The Beginnings

The McGill Faculty of Medicine Library, the oldest medical library in Canada, was founded in 1823 by the staff of the Montreal General Hospital. The first Library was situated in the Montreal Medical Institution at 20 rue St.-Jacques, in a rented house at the north east corner of the Place-d'Armes next to the Bank of Montreal. At this point the Library contained a couple of hundred books and periodicals.

In 1829, the Montreal Medical Institution became the Faculty of Medicine of McGill University, the University's first faculty. The Royal Institution for the Advancement of Learning (the body to which James McGill willed his estate in 1813) had been looking for staff and the Montreal Medical Institution (founded in 1823) had been trying to find a way to grant degrees. Fusion solved both problems.

Engraving depicting the Montreeal Medical Institute
The Montreal Medical Institute
(the second building in this engraving)

For fifty years, the Library followed the Faculty's peregrinations. At one point, it was housed in the home of Dr. A.F. Holmes, one of the founders who also acted as librarian. Later it moved to the Arts Building on the McGill campus and then to a building purchased by the Faculty closer to the Montreal General Hospital, on Côté.

The Dean or Registrar acted as librarian (later on, honorary librarian). Users could borrow three books at a time for two weeks on leaving a deposit of 10 shillings per book. The earliest catalogue still in existence dates from 1845. Partly printed and partly manuscript, it contains entries for 904 volumes. The subscriptions of 1 guinea (21 shillings) a year provided the book and journal budget but in practice members of the Faculty donated most of the volumes. By 1870 faculty and students could draw on 2,101 works in their library and in this decade, a Journal Club was founded with a subscription rate of 10 pounds which funded the purchase of foreign journals.

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