Baldwin Collection of Canadiana

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Marilyn and Charles Baillie Special Collections Centre

One of the world's largest research collections of Canadian history. With over a million items, it holds significant primary sources from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. The emphasis of the collection is Toronto and Ontario.

Collection details & highlights

There are six main collection areas. Notable holdings and finding aids are available by expanding the options below. Some of these areas contain subcollections. (For example, the Canadian Documentary Art Collection contains our Toronto Star Photograph Archive.)

Books, pamphlets & periodicals

This collection consists of over 24,000 books, pamphlets and periodicals. These items were published before 1900 and are about Canada, or by Canadians.

The periodicals cover agriculture, business, current affairs, education, humour, literature, medicine, religion, science and temperance.

Collection strengths

  • Voyages and travels from the 16th to 19th century, including arctic exploration and accounts of New France
  • Accounts of Indigenous peoples and cultures (mainly through the perceptions of European colonists)
  • The War of 1812
  • The Rebellions of 1837–1838 in Upper and Lower Canada
  • Early Canadian literature

Notable holdings

Finding aids

All items in this subcollection are searchable on TPL's catalogue. Tip: check the box under the search bar for Baldwin Collection items.

You can access A Bibliography of Canadiana in person or online. This catalogue has notes and indexes not available in TPL's online catalogue. Published in 1934, it was supplemented in 1957 and 1985–1989.

Canadian Documentary Art Collection

This collection focuses on images of Toronto from 1793 to present. It also covers other parts of Canada. Includes:

  • Over one million photos
  • Approximately 15,000 paintings, drawings and prints
  • Over 18,000 postcards

Below are its two core subcollections and other holdings.

Toronto Star Photograph Archive

Over a million local, national and international press photos from 1900 to 1999. These Toronto Star photos feature work by renowned photographers such as Boris Spremo, Erin Combs, Reg Inell and Colin McConnell.

Toronto Star Newspapers Ltd. donated the archive in 2014.

The finding aides are divided into two groups on how the information was transferred to us. View Group 1 finding aid or Group 2 finding aid. Or explore over 130,000 photos online.

John Ross Robertson Collection

A collection of 4,000 paintings and other types of pictures. They depict Canadian scenes, people and events up until 1918.

John Ross Robertson donated most of these items in 1912. His donation established TPL as a major archive of historical Canadian imagery. (The beginnings of TPL's historical picture collection go back to the 19th century, when we acquired paintings by William Pope.)

See a digitized guide of the collection from 1967.

Other holdings

Ephemera (including posters)

Ephemera are documents created for a specific purpose and usually discarded afterwards. Their images and slogans provide snapshots of the events and attitudes of their era.

This collection has over 28,000 items. Its focus is Toronto but there are pieces of national interest. The types of ephemera vary widely. Most are printed ephemera. Includes:

Federal & provincial election materials

We maintain a growing collection of campaign material from the metropolitan Toronto area. These pieces of election ephemera date from the 1960s to the present.

War posters

We hold 120 posters from World War I and 250 from World War II. They cover subjects ranging from recruitment to victory bonds. See digitized First World War posters and Second World War posters.

Alan and Thomas Suddon Collection

A collection of 5,000 posters, broadsides and flyers. These items were collected from the streets of Toronto from the 1950s to 1990s. They reflect various trends in Toronto, especially in the university-dominated Annex area. View digitized posters.

Other holdings


Letters, diaries, maps, plans, account books and other unpublished documents. They record the public and private lives of Canadians from the 18th century to our own time.

This collection — previously named the Baldwin Room Manuscript Collection — dates back to 1886.

Personal papers of major figures in Upper Canada's history

  • William Dummer Powell and his wife, Anne Murray
  • Samuel Peters Jarvis
  • William Allan
  • Robert Baldwin and his father, Dr. William Warren Baldwin (on the reform movement)

Other holdings

  • The Newton McTavish Collection contains hand-written correspondence, poems and short stories by Lucy Maud Montgomery, Mazo de la Roche, Marjorie Pickthall, E. J. Pratt, Archibald Lampman, Isabel Ecclestone Mackay, Stephen Leacock and other early 20th century Canadian writers
  • Terms of Capitulation of the Town of York during the War of 1812
  • Papers of prominent Black Torontonians such as Dr. Anderson Ruffin Abbott (first Canadian-born Black doctor)
  • Papers of prominent Canadian women such as Jean Minhinnick, Helen Cleveland and Phyllis Clarke
  • The journals of George Nelson, an employee of the Northwest Company
  • Simon Fraser's journal of exploration of what is now the Fraser River
  • Papers from the First World War
  • Material about Toronto

Finding aids

View our Anderson Ruffin Abbott finding aid (PDF).

More finding aids and other guides are available in person help you find these manuscripts.

You can also view an online inventory and a digitized guide from 1954.


This large collection features original maps from the mid-1500s to 1920. Most of the maps are within North America but the collection spans the globe.

Works of many famous cartographers are held in the collection. Includes maps by Gerhard Mercator, Abraham Ortelius, Johannes Bleau and Samuel de Champlain.

Maps post-1920 and reproductions of earlier maps are held in the map collection of the Humanities and Social Sciences Department. Together, they form the largest map collection in any Canadian public library system.

Collection strengths

  • Early maps of North America by European colonists, including maps from the Dutch Golden Age of cartography
  • Maps highlighting disputed borders and times of conflict
  • Survey maps of Upper Canada showing the settlement of lands and roads, including a collection of Canada Company maps from 1820–1853
  • Maps by government departments such as the Department of the Interior, Canada Geological Survey and Department of Railways and Canals
  • Maps by railway companies such as Canadian Northern Railway and Canadian Pacific Railway
  • Fire insurance maps of Toronto (split between this collection and the map collection in the Humanities and Social Sciences Department)

All digitized maps

Hundreds of these digitized maps are available to view online.


An extensive archive of original Canadian newspapers with a focus on Toronto titles. Maintained by TPL since 1883.

To preserve the newspapers, access to original copies is limited. They are available for research and professional reproductions (no photocopying). Appointments to view print newspapers must be made at least one day in advance. Depending on the nature of the request more time may be required.

  • Virtually complete sets of Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, National Post and Toronto Sun
  • Issues of over 75 newspapers, including runs of most Toronto dailies from the 19th and 20th centuries — and over 80 years of the Toronto Telegram
  • Significant runs of many Toronto and Ontario newspapers prior to 1867

Finding aids

View our inventory of print newspapers.

Related publications for your research: Early Toronto Newspapers: 1793-1867, Union List of Canadian Newspapers Held Canadian Libraries and Inventory of Ontario Newspapers, 1793-1986.

More historical newspapers at TPL

Plan your visit

All are welcome. Walk in to look around or ask questions.

Using the collection

You can search many items (mostly books) available in person using TPL's catalogue. Tip: check the box under the search bar for Baldwin Collection items.

To access items, you will need to fill out a brief form and show one piece of identification or your library card when you arrive. To view artwork or a large number of items, please contact us before your visit.

Items are non-circulating. You can view them in the Marilyn & Charles Baillie Special Collections Centre.


Toronto Reference Library (789 Yonge Street). 5th floor. Inside the Marilyn & Charles Baillie Special Collections Centre.


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9:00 am to 5:00 pm
1:30 pm to 5:00 pm

Food & drinks

To protect items, we keep our space free of any food or drinks (including water).

Class or group visits

Contact us to schedule talks and tours for groups and classes. We are happy to prepare talks on a topic of interest to you.