Thursday, 19 April 2012

Taking Care

The books in the Louisbourg Library are in various states of repair -- some are in excellent condition, but, as expected due to their age, others are in deteriorating condition. Water damage, cuts, wormholes, spots, marginalia, detached covers, and broken spines are some of the conditions you expect to enounter when working with old books. For the most part, nothing has been done to alter these books. I have recommended (for a future project) that a condition evaluation assessment be conducted to determine what special care needs should be implemented to extend the lifespan of the books, and to select books that may be candidates for digitization.

Books in fragile condition or with detached covers have been wrapped in tissue paper and bound with tying tape. As well, the books are kept in secure cabinets that protect them from light, dust, and surprise environmental hazards such as the sprinklers going off. Visitors are not permitted to peruse the shelves as you normally can in a library to limit unnecessary handling of the books.

Please don't be discouraged from coming to see the books in person! These safeguards are in place to protect the books so that people can see them for many years to come. It is anticipated that more people will come to the Beaton Institute to see these rare and wonderful books. If there are any books that you wish to see, please contact the Beaton Institute prior to your visit.

Examples of book conditions from the Louisbourg Library



fragile condition

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Navigating Louisbourg Library

The rare books from the Fortress of Louisbourg Library form their own special collection within the Novanet catalogue, "Cape Breton University Fortress of Louisbourg Collection Beaton." The regular books have been assimilated in CBU's general collection and may be borrowed just like any other book. The rare books, however, are housed at the Beaton Institute, "a cultural heritage archive mandated to preserve the social, economic, political and cultural history of Cape Breton Island." The name assigned to Louisbourg's rare books directs the user to Cape Breton University, the Beaton Institute, and then the specific collection.

Books, or any material for that matter, may not be borrowed from the Beaton Institute. Researchers are able to view items of interest in the Beaton's reading room. It is recommended that a research request be submitted prior to visiting the Beaton so that staff can pull the relevant items in advance. Write anytime to

So, how do you search the Louisbourg Library?

Unfortunately, at this time there is no way to browse the collection. I am currently working on a shelf list that will be posted on the Beaton Institute's website when it is complete. Until then, you almost have to stumble upon an item while searching in Novanet or Worldcat. For example, if you were interested in researching gardens, try searching for "jardin" as a keyword since the majority of the publications in this collection are published in French. Be sure to limit your search to Cape Breton University. I did not have any luck conducting this search in Worldcat, but I did find a result in Novanet. I would recommend that you try searching both portals since they both have their strengths and weaknesses.

The book I found by conducting this search is "Le jardinier fleuriste, ou, La culture universelle des fleurs, arbres, arbustes, arbrisseaux servant à l’embellissement des jardins : contenant plusieurs parterres sur des desseins nouveaux, bosquets, boulingrins, sales, salons, & autres ornemens de jardin : avec la maniere de rechercher les eaux, de les conduire dans les jardins, & une instruction sur les bassins : ouvrage où tous les curieux trouveront de quoi s’amuser agréablemen" par le sieur L. Liger.

As you can see, many of the books from this collection have more than one title and sometimes multiple subtitles. As well, authors are more difficult to identify than in publishing today; oftentimes the title page of the book will state "by the author of Memoires," or some other publication. If you are lucky enough to get an author's name, it will likely be only the last name, as in this example.

The most important information you need is the call number. This number is needed for the staff to retrieve the book for you. The call number for Liger's "Le jardinier fleuriste" is SB 405 L54 1754. The call number is based on Library of Congress Classification. Once you have a call number for the subject area you are researching, you are able to browse in Novanet by selecting "Call Number." It is very important to remember that the call number is also the item's reference number, so be sure to bring this information with you if you wish to see any of the books from the Louisbourg Library the next time you visit the Beaton Institute.

Bonne chance!

Friday, 16 March 2012

Book sale!

Be sure to visit CBU Library in person to find some gems for only $1! Topics are varied and may include books on early Canadian history, architecture, race relations, business, fiction, or just about anything else. Check often for best selection.

Monday, 12 March 2012


The crown jewel of the Fortress of Louisbourg's library is Denis Diderot's Encyclopedie, ou Dictionnaire raisonne des sciences, des arts et des metiers, par une societe de gens de lettres. Originally published over a span of 21 years (1751-1772), Diderot's Encyclopedie ambitiously set out to document every aspect of knowledge, the first of its kind during the Enlightenment. The publication is massive, consisting of 17 volumes of text, 4 volumes of supplements, and another 12 volumes of plates (images, maps, and short descriptions). Reportedly, staff at the Fortress of Louisbourg purchased the complete set from a bookseller in Paris in 1968.

Encyclopedie is so provocative because Diderot sought to document all aspects of life, without regard for appeasing certain audiences. He was determined to publish honestly.

Diderot, by Louis-Michel van Loo, 1767


Saturday, 10 March 2012

A Variety of Topics

What types of books were held at the Fortress of Louisbourg library? The library itself was kept in an administrative building and was accessible to staff at the Fortress and other National Parks across Canada. The  relocation of the books to Cape Breton University will enable the public to borrow the books from the general collection or to view the rare books in the Beaton Institute's reading room. I will describe how to find the books in CBU's collection in a later post, but for now I want to talk a bit about the topics collected by the Fortress's library.

An impressive breadth of topics is covered by the library's collection. From bibles to architectural plans, the Library of Congress's classification system is fairly represented. Here are a few (sometimes surprising) topics covered:

- Bibles and instructive religious material. Of particular interest is a Latin bible published in 1666 in remarkable condition.

- Histories of towns in England, France, United States, and eastern Canada. There is a focus on cities with a strong French heritage, such as Montreal and New Orleans.

- Cultural studies exploring race, class, customs and practices, dress; Acadian, Puritan, Loyalist, Mi'kmaq, British, French, American

- Architecture from European masterpieces to pioneer settlements

- Art books profiling Renaissance masters in painting, drawing and music

- Military tactics, biographies of generals, profiles of forts contemporary to Louisbourg

- Law and legislation

- Fiction set in Louisbourg

- Educational material intended for the general public, school-aged children

Please note that many of the Fortress's books are published in French.

Friday, 9 March 2012


The Fortress of Louisbourg is one of Parks Canada's National Historic Sites. Located in south-east Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, the fortress was reconstructed in the 1960s. The battles fought at Louisbourg by the English, the French, and the Americans determined the course of history in North America. The siege of 1745 is recognized as a key event in history.

In 2011, Parks Canada downsized its inventories and, as a result, its library was decommissioned and transferred to Cape Breton University in a Memorandum of Understanding. The material numbers over 30,000 items and includes books, rare books, AV material, and archival material.

The purpose of this blog is to showcase some of the treasures from the Fortress of Louisbourg Library that are now housed at Cape Breton University. The bulk of books have been integrated in the general collection at CBU Library, whereas the rare books and archival material are now a part of the Beaton Institute, the main repository for rare documentary material on Cape Breton Island.