Treasures of the Library Lectures

Starting in 2014-2015, the Treasures of the Library lecture series is organized by the Archives and Special Collections of the University of Ottawa’s Library. Visit their website for the complete program

A contemporary look at rare books

Treasures of the Library is a bilingual series of public lectures that looks at the University's rare books collection through contemporary eyes. Four times throughout the academic year, professors from the Faculty of Arts will comment on an old book specific to their areas of expertise. Although the lectures highlight the importance of preserving these rare works for research purposes, they also help us to better comprehend the modern world by studying the past.

2013–2014 Season

March 27, 2014
Plato's Phaedo, or the Death of Socrates
(in French)

Catherine Collobert

The Phaedo, one of Plato's dialogues, recounts Socrates' final hours and the philosopher's musings in the face of death. However, contrary to the opinion stated by Jean de Luxembourg, the translator of the University's 1538 edition, the Phaedo is not meant as a guide on how to serenely confront one's last hours on Earth. Rather, it is a life lesson, since Socrates states that life is about learning how to die, albeit in a very specific context.

Speaker : Catherine Collobert
Catherine Collobert is a professor at the Department of Philosophy and has published a number of works on ancient philosophy, the latest of which appeared in 2011 and is titled Parier sur le temps: la quête héroïque d'immortalité dans l'épopée homérique, in which she discusses the heroic quest for immortality in Homeric literature. She is currently working on a book on Plato and literature, more specifically on the literary dimension of Plato's dialogues. Her latest articles on Plato were published in 2013, namely:  La littérarité platonicienne : instances et modes narratifs dans les dialogues  published in Revue de métaphysique et de morale, 2013, No. 4; and  La Rhétorique au cœur de l'examen réfutatif socratique : le jeu des émotions dans le Gorgias, which appeared in Phronesis, Vol. 58, No. 2, 2013.

January 23, 2014
Masterpieces of the English Baroque

Nicholas von Maltzahn

Nicholas von Maltzahn, professor in the Department of English, will give a lecture on the first editions of John Milton's Paradise Lost (1667-1669) and Andrew Marvell's Miscellaneous Poems (1681), a copy of which is held in the Library's collection. His lecture will recall the achievement of these works, with reference to Milton and Marvell's long friendship during the difficult times of the English Revolution and its aftermath. The focus will be on the books themselves as rich artefacts from that extraordinary cultural period.

Speaker : Nicholas von Maltzahn
Professor in the Department of English at the University of Ottawa since 1987, Nicholas von Maltzahn has long been a student of Milton and Marvell's works, which are at the centre of his teaching and research. Professor von Maltzahn's publications include the monograph entitled Milton's History of Britain (Oxford University Press, 1991), an edition of Marvell's Account of the Growth of Popery and Arbitrary Government (Yale University Press, 2003) and the book-length An Andrew Marvell Chronology (Palgrave Macmillan, 2005). He has also published many articles and chapters in collections from various hands on Milton and Marvell's works and their reception in the 1600s and 1700s.

November 21, 2013
Eustache Mercadé and the Medieval Mystery Play - In French

Photo of lfrappier

The University of Ottawa owns a very rare 1491 edition of Eustache Mercadé's Mystère de la vengeance de Notre Seigneur Jésus Christ, one of the most significant and popular plays put on in France during the Middle Ages. This lecture will describe the dramatic composition, representation and staging of medieval mystery plays, and discuss the reasons for their gradual disappearance during the Renaissance and the appearance of new forms of French theatre.

Speaker: Louise Frappier
Louise Frappier has been a Professor at the University of Ottawa since 2010. She received her PhD from the Département d'études françaises at the University of Montreal, and completed post-doctoral studies at Concordia University. She specializes in theatre of French Renaissance and her current research project, which is funded by the SSHRC, focuses on the development of French tragedy during the sixteenth century and on the representation of power in the Renaissance performing arts.

September 19, 2013
Edward Gibbon and The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

Photo of rburgess

The University of Ottawa owns a rare first edition set of Edward Gibbon's The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, which is not only one of the most famous works of history ever written but one of the great works of English literature. Much has changed in the 235 years since its publication and the question still often arises, "Why did the Roman Empire fall?" This talk will present Gibbon's view and offer a more modern approach to answering the same question.

Speaker: Richard W. Burgess
Richard W. Burgess received his BA and MA from Trinity College and the University of Toronto, respectively, and his PhD from the University of Oxford. He has published five books (with two more nearing completion), over 40 articles and chapters in books and over 60 encyclopedia entries. He has been teaching at the University of Ottawa since 1989 and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 2012.

Reserve your seat today!
Contact Véronique Maurais at 613-562-5972 or by email at

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