Archival Collections

The Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library holds over 800 archival collections (4500 linear metres) covering a wide range of subject areas. It includes collections of literary, historical, and personal papers for individuals and organizations, with a focus on Canadiana.

A collection strength of the Fisher pertains to the drafts, research notes, and correspondence of Canadian authors, and international writers with connections to Canada.  This includes the archival papers of well-known and preeminent Black writers, poets, historians, and playwrights such as Afua Cooper, Lorna Goodison, Rudy Fearon, Lawrence Hill, George Elliott Clarke, and Derek Walcott.   

Read summaries of our archival holdings below. Click on any of the writers' names to explore our finding aids and find out more about their collections.

Lawrence Hill (1957-)

Lawrence Hill is a Canadian author best known for his novels The Book of Negroes, The Illegal, and his memoir Black Berry, Sweet Juice. The Book of Negroes won several awards, including the 2008 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, and was the winning choice of CBC Radio’s Canada Reads for 2009. Fisher’s Hill collection consists of 275 boxes of material related to his published books, juvenilia, charitable and philanthropic activities, awards and prizes, appearances, etc. The collection also contains works by Hill’s family members, including his father Daniel Grafton Hill III, and his work as Ombudsman of Ontario, as first director and later chair of the Ontario Human Rights Commission, and the founding with his wife Donna Hill of the Ontario Black History Society.

In this episode of the Fisher Library's podcast, Between the Pillars, John Shoesmith and Natalya Rattan talk with Lawrence Hill about his work and his archival papers, February 2021. 

Afua Cooper (1957-)

Afua Cooper is a Canadian poet, historian, novelist, and academic. She moved from Jamaica to Canada in 1980 and published her first book of poetry, Breakin Chains, in 1983. She has since published The Hanging of Angelique (shortlisted for the 2006 Governor General's Literary Award), historical novels for children, and several albums of poetry. She is also Associate Professor of Sociology at Dalhousie University. The Fisher holds 19 boxes of material from Cooper, including personal and professional correspondence, manuscripts, academic papers and lectures, personal photographs, cultural and political pursuits, and extensive work related to the history of slavery and the history of African Canadians.

Lorna Goodison (1947-)

Lorna Goodison is a Jamaican poet who published her first book of poetry in 1980, titled Tamarind Season, which was well-received in Jamaica. Her second collection, I Am Becoming My Mother, brought her the 1986 Commonwealth Poetry Prize (Americas Region) and international recognition. She has subsequently published 12 books of poetry, as well as short stories, essays, and a memoir, From Harvey River: A Memoir of My Mother and Her Island. She is also a well-known artist and in 2017 was named as the second official poet laureate of Jamaica. Fisher holds 53 boxes of material including notes, drafts and manuscripts, artwork, correspondence, and photographs.

George Elliott Clarke (1960-)

George Elliott Clarke is a Canadian writer, poet, playwright, and academic. He has served as the Poet Laureate of Toronto from 2012 to 2015, and as Canadian Parliamentary Poet Laureate from 2016 to 2017. He has also filled various academic posts, including Professor of English at the University of Toronto and the William Lyon Mackenzie King Visiting Professor in Canadian Studies at Harvard University. Clarke has published numerous volumes of poetry, plays, novels, books of criticism, and has edited several literary anthologies. The Library’s Clarke collection is extensive at nearly 250 boxes of material. It includes correspondence, manuscripts, Africana, and various other material related to his life and work. His collection also contains material related to his great-aunt, Portia White (1911-1968), who is known for being the first Black Canadian singer to achieve international fame.

Derek Walcott (1930-1970)

Derek Walcott was a Caribbean poet, playwright, and theatre director. Born in Castries, St. Lucia, and educated at the University of the West Indies, Jamaica, he began publishing volumes of verse in the 1948. He founded the Trinidad Theatre Workshop in 1959 and achieved widespread recognition with the publication of Green Night in 1962. In later years he divided his time between Trinidad and Boston, where he taught literature and creative writing at Boston University. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1992. Fisher holds 139 boxes of material including manuscripts and drafts, correspondence, ephemera, photographs, sketches, scripts, and other material related to his life and work.

Rudyard Fearon (1953-)

Rudyard Fearon is a Canadian poet and performer. Born in Jamaica, he emigrated to Canada in 1974. He has published several volumes of poetry, including Lost Tongues and The Dog Who Could Not Bark. The Fisher holds 12 boxes of material, including manuscripts and drafts, correspondence, photographs, and ephemera related to his life and work.