Merril Collection of Science Fiction, Speculation & Fantasy

Archival boxes behind shelf of books with Dungeons and Dragons cover sticking out

One of the world’s leading research collections of speculative fiction and popular culture.

Our 80,000+ items cover speculative fiction including science fiction, fantasy, horror and magic realism. Includes:

Jump to collection details & highlights.

Merril logo of green alien in keyhole

Digitized items

Many items are available on the library's Digital Archive.

View digitized items

Plan your visit

Using the collection

All welcome! Walk in to see exhibits or ask questions.

To access most items, you simply need to fill out a brief form and show a piece of identification or your library card when you arrive. To see original art, call ahead (416-393-7748).

Items are non-circulating. You can view them in the Merril Collection's reading room.

Location

Lillian H. Smith branch (239 College Street), 3rd floor.

Hours

Monday
10:00 am to 6:00 pm
Tuesday
10:00 am to 6:00 pm
Wednesday
10:00 am to 6:00 pm
Thursday
10:00 am to 6:00 pm
Friday
10:00 am to 6:00 pm
Saturday
9:00 am to 5:00 pm
Sunday
Closed

Check Holiday Hours for closures on or near public holidays.

Class or group visits

Contact us to schedule talks and tours for groups and classes (grades 4 to 12, college and university classes).

Contact

416-393-7748
lsmestaff@tpl.ca

Collection details & highlights

Fiction books, non-fiction critical works, biographies

Since the 1970s, science fiction has been an accepted field of academic study. Our collection includes many works from the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries. It supports middle school students to postgraduates.

  • First editions of books such as Bram Stoker's Dracula and H. G. Wells' War of the Worlds
  • Early paperback editions including Ace Doubles, DAW and Lancer pocket books
  • Biographies and critical works about authors, editors, illustrators, filmmakers
  • Bibliographies and indexes to pulp magazines, journals and fanzines
  • Speculative fiction in other media: cinema, television, comic books and music
Vintage Dracula book Dracula by Bram Stoker, 1897. First edition.

Pulp magazines

Our extensive collection of pulps dates back to the 1920s. These popular magazines, named for their inexpensive paper made from wood pulp, are fragile but vividly colourful — they pre-date other entertainments such as television and movies.

  • First science fiction pulp magazine Amazing Stories (1926) published by Hugo Gernsback
  • First horror/fantasy fiction pulp magazine Weird Tales (1923) published by Rural Publishing Corporation
  • Popular science fiction digest-sized magazine Galaxy Science Fiction (1950 to 1980) published by World Editions
Two vintage pulp magazine covers with science fiction illustrations Two pulps: Science Wonder Stories (1929) and Galaxy Science Fiction (1955).

Graphic novels

We have over 5,000 titles consisting of comic book compilations and full-length narratives.

  • DC Archives Editions and Marvel Masterworks, which reprint early classics, including first appearances of a variety of superheroes. We also have Dark Horse Archives, which reprint more obscure comics. Useful for researchers of the history of graphic novels, plus fans of particular superheroes, such as Wonder Woman or Captain America.
  • Artist’s Editions, which reproduce the artist renderings in original dimensions before they were inked, coloured and sent to the publishers for printing
  • In addition to well-known series such as Batman and the Avengers, our collection also has some representative titles from other parts of the world, including France, Belgium and Japan
Cover of World's Finest Comics Archives, Volume 2, 2001 World's Finest Comics Archives, Volume 2, 2001.

Manuscripts, correspondence and other archival records

Original manuscripts and archival materials from prominent speculative fiction creators and organizations.

  • Judith Merril: recordings of interviews with fellow writers, select correspondence and ephemera
  • Guy Gavriel Kay: manuscripts and drafts for several novels including Tigana and The Summer Tree
  • S. M. Stirling: manuscripts for novels and short stories
  • A. E. van Vogt: manuscripts for novels and short stories

Periodicals

Our holdings include scholarly journals, publishing, film, and science magazines, fiction periodicals and fanzines.

  • Entire run of Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine, founded in 1977 and featuring the first appearance of Daenerys Targaryen along with works by Octavia Butler, Kelly Link and Kim Stanley Robinson
  • Genre industry periodicals such as Locus and The New York Review of Science Fiction
  • Scholarly journals such as Foundation, Extrapolation and Arthuriana
  • Magazines on the paranomal such as Skeptical Inquirer and Fortean Times
  • Fanzines (self-published magazines made and distributed fans, including some famous authors)
  • Canadian fiction magazines, On Spec (Alberta), Neo-Opsis (British Columbia) and Solaris (Quebec)
Cover of Asimov's Science Fiction Asimov's Science Fiction, December 1995.

Original art

Includes both original science fiction and fantasy art. Our holdings feature some of the most gifted artists in the field: Frank Kelly Freas, Leo and Diane Dillon, Stephen Hickman, Ron Lightburn, Ed Emshwiller and Virgil Finlay.

  • Interior art from pulp magazines from the 1950s to 1970s by Jack Gaughan, Vincent Di Fate, Frank R. Paul and others
  • Original cover art for novels and pulp magazines by artists such as Frank Kelly Freas, Ed Emswhiller and John Berkey
  • A selection of space art by Jon Lomberg, who worked with Carl Sagan on the television show Cosmos
Green man in key hole - Do not use without permission Cover illustration for Martians, Go Home from a repainting by Frank Kelly Freas. First used as the cover of Astounding Science-Fiction, September 1954.

