Peel open only 2:00-4:30pm on Friday December 14th

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In the month of December 2018, Bruce Peel Special Collections will be open regular hours (Monday-Friday 12:00-4:30pm) with the following exceptions:

  • Friday, December 14th: open 2:00-4:30pm
  • Monday, December 24th: open 12:00-4:00pm
  • Tuesday, December 25th through Tuesday, January 1st: U of A closed

We return to regular hours on Wednesday, January 2nd.

Happy Holidays!

Eagerly-anticipated biography of Sam Steele now on sale!

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Portrait of Steele, ca. 1915

University of Alberta Press has issued a major biography of Sam Steele by Rod Macleod, Professor Emeritus in U of A's Department of History and Classics. The paperback edition of the book is now available from U of A Press and from Indigo and A special limited edition hardcover will soon be available for sale only through Bruce Peel Special Collections; details will be available here.

For information about the Sir Samuel Steele Collection housed in University of Alberta's Bruce Peel Special Collections, check out the Steele website here.

In the fall of 2017, Bruce Peel Special Collections launched a digital exhibition curated by Alison Rukavina, a professor in the Department of English at Texas Tech University. In this exhibitionSam Steele's Forty Years in Canada: History or Fiction?Dr Rukavina reveals some of the reasons that it is difficult to distinguish historical fact from fiction when she explores the story behind the story for some of the most dramatic events recounted in Steele's 1915 memoir.

Retrieval Request Form

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All researchers (including students, faculty, visiting scholars, and members of the general public) must submit either a Retrieval Request Form (for books) or a Discover Archives Retrieval Request Form (for archival materials) at least 24 hours before their visit to Bruce Peel Special Collections in order to be sure that library materials have been retrieved from storage and are available for their use. 

If you have any questions, please contact library staff at or call 780-492-5998 (Monday-Friday 12-4:30).

Who invented Christmas?

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According to the 2017 film, who is The Man Who Invented Christmas?

When you can't ask Santabecause he is too busy finalizing his holiday listsBruce Peel Special Collections can help to answer your Christmas questions! 

What do we mean by "Christmas spirit?"

Since the first edition appeared in 1843, Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol has offered—in print, and in stage and film adaptations—a compelling expression of many of the core values associated with Christmas spirit. These values—such as kindness,
Title page and frontispiece,
Dickens' A Christmas Carol
generosity, and strong family ties—are not at all unique to Christian thought. The universality of these values may help to account for the enduring popularity of Dickens’ tale. It may also help to explain the statistics that tell us that most North Americans celebrate Christmas whether or not they are practicing Christians.
Dickens' Christmas books

Bruce Peel Special Collections is home to several copies of A Christmas Carol, including first editions. What many people may not know is that, following the publication of A Christmas Carol, Dickens penned four more Christmas books. The Peel library has first editions of all of them: The Chimes (Christmas 1844), The Cricket on the Hearth (Christmas 1845), The Battle of Life (Christmas 1846), and The Haunted Man and the Ghost’s Bargain (Christmas 1848). (PR 4552 1843 Vol. 1-5)

Has Christmas become too secular?

Songs of Christmas (1885)

There are people who say that Christmas has become too secular, but it is worth noting that traditional sacred music is still very much in evidence throughout the holiday season. We hear traditional Christmas carols on the radio, in malls, in concerts, at parades, and in many other public places. And, how old is this sacred music? 

Following the “Golden Age” of Christmas carols, around 1350–1550, it wasn’t until the nineteenth century that Christmas carols became popular again and many of today's favorites were written at that time, including "Silent Night" (1818). Two of the interesting items in Bruce Peel Special Collections that show something of this history: Songs of Christmas, published in 1885 (PR 4759 H8 S6), and A Garland of Christmas Carols, Ancient and Modern (ML Z881 E5 S985 1861). Both include some Christmas carols that are rarely, if ever, heard today.

CPR ad, Christmas 1893

Has Christmas become too commercialized?

What do you think? Perhaps Christmas has become too commercialized, but this is nothing new! Check out these Christmas ads from more than a hundred years ago: a CPR railway advertisement (HE 2810 C67 1893) offering discounted travel rates over the holidays and an advertisement that tells him that the time is right: "This is the Christmas as never before, / You should give lingerie to the girl you adore" (Z 239 G7 A13 V.136 folio). 

Christmas ad for lingerie

Visitors and researchers are welcome to view these special items in the reading room in Bruce Peel Special Collections during regular hours (Monday-Friday 12-4:30pm), provided that the materials are requested in advance using the online Retrieval Request Form.

Where do ideas about witchcraft come from?

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Explore early ideas about witchcraft by learning about a very rare (and sinister) fifteenth-century manuscript housed in University of Alberta's Bruce Peel Special Collections.

Tinctor's Foul Treatise is an award-winning digital exhibition that unlocks the secrets of this special manuscript. Curated by Andrew Gow, Rob Desjardins, and Fran├žois Pageau, the exhibition was mounted in October 2016 by University of Alberta's Bruce Peel Special Collections, and it is the winner of the prestigious 2018 Leab Award (Electronic Exhibitions) from the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) and the Rare Books and Manuscripts Section (RBMS) of the American Library Association.

The Arras Witch Treatises is a full English-language translation of two important fifteenth-century source texts (Tinctor's Invectives and the anonymous Recollectioprepared by Andrew Gow, Rob Desjardins, and Fran├žois Pageau and published by Pennsylvania State University Press (2016) as part of their Magic in History series. This edition is available through University of Alberta Libraries (BF 1582 A155 2016) and is widely available for sale.

Get a close look—through—at the copy of Tinctor's Invectives housed in University of Alberta's Bruce Peel Special Collections.

You can still check out Tinctor's Foul Manual, a very interesting one-hour documentary produced by Paul Kennedy for the CBC's Ideas that has been aired numerous times, most recently on 2 August 2016.

Check out the story entitled "Rare Book was Catalyst for Witch Hunts," by Michael Hingston in U of A's alumni magazine, Thought Box (21 Oct 2016).

Check out Paula Simons' fascinating exploration of the ways that old ideas about witchcraft continue to haunt us today: "Politics, Powerful Women and Hunting Witches in a New Age of Superstition," Edmonton Journal (29 Oct 2016).  This story helpfully links to a relevant story by Simons: "Witch History takes flight in Rare Manuscript at U of A," Edmonton Journal (27 Oct 2012), and a related blog post "The Witch-Burner's Mein Kampf: Excerpts of Evil" (Oct 2012).