William Ready Division of Archives and Research Collections

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William Ready Division of Archives and Research Collections
Reading room in The William Ready Division of Archives and Research Collections in Mills Memorial Library at McMaster University.jpg
LocationMills Memorial Library, Hamilton, Ontario
Branch ofMcMaster University Library

The William Ready Division of Archives and Research Collections is the principal repository for rare books, archives, maps and historical material at McMaster University. Developed to support teaching, research and scholarship, its holdings reflect fonds and collections pertaining to Canadian literature, politics, popular culture and business history, in addition to war and peace in the 20th century with an emphasis on the Holocaust and Resistance. It also holds a collection of eighteenth century books and journals, and is home to the Bertrand Russell Archives. Part of the McMaster University Library system, the Division of Archives and Research Collections is located in Mills Memorial Library.[1]


The Division of Archives and Research Collections is named after William Ready who served as University Librarian from 1966 until his retirement in 1979.[1]

William Ready[edit]

William Bernard Ready (pronounced Reedy) was born on September 16, 1914 in Cardiff, Wales to James Ready and Nora Hart. He obtained a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Wales in 1937, a Master of Arts from the University of Manitoba in 1949 and a Master of Library Science from the University of Western Ontario in 1970, in addition to several diplomas related to archives and library administration. Ready married Bessie Dyer (1917-2007) on April 25, 1945 and together they had six children.[2][3]

Ready considered himself a "working librarian" and rejected the academic side of librarianship in favour of hands-on work and collection development [4] He was known for his enterprising[5] and cunning[6] approach to building and managing archives and research collections. Having read and enjoyed The Hobbit, Ready asked a London-based book dealer to contact J. R. R. Tolkien about acquiring his works for Marquette University. Concerned about his retirement, Tolkien initially agreed to sell a selection of manuscripts. Further negotiation lead to Marquette's acquisition of the manuscripts for The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, among others, amounting to more than 11,000 pages.[7] During the same period Ready also secured the personal papers of social activist Dorothy Day.[8][9] As University Librarian at McMaster played an instrumental role in securing numerous high-profile collections, most notably the archives of philosopher and political activist Bertrand Russell.[6][10]

Ready died in Victoria, British Columbia on September 12, 1981, two years after retiring from McMaster. His autobiography, Files on Parade, was published posthumously in 1982.[7][11]


The holdings of the Division of Archives and Research Collections reflect a broad spectrum of Canadian popular culture ranging from the records of Canadian publishers[12] and advertisers[13] to the personal papers of internationally recognized authors and musicians. Included are writers Louise Bennett-Coverley,[14] Pierre Berton,[15] Austin Clarke,[16] Marian Engel,[17] Basil H. Johnston[18] and Farley Mowat[19] and singer-songwriters Bruce Cockburn,[20][21] Ian Thomas[22] and Jackie Washington.[23] A sample of Alice Munro's handwriting, whose letters appears in the fonds of publishers Macmillan Canada[24] and McClelland & Stewart,[25] appeared on a commemorative stamp released by Canada Post in 2015.[26]

Personal papers and research collections of non-Canadian figures are equally well represented by holdings pertaining to Samuel Beckett,[27] Vera Brittain, Thomas Carlyle and Sir George Catlin.[28] The Division of Archives and Research Collection also holds the only surviving manuscript of Anthony Burgess' A Clockwork Orange. The manuscript, along with several of Burgess' early works, was acquired by McMaster as a result of Ready's persistence and eventual friendship with the author. McMaster's copy is of particular interest because it includes the final chapter that was omitted by American publishers of the work. The manuscript contains an annotation in Burgess' hand that reads "Should we end here?", indicating that he questioned its inclusion.[5]

Other items held by the Archives include sheet music from the First World War,[29] historical postcards,[30] and a figure skating collection consisting of books, programs, photographs and postcards.[31]

The Bertrand Russell Archives[edit]

