J. J. Stewart Maritime Collection

About the J.J. Stewart Maritimes Collection

The J.J. Stewart Collection was the private research library of a dedicated and knowledgeable bibliophile and a working newspaper editor. John Stewart’s extensive and varied library supported his editorial work and fueled his private history research interests.  All available publications were carefully collected and catalogued – almanacs; annual reports of learned, educational and philanthropic societies; bibliographies; municipal and provincial government reports; histories; sermons; law cases; statistical publications; reference works; fiction; poetry; musical scores;  engravings; pamphlets; concert programmes and extended runs of Nova Scotia literary journal and newspapers. The collection has been retained as a distinct bibliographical and intellectual unit. It contains approximately 1,200 monographs; ninety serial titles; 1,000 pamphlets; seventy historical prints; and twenty music scores. Stewart’s collection has provided future generations of Nova Scotians with the means to study and appreciate the evolution of their history society and literature during the colonial period and dynamic nineteenth century.

Collection Highlights

Stewart’s collection reflects his deep interest in documenting all aspects of the social, economic and cultural development and history of the Maritimes Provinces. He collected and preserved many significant and unique Nova Scotia imprints. In his collection are to be found the first Nova Scotia textbook, the first Mi’kmaq dictionary, early Mi’kmaq gospels, botanical lithographs drawn and printed in Nova Scotia, the Richard Short views of 18th century Halifax, a pre-1800 Nova Scotia literary journal, first editions of Nova Scotia’s most important 19th century fiction writers and extensive runs of Nova Scotia religious, nautical, business and general interest almanacs dating from 1772 to 1906.  


In 1907 Stewart’s private library was described as “the finest private library of the kind in the Maritime provinces”. Donated to the Dalhousie University Library in 1910, the collection has supported the research needs of the Dalhousie academic community for over a hundred years. Hundreds of items from the Stewart Collection were requested for preservation microfilming by the national preservation initiative Canadian Institute for Historical Microreproduction (CIHM). The CIHM collection is now being made available online via the collaborative Early Canadiana Online database. Currently Canadians have digital access to over 80,000 books, government documents and periodical issues via Early Canadiana Online.

More from Vessels of Light: A Guide to Special Collections in the Killam Libraryby Karen E. M. Smith.