Heritage collection of rare books

Description of the collection

Rare book: The Quebec Almanack for the year 1792.

Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec makes available to its users a collection of some 10,000 rare books printed between the 15th and 19th centuries.

The collection is comprised primarily of books, but also includes a number of periodicals and broadsides. It contains the earliest examples of printing in Quebec, such as the Catéchisme du diocèse de Sens (1765) and books relating to Québec printed before 1851 such as Champlain's accounts of his voyages and the Jesuit Relations of New France. The collection also contains books published abroad, in Europe and the United States, generally before 1801. These include Diderot and d’ Alembert's Encyclopédie ou dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers , Antoine Furetière's Dictionnaire universel and Ptolemy's Geographia universalis. History, geography, religion, law and literature are the major topics of the collection, but it also has works in such fields as natural science, mathematics, medicine, architecture, philosophy and fine arts.

The main collection came from two early Sulpician librairies (Œuvre des bons livres, 1844, and Cabinet de lecture paroissial, 1857) and from the Saint-Sulpice library (1915). It grew over time through the addition of the collections of religious communities (such as the Franciscans) and Canadian public figures (such as Louis-Joseph Papineau, John Neilson, Joseph-Adolphe Chapleau, Charles Gill, George Baby, Louis-Wilfrid Sicotte and Philéas Gagnon).

Search tools and publications

A description of the full collection is given in the Iris catalogue .

BAnQ’s collection of w orks printed in Québec and Québec-related works, printed before 1821, is described in Milada Vlach , Laurentiana parus avant 1821 (Montréal: Bibliothèque nationale du Québec, 1976) and in Milada Vlach and Yolande Buono, Catalogue collectif des impressions québécoises, 1764-1820 (Montréal: Bibliothèque nationale du Québec, 1984).

For more information on the collection, see the following articles in the magazine À rayons ouverts :

Élizabeth Gallat-Morin, “Trésors musicaux à la Bibliothèque nationale du Québec”, À rayons ouverts, No. 43, July-September 1998

Élizabeth Gallat-Morin and Jean-Pierre Pinson, “La vie musicale en Nouvelle-France”, À rayons ouverts, No. 59, Spring 2004

Gilles Gallichan, “Americana de langue française à la BNQ”, À rayons ouverts, No. 7, July-September 1989

Les livres anciens“ (dossier), À rayons ouverts, No. 66, Winter 2006

Pierre Mailloux, “Un trésor inestimable à la BNQ : la collection des post-incunables des Franciscains de Québec”, À rayons ouverts, No. 52, October-December 2000

Milada Vlach, “Contributions scientifiques de la Nouvelle-France dans la première moitié du XVIIIe siècle”, À rayons ouverts, No. 29, January-March 1995.


Contacting the service

Rare books can be studied in the reading room of BAnQ Rosemont–La Petite-Patrie. This room is open to the public Tuesday through Friday, from 9 am to 5 pm.

Telephone: 514 873-1100, ext. 266, or 1 800 363-9028
Fax: 514 873-7626
E-mail: collectionspeciale@banq.qc.ca

Philippe Legault is in charge of this collection.

Our partners

Ville de Montréal. Fondation de BAnQ. Les Amis de BAnQ. Catalogue des bibliothèques du Québec. RDAQ. RFN.