James Alexander and Ellen Rea Benson Special Collections

The James Alexander and Ellen Rea Benson Special Collections comprise the Western Archives' antiquarian and rare book holdings. Major collections include the G. William Stuart, Jr. Collection of Milton and Miltoniana, the H.G. Wells Collection, English Canadian literature to 1939, Canadian Voyages and Travel titles to 1900, the Hannah Collection of the History of Science and Medicine, the Beatrice Hitchins Collection of Aviation History, and the Richard Maurice Bucke Collection of Medical, Philosophical and Literary Papers.

The Benson Special Collections were established in 1934 as the Treasure Room Collection on the first floor of the then recently constructed Lawson Memorial Library (now part of the Stevenson-Lawson Building). From 1966 to 1971, the department, its name truncated to "Treasure Room", occupied a caged section of the library stacks.

When The D.B. Weldon Library was opened in 1971, the Treasure Room was combined with Regional Collection on the second floor of the new building. In 1973, the rare book holdings were separated to form Special Collections. The department occupied what was designated initially as a map library. Oak cabinetry, tables, and chairs lent the room a distinguished academic aura.

In 1999, Special Collections benefited from an endowment provided through the estate of Lillian Benson, a retired thirty-seven year employee and friend of Western Libraries. Ms. Benson had been Assistant Librarian, Administration, to Western Librarian Dr. James J. Talman. In recognition of her gift, Special Collections was renamed The James Alexander and Ellen Rea Benson Special Collections in honour of Ms. Benson's parents.

In 2002, the Benson Special Collections were incorporated within The University of Western Ontario Archives, occupying space within the Archives and Research Collections Centre.

Collections include:

  • Black History Collection
  • British Private Press Collection (Kelmscott Press, William Morris and others)
  • R.M. Bucke Collection (Walt Whitman, History of Psychiatry)
  • Canadian Church History
  • Canadian Travels and Voyages (19th century of Canadian Travel literature)
  • Enlightