 140 collections featuring women’s materials and intends to highlight, celebrate, and make known the rich contributions of women to the historical record. Much like the women themselves, the materials are representative of colorful and varied slices of human life. They tell the stories of women from a variety of ages, locations, time periods, and experiences—be it professional, domestic, artistic, political, etc.