Jane Urquhart Diary Donated to the U of W Library

Tuesday, December 1, 1998

Library Newsletter, Vol. 29, No. 3, December 1998

Jane Urquhart Diary Donated to the U of W Library

James Downey, Susan Saunders Bellingham, and Jane Urquhart

UW President James Downey and author Jane Urquhart (seated) are seen here comparing the original copy of her diary with the presentation facsimile prepared as a part of the preservation process. In commenting on the gift, Susan Saunders Bellingham, Head, Special Collections (standing) said that the diary will be of great interest to both students in literature and women's studies and will also be "a fine complement to the papers of Urquhart's husband, artist Tony Urquhart which are already housed in the Doris Lewis Rare Book Room."

Scrapbook open

Pictured above are two pages from the recently-donated diary of Jane Urquhart. Representative of the contents of the complete diary, these pages from 1975 feature photos, programs, labels, a telegram, and diary entries. [Click on photos above for larger views.]

A series of "title-pages" by Hugh MacKenzie, a marriage license, exotic and colourful wine labels, tiny photographs of French graveyards, restaurant menus, and postcards are among the many fascinating items included in the pages of writer Jane Urquhart's diary. Covering the period from 1974 to 1979--a time that Ms. Urquhart describes as preceding her writing career--the 258-page diary has been donated to the Doris Lewis Rare Book Room at the University of Waterloo Library by Ms. Urquhart, winner of the 1997 Governor General's Award for her novel The Underpainter.

Jane Urquhart describes this diary--which also served as a sketchbook, journal, and trip diary--as her "best one" in that it shows her collaborative work with her husband, artist Tony Urquhart. The many sketches and drawings by Tony Urquhart that are included make this diary not unlike his series of "idea books" which form one of the most important portions of his personal papers and archives, also housed in the Doris Lewis Rare Book Room. The complementary nature of her diary with her husband's series of idea books prompted Ms. Urquhart to feel that this particular volume was well-suited to be added to the existing research collections in the Library. Ms. Urquhart further commented that it was important to her to have a portion of her original materials in the University of Waterloo Library because "Without the UW Library I couldn't have written the books I have... I really feel at home there."

Her desire to have the diary preserved and housed in a suitable repository had to be reconciled with the sadness donors sometimes feel when they decide to part with a treasured family possession. Thus the Library arranged to have a facsimile version made as a part of the preservation process carried out on the diary under the auspices of the Ontario University Libraries Co-operative Preservation Programme operated by McMaster University Library. McMaster's Preservation Specialist, John Winch, separated the signatures from the deteriorated spine of the original, inserted protective tissue guards where needed to prevent damage to particularly fragile items which were pasted in, and carried out certain other conservation tasks that were required. A separate case was made for the now-disbound original signatures and a preservation facsimile was made for the Urquhart family. This facsimile, bound in black buckram, now closely resembles the original journal.

The diary will be displayed in a special exhibit beginning in January 1999 in the Doris Lewis Rare Book Room, Dana Porter Library.

For more information, contact Special Collections & Archives.

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