Russell in 1936

McMaster University is home to the Bertrand Russell Archives. Manuscripts, correspondence, newspaper clippings and other textual records, in addition to photographs and audio visual resources, make up the more than 140 meters of material held by the Archives.[32] Russell's personal library and furniture from his home in Penrhyndeudraeth, Wales are also housed at McMaster.[33] Russell's letters, totalling approximately 50,000,[34] provide insight about his personal and political dealings addressing topics such as his love live, his thoughts on teaching and pacifism, and his experiences in prison.[35] Joseph Conrad, T.S. Eliot, Nikita Khrushchev, Lady Constance Malleson, Ho Chi Minh, Jean-Paul Sartre, Ludwig Wittgenstein and Dorothy Maud Wrinch are among Russell's numerous correspondents.[36]

Russell's personal papers were purchased in 1968 for $520,000, with the first transfer of records consisting of 11 filing cabinets and 15 metal trunks.[37] At the time, it was the most money spent on the personal papers of one person, topping what was paid for the personal papers of Leon Trotsky and W. B. Yeats.[6][38] That a Canadian university was able to secure Russell's papers has been linked to his disapproval of the United States' role in Vietnam.[6][39] There was, however, interest from American universities, most notably the University of Texas, which dried up after an erroneous report in Newsweek indicated that Russell intended to use the funds to support war efforts in North Vietnam. Selling his papers was, in actuality, a means to support the work of the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation.[10]


  1. ^ a b "About". McMaster University Library. The William Ready Division of Archives and Research Collections. Retrieved 6 January 2016.
  2. ^ R. Reginald; Douglas Menville; Mary A. Burgess (2010). Menville, Douglas; Burgess, Mary A., eds. Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature, Volume 2. Wildside Press LLC. pp. 1043–1044. ISBN 9780941028783. Retrieved 6 January 2016.
  3. ^ "Deaths & Funerals - Ready, Bessie". Canada.com. Victoria, British Columbia: Times Colonist (Victoria). October 3, 2007. Retrieved 20 January 2016.
  4. ^ Neill, S. D. (1983). "Review of Files on Parade: A Memoir by William B. Ready". The Journal of Library History (1974-1987). University of Texas Press. 18 (4): 521–523. JSTOR 25541478.
  5. ^ a b Humphreys, Adrian (November 11, 2012). "A clockwork original: McMaster University bought manuscript of iconic novel for $250". National Post. Retrieved 6 January 2016.
  6. ^ a b c d Grescoe, Paul (April 24, 1971). "William Ready is Cunning, Devious, Relentless, Ruthless (and sneaky)". The Montreal Gazette. pp. 28–29. Retrieved 6 January 2016.
  7. ^ a b Antlfinger, Carrie (February 3, 2002). "Marquette University holds 'Lord of the Rings,' other Tolkien works". Nevada Herald. p. 8A. Retrieved 21 January 2016.
  8. ^ Heinen, Tom (May 7, 2008). "Diaries reveal another Dorothy". Journal Sentinel. Retrieved 21 January 2016.
  9. ^ "Dorothy Day — Catholic Worker Collection". Marquette Wire. September 18, 2003. Retrieved 21 January 2016.
  10. ^ a b Griffin, Nicholas. "How the Russell Papers Came to McMaster". The Bertrand Russell Society Quarterly. Retrieved 3 February 2016.
  11. ^ "William Ready fonds". McMaster University Library. The William Ready Division of Archives and Research Collections. Retrieved 20 January 2016.
  12. ^ "About". Historical Perspectives on Canadian Publishing. McMaster. Retrieved 31 January 2016.
  13. ^ Foda, Farzeen; Cumerlato, Sam (February 16, 2012). "Collection of popular media donated to Mac". The Silhouette. Retrieved 5 February 2016.
  14. ^ Wong, D. (Feb 14, 2011). "A treasure trove from Miss Lou". Hamilton Spectator. Retrieved 28 November 2015.
  15. ^ McKillop, A.B. (2010). Pierre Berton a biography (Unabridged. ed.). Toronto: Emblem. p. 678. ISBN 9781551996226. Retrieved 31 January 2016.
  16. ^ "Friends, colleagues pay tribute to Austin Clarke". ShareNews.com. Share Newspaper. Retrieved 31 January 2016.
  17. ^ Kavanagh, Afra (2006). "Ambivalence and Intertextuality in Marian Engel's The Glassy Sea: What the Archives Reveal". Journal of Canadian Studies/Revue d'études canadiennes. 40 (2). Retrieved 31 January 2016.
  18. ^ Nolan, Daniel (September 26, 2013). "Ojibwa author Johnson donates papers to McMaster". Hamilton Spectator. Retrieved 5 February 2016.
  19. ^ Rinehart, Dianne (May 7, 2014). "Farley Mowat, acclaimed Canadian author, dead at 92". Toronto Star. Retrieved 31 January 2016.
  20. ^ Carter, Adam (May 2, 2013). "Bruce Cockburn donates archives to McMaster University". CBC. Retrieved 31 January 2016.
  21. ^ Rockingham, Graham (May 3, 2013). "Bruce Cockburn donates his archives to McMaster". Hamilton Spectator. Retrieved 5 February 2016.
  22. ^ Rockingham, Graham (May 7, 2014). "The Thomas crowned affair: Local music superstar joins McMaster archives". Hamilton Spectator. Retrieved 31 January 2016.
  23. ^ Rockingham, Graham (June 3, 2009). "Jackie Washington, 89: Hamilton jazz icon". Toronto Star. Retrieved 5 February 2016.
  24. ^ "Macmillan Company of Canada fonds: Part IV. Sixth accrual (Accession No. 06-1993)". McMaster University Library. The William Ready Division of Archives and Research Collections. Retrieved 31 January 2016.
  25. ^ "McClelland & Stewart Ltd. Sixth Accrual (accession 02-2006)". McMaster University Library. The William Ready Division of Archives and Research Collections. Retrieved 31 January 2016.
  26. ^ McNeil, Mark (July 24, 2015). "Munro stamp taps into McMaster's archives". Hamilton Spectator.
  27. ^ "Mowatt Discussing Sale of Works". Ottawa Citizen. January 6, 1972. Retrieved 2 February 2016.
  28. ^ Colombo, John Robert (1984). Canadian literary landmarks. Willowdale, Ont., Canada: Hounslow Press. p. 124. ISBN 9780888820730. Retrieved 5 February 2016.
  29. ^ McNeil, Mark (4 November 2015). "Dusting off forgotten songs from the Great War". Hamilton Spectator. Retrieved 22 February 2016.
  30. ^ Thompson, Nicole (27 August 2015). "McMaster crowd-sources archival postcard project". Hamilton Spectator. Retrieved 22 February 2016.
  31. ^ Milton, Steve (23 January 2016). "Figure skating collection put on ice: Former Mac archivist donates figure skating collection". Hamilton Spectator. Retrieved 22 February 2016.
  32. ^ "Bertrand Russell fonds". McMaster University Library. The William Ready Division of Archives and Research Collections. Retrieved 2 February 2016.
  33. ^ Spadoni, Carl; Harley, David (1985). "Bertrand Russell's Library". The Journal of Library History. University of Texas Press. 20 (1): 25–45. JSTOR 25541563.
  34. ^ Vowles, Andrew (1994). "The Original Purchase of the Russell Archives". The McMaster Courier. Retrieved 3 February 2016.
  35. ^ McArthur, Doug (February 28, 1970). "Bertrand Russell". Montreal Gazette. Retrieved 3 February 2016.
  36. ^ "BRACERS' Correspondents". McMaster University Library. Retrieved 3 February 2016.
  37. ^ "Blackwell Again Tackling Job of Assembling Russell Papers". Quebec Chronicle-Telegraph. Nov 29, 1968. Retrieved 3 February 2016.
  38. ^ "Canada Gets Writings of Lord Russell". Toledo Blade. March 31, 1968. Retrieved 3 February 2016.
  39. ^ Cowan, Edward (Oct 5, 1968). "Lord Russell's Papers to Canada". Milwaukee Journal. Retrieved 3 February 2016.

External links[edit]

"Archives & Research Collections database". McMaster University Library. Retrieved 13 April 2016.

Coordinates: 43°15′46″N 79°55′03″W / 43.262831°N 79.917598°W / 43.262831; -79.917598