Role-playing game (RPG) books

Since the first tabletop RPG, Dungeons & Dragons, was published, there has been a considerable increase in the number of titles available and the themes explored. Holdings span hundreds of titles, including player guides, modules, campaigns, and more.

  • Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Dungeon Master’s Guide, including the famed Appendix N — the list of books that inspired Gary Gygax to create Dungeons & Dragons
  • Empire of the Petal Throne, set in the world of Tékumel, created by a professor of linguistics and built around his invented language
  • Popular games like D&D, Call of Cthulhu, Vampire the Masquerade, Cyberpunk, GURPS and Pathfinder
  • RPGs based on pop culture sensations like Star Trek, Star Wars, Firefly and Sailor Moon
Cover of Sailor Moon book Sailor Moon: The Sailor Moon Role-Playing Game and Resource Book by Mark C. MacKinnon, 1999.

Virtual exhibits

Retro Futures

Finding aids

Some finding aids are large and may take a minute to load.

Graphic Novel Finding Aid

A list of graphic novels and comics in the Merril Collection.

Manuscripts Finding Aid

An inventory of over 100 boxes of manuscripts and other archival items in the Merril Collection.

Role Playing Game Finding Aid [coming soon]

A list of our RPG resources and boxed sets of RPG games in the Merril Collection.

Series & Sequels List [coming soon]

A complete list of over 17,000 speculative fiction titles that are part of a series — a resource for chronological, and in some cases suggested, reading order.

History of collection

1968

Judith Merril moves to Toronto and loans her science fiction collection to residents of Rochdale College, University of Toronto.

1970

On August 10, an agreement is signed between Judith Merril — a prominent science fiction author/editor — and the Board of the Toronto Public library. Merril agrees to donate her collection of 5,000 items related to science fiction, fantasy and associated non-fiction.

The collection opens at 566 Palmerston Avenue, originally named The Spaced Out Library. Madge Aalto (Madeleine Morton) is appointed Head of Collection.

1972

Nathan Lewis Bengis, President of the North American Jules Verne Society, donates a substantial collection of Jules Verne materials to the Spaced Out Library.

1973

Doris Mehegan is appointed Head of Collection.

1975

With 17,000 items, the Spaced Out Library moves to the Boys & Girls House (40 St. George Street), a former branch of Toronto Public Library.

1980

The Friends of the Spaced Out Library is established. (They later change their name to the Friends of the Merril Collection.)

A circulating collection of science fiction is established at the Spaced Out Library in addition to the existing reference collection.

1981

The Building Committee is given the task of finding a new permanent home for the Spaced Out Library’s growing collection.

1985

Spaced Out hosts the launch of “Tesseracts: an Anthology of Canadian Science Fiction”, edited by Judith Merril and the first anthology of its kind. The event is attended by science fiction celebrities Ursula K. Le Guin, Phyllis Gotlieb, L. Sprague de Camp and Elisabeth Vonarburg.

1986

Lorna Toolis is appointed Head of Collection.

1987

A Writer-in-Residence program is launched, featuring Judith Merril as the first Writer-in-Residence. Members of the program form the Cecil Street Writer’s Group. (Later Writers-in-Residences will include Robert J. Sawyer and Karl Schroeder.)

Robert Bruce Robbins, patron and Friend of the Spaced Out Library, leaves a large bequest of material to the collection.

1990

The collection is officially renamed The Merril Collection of Science Fiction, Speculation & Fantasy.

1995

The collection moves to the Lillian H. Smith branch, its current location. In this location, the book stacks are temperature- and humidity-controlled to preserve the items. There is also a dedicated reading room for quiet, individual study.

The Merril Collection co-sponsors an exhibition (“Out of this World”) on Canadian science fiction and fantasy at the National Library of Canada (now Library and Archives Canada).

1997

The first Academic Conference on Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy is held at the Merril Collection, featuring guest speakers Judith Merril and Guy Gavriel Kay, with a special tribute to Phyllis Gotlieb.This event recurs every two years.

The first Fantastic Pulps Show and Sale is held on May 3, 1997. This becomes an annual event.

On September 12, 1997 Judith Merril dies at age 74. The library plants a tree in her memory. The Toronto Public Library Board donates Leo and Diane Dillon's painting Worldly Wonders to the Merril Collection in her honour.

2000

Margaret Atwood uses the collection to research the pulp fiction aspect of her novel The Blind Assassin and for book publicity.

2002

A book launch is held for “Better to Have Loved: The Life of Judith Merril”, compiled from Merril’s memoirs by her granddaughter Emily Pohl-Weary. The book later wins a Hugo Award.

2003

The Merril Collection contributes to Flight: A Thrilling History of an Idea, an exhibit held in TD Gallery at Toronto Reference Library. Leo and Diane Dillon’s Worldly Wisdom is the exhibit’s key image.

2008

The Merril Collection hosts the presentation of SF Canada’s Lifetime Achievement Award to science fiction author and poet Phyllis Gotlieb.

2017

Sephora Henderson (formerly Hosein) is appointed Head of Collection.

2018

The Merril Collection hosts the relaunch of Amazing Stories as a print magazine.

2019

The Merril Collection curates Retro Futures, an exhibit celebrating futuristic visions from early science fiction and science fact, held in TD Gallery at Toronto Reference Library.

2020

50th anniversary of the Merril Collection of Science Fiction, Speculation & Fantasy.

Support the collection

Friends of the Merril Collection

A volunteer organization to support and promote the Merril Collection. The Friends sponsor book launches and author readings, and publish the SOL Rising newsletter.

Friends website