Literary Archives: A Guide to the Literary Fonds

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Collection scope

The Literary Archives at Library and Archives Canada (LAC) houses archival fonds from Canadian writers, as well as individuals and organizations active in fields related to literature (e.g. small literary presses, translators and illustrators).

The emphasis of the collection is on the creators and creation of works of literature. The collection complements the LAC's printed resources for Canadian studies. Researchers can study unpublished materials to gain insight into the development of works of literature, the production of books, the relationships within the literary community in Canada and the organizations that work with and for writers.

The collection has provided material for many Canadian and international research projects in the fields of literary biography, bibliography, textual criticism and literary history.

A fonds may include manuscripts, typescripts, galley proofs, correspondence, photographs, scrapbooks, newspaper clippings, audio and video recordings, and computer files.

The following sample list of fonds serves to illustrate the nature and scope of the Literary Archives: Bernard Assiniwi, Marie-Claire Blais, George Bowering, Dionne Brand, Nicole Brossard, Coach House Press, Robertson Davies, Réjean Ducharme, Louis Dudek, Timothy Findley, Sheila Fischman, Patrick Friesen, Gratien Gélinas, André Giroux, Jack Hodgins, House of Anansi, W.P. Kinsella, Roger Lemelin, Ron Lightburn, Daphne Marlatt, Susanna Moodie, Erin Mouré, Michael Ondaatje, Oolichan Books, Catherine Parr Trail, Jacques Poulin, Gabrielle Roy, F.R. Scott, Carol Shields, Michel Tremblay, Jane Urquhart, Phyllis Webb and Rachel Wyatt.

Use of material is governed by Canadian copyright legislation: permission of copyright holders is required to publish or reproduce materials.

Criteria for acquisition

  • Archival fonds of writers (Canadian-born or resident in Canada) of works of the imagination in any literary genre written in English and/or French.
  • Fonds of Canadian individuals and organizations in fields related to literature, such as small literary presses, private presses and the book arts.
  • Fonds and/or illustrations of Canadian writers and illustrators of children's books are also listed here: these are holdings of the Children's Literature Collection.
  • Types of material acquired: manuscripts, typescripts, letters, computer files, and accompanying material (e.g., pamphlets, broadsides, reprints, illustrations, decorations, medals, audio and video recordings, etc.). Fonds of sufficient size to illustrate the life and/or work of the author or creator.

Co-operation with other manuscript repositories

While Library and Archives Canada actively seeks to acquire archival fonds of Canadian writers and literary organizations, due consideration is given to acquisition policies of other literary archives repositories.

Rules and regulations for researchers

The following rules apply to all researchers desiring access to materials held by Literary Archives at Library and Archives Canada

The consultation room

  • Materials from the Literary Archives may be consulted only under supervision at the Special Collections Consultation Room on the 3rd floor at 395 Wellington Street, Ottawa, Ontario.
  • Service and Opening Hours
  • Pencils only are to be used for taking notes. Use of self-adhesive notes is not permitted.
  • Researchers are responsible for the care and safekeeping of all material they have requested. They must wear white gloves which will be provided by staff.

Access to collections

  • All researchers must complete an application form providing information about themselves and their research. Unprocessed fonds are not open for consultation. Access to fragile materials may be limited.
  • Restrictions have been placed on access to and use of some fonds or parts of fonds. It is the responsibility of the researcher to contact persons responsible for granting access to restricted material and, once permission has been granted, to provide staff with written proof. Permission to view restricted materials carries with it the obligation not to show or read these materials to any other person.
  • Permission to consult the records does not necessarily include permission to obtain photocopies. When copying is permitted, these copies may not be published nor passed to a third party without written authorization.
  • Audiovisual recordings are available for on-site consultation. Patrons should contact the reference staff to obtain access to these materials.
  • Any questions about access to or use of collections should be directed to staff of the Literary Archives.

Reproductions of documents

  • Researchers are expected to take notes or use personal computers or dictating machines whenever possible. Reading Room staff reserve the right to prohibit reproduction of materials because of the condition of the originals.
  • Photocopies will be made for researchers by the staff at Library and Archives Canada at the rate in effect at the time of their visit. See: Photocopies and Reproductions. Consultation Room staff will instruct researchers in flagging material for photocopying.
  • Non-textual such as photographs, cassettes, etc. may be reproduced for researchers upon request, subject to copyright restrictions.
  • Library and Archives Canada does not own the rights to unpublished materials contained in its collections. It is the responsibility of the researcher to obtain permission from the author, estate or copyright holder(s) before publishing, excerpting, performing, recording, broadcasting or quoting from archival materials.

About the guide

Literary Archives: A Guide to the Literary Fonds at Library and Archives Canada is intended as an introduction to unpublished resources in the field of Canadian literature. Here the interested researcher will find an introduction to Literary Archives, the collection scope for literary archives, the rules and regulations for the use of Literary Archives, an explanation of the format of the descriptions, and a description of each fonds or collection. This is the fourth edition of this guide and is the second edition available on the Internet.

The entries in this guide are fonds-level descriptions. A detailed explanation of the fonds description format and of the Rules for Archival Description (RAD) standard for archival description can be found in the section titled Format of the descriptions.

Finding aids are available for many fonds. The staff of the Literary Archives can forward copies of finding aids, preliminary inventories and other resources in order to answer questions for interested researchers.

Format of the descriptions

Literary Archives: A Guide to the Literary Fonds at Library and Archives Canada has been created using Rules for Archival Description (RAD) the standard for archival description formulated by the Canadian Committee on Archival Description (CCAD) of the Canadian Council of Archives. This standard brings our collection descriptions into compliance with the Canadian archival community at large and provides opportunities to share our records through archival intitiatives such as the national network of fonds-level archival descriptions, Archives Canada (Canadian Archival Information Network).

This guide contains fonds-level records — descriptions for the body of records that come from a single creator (a "creator" meaning and individual (such as an author), one or more families, or an administrative body (such as a literary press).

Readers will notice that many descriptions contain a standard format beginning with a name authority heading: a capitalized name followed by the birth and death dates (where applicable). This name authority is the official version of the creator's name and dates verified by a bibliographic source. After the name authority heading, the first line of the description contains the title of the fonds, followed by the date range for the material in the fonds and the extent of material in the fonds (measured in linear meters).

E.g., "Anne-Marie Alonzo fonds. 1966-1994. - 8 m of textual record."

The Biographical Sketch is an encapsulated biography for the creator of the fonds and focuses on the history and activities of the individual or organization. The biographical sketch is intended to provide background to the description. This biographical sketch cannot contain all the relevant details on a given creator and can only include sample titles from an author's works. For more specific details on the creator's activities, biographical reference sources or the finding aid should be consulted.

Scope and Content informs the reader of the types of materials that can be found in the fonds, the activities that created these materials as well as relationships between materials in the fonds. The materials found in a fonds relate only to the date range specified in the first line of the description. For more specific details regarding the materials in a fonds the finding aids should be consulted.

The last portion of description contains notes telling the reader from whom the material was acquired, the language in which the documents in the fonds were created, any restrictions that prohibit access to certain materials and whether a finding aid is available for consultation.


As is the case with this type of publication, Literary Archives becomes outdated by ongoing work being done on the collection. Readers should be aware that acquisitions from new donors as well as installments from listed donors are added on a continual basis. Researchers requiring up-to-date information on a fonds should contact the literary archivist directly.

Contact information

Literary Archives, Arts & Cultural Affairs Section
Library and Archives Canada
550 Blvd de la Cité
Gatineau, QC, K1A 0N4

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