Opening of the New Library, McGill University, Montreal Containing the Addresses Delivered on the Occasion with a Description of the Building; Some Points in the History of the University; in Memoriam. October 31st 1893.

Peter Redpath, Esq.

I beg Your Excellencies to accept my most sincere thanks for the honour conferred by your attendance on an occasion which it has been my privilege to create. I also thank His Honour the Lieut.-Governor of the Province of Quebec and the distinguished company around and before me, for the interest manifested in the function of to-day. There is always a feeling of satisfaction in the mere doing of what one considers will be of benefit to the university and the city, and possibly beyond it. But it is pleasing also to have the approval and sympathy of those who feel an interest in the object we have in view.[…]

The conventional few words which are now expected from me will be devoted entirely to matters relating to the building in which we are assembled. The necessity for largely increased accommodation for the library of McGill University has been manifest for some years past. I believe that this building, with its possible extensions, will provide space for all the books that the university is likely to own for many years to come. It is the result of as much care and attention as the architect and myself knew how to bestow upon it. The plans of many other libraries were examined, and many other libraries were visited both by myself and the architect, with a view to arriving at the best possible plan for this building on this site. The newly-appointed librarian, too, gave many valuable suggestions in matter of detail. I know that we have not attained perfection; but experience will show how far we have advanced towards that end. In no case has utility been sacrificed to architectural or aesthetical effect, yet I believe that the architectural design and aesthetical effect, yet I believe that the architectural design and the aesthetical effects have met with the general approbation of the comparatively few persons who have hitherto had an opportunity of studying them. I remember a meeting of Convocation a good many years ago at which Principal Dawson, in a general appeal for aid to the university, described the library shelves as “gaping for books.” The shelves then “gaping” have been filled, and the books have overflowed. But now the shelves here will absorb them all, and there will be shelves gaping for more. Let me here take the liberty of saying to those who may desire to present collections of books to the university, that they should not diminish the value of their gifts by requiring that the books should be kept together as special collections. The librarian ought to have, and, in fact, must have the liberty of classifying all the books under his charge and placing those on the same subject together, from whatever quarter they may come, otherwise some confusion and expense will be caused, and the donor may in that way be disappointed. The only features in the building to which I will make special reference are the painted windows at the end of the Hall. They are the gift of my wife, who heartily encouraged me during the whole progress of the building. I have such pleasure in acknowledging her and my obligations to Messrs. Clayton & Bell, of London, the designers, who have expressed the sincere pleasure they had in executing the work. They were willing to accept suggestions, and my previous experience of their work led me to confide in their scholarly care and artistic taste. I hope that the results, considering that they had no Raphael to consult, will be considered satisfactory. The decorations are not yet completed. There are spaces in the windows which will hereafter receive inscriptions […]. Mr. President, I have no deed of gift to offer today. I know what follows when a man knowingly builds upon ground belonging to another. This building already belongs to the University without any gift from me. I know that it is only a shelter for its more valuable contents; but students will, I hope, appreciate the facilities here offered, and the pleasant surroundings I have endeavoured to provide.

Source: Peter Redpath, Address at the Opening of the Redpath Library, October 31, 1893

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