Strachan Collection

Bust of John Strachan in the Trinity College Quad

John Strachan, first Bishop of Toronto and founder of the University of Toronto and of Trinity College, made two substantial gifts to the Trinity College Library, the first comprising 600 books in 1853, shortly after the founding of the College, and the last as a bequest of his 3,000-volume library at his death in December 1867. For a century or longer these books remained in the circulating collection of the College Library. The wear and tear of scholars’ use and challenging environmental conditions are evident in the physical state of surviving volumes, some of which were just discovered in the stacks within the past few years.

Perhaps most remarkable, if not surprising, is the breadth of interests represented in this collection. Strachan’s lifelong dedication to education, from his youthful years as a schoolmaster lured to Upper Canada in 1799 by the promise of advancement in this vocation, to his lasting involvement in the life of Trinity College, is reflected in the range of subjects his books covered: science, mathematics, classics, English literature, history, economics, politics, and philosophy, as well as theology and doctrine, including orthodox Anglican thought, dissenting ideas, and controversial literature, as might be expected among the books of the eminent Anglican bishop. This collection is neither fully representative nor perfectly balanced in its reflection of Strachan’s library. Many volumes from his original gifts have not survived, and there is no extant catalogue of these books. Thus, it would be inappropriate to generalize too much on the basis of these remains. Yet we note that there are no novels, for example, nor any of the works of his contemporary Romantic poets. And there is a predictably hefty presence of things Scottish—authors, publishers, subjects—in the library of this gentleman from Aberdeen, the son of a nonjuring father and Presbyterian mother, a staunch Anglican whose churchmanship was generally consistent with the principles of the Scottish Episcopal Church.