February 6, 2020 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn

Written by Lourdes Hurtado, Communications Intern

Dr. Ian Rae, Associate Professor in the Department of English, French and Writing, delivered a presentation titled “‘What good are all those books?’:  Barnett as City-Builder and Public Intellectual” on J.D. Barnett and his 40,000-book collection on January 17, 2020, in the Weldon Library at Western University. The talk was presented by the Western Early Modern Society.

Various representatives from libraries attended.  Dr. Rae's presentation focused on Barnett’s life as well as his donation of rare books to Western.

During his introduction, Dr. Rae noted that Barnett’s book collection “forms the core of one of the largest, most public-spirited, and most interdisciplinary intellectual projects undertaken by any individual in Canadian history.”

According to Dr. Rae, Barnett collected over 45,000 volumes during the 60 years he lived in Canada from 1866 until his death in 1926.  “To give you some idea of scale, the Library of Parliament in Ottawa, when it opened in 1876, contained approximately 47,000 volumes collected by the governments of Upper and Lower Canada,” said Dr. Rae.

“The Barnett donation is valued because it helps us map the relations between literacy, land, governance, gender, technology, race and power in the 19th and early 20th centuries,” says Dr. Rae.  Barnett lived in Stratford, Ontario and while there he also was a contributor to the local newspapers, and made other contributions in science through publications in engineering journals.  He also had a valuable collection of Shakespeare’s volumes. 

At King’s, Dr. Rae teaches English and his research is on Canadian literature, poetry, and Canadian studies.  He published a book in 2008 titled “From Cohen to Carson: The Poet's Novel in Canada” from McGill-Queen's University Press.