William Morse

About the Dalhousie William I. Morse Collection

William Inglis Morse of Paradise, Nova Scotia – author, historian, minister, bibliophile and philanthropist- always maintained a strong interest in the history of his native province and felt strongly that books should be “handed on as a heritage of the ages”.  In the midst of the depression when Dalhousie University was under severe financial pressure, Morse generously donated a “scholar’s collection” to Dalhousie University.  He continued to add to the collection annually until 1942. His completed donation consisted of 716 monographs, eighteen serial titles, 140 fine bindings, 131 engravings, 201 maps, two pieces of nineteenth century sheet music and appropriate new chairs, study tables, and bookcases for a refurbished study hall.  The collection he donated reflected Morse’s personal opinion as to what a serious scholar should be interested in – the exploration and early settlement of Nova Scotia, the evolution of printing, the book arts, important classics in the arts and sciences, music history, Norse legends, works by Bliss Carman and George Santayana and books about General James Wolfe.

Collection Highlights

Collection highlights include the commissioned bindings by Douglas Cockerell on William Morse’s own publications; the 1686 edition of Sir. Isaac Newton’s Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica; the four volume set of Atlantic Neptune by Joseph F.W. DesBarres; Gen. Wolfe’s copy of Memoires de Montecuculi (1746); Nouveaux voyages de Mr. le baron de Lahontan dans l’Amerique Septentrionale … (1703); J.E. Woolford’s Sketches in Nova Scotia for 1818; the Neptune Americo-Septentrional (1780); Anthony Lockwood’s A brief description of Nova Scotia: with plates of the principal harbors… (1818); the first edition of the five volume set A general history of the Science and Practice of Music  (1776) by Sir. John Hawkins and the private press printings of Bliss Carman’s poetry.


The quality, diversity and volume of the Morse donation instantly established a base for the development of research collections in the fields of literature, philosophy, music and Atlantic Canada history.  Morse’s donation and cataloguing requirements focused the University’s attention on the Library and advanced all aspects of library service at Dalhousie University at a critical time in the Library’s development.


A catalogue of the main Morse donation of 1933 was published in 1938  - A catalogue of the William Inglis Morse Collection of Books, Pictures, Maps, manuscripts, Etc at Dalhousie University Library, Halifax , Nova Scotia.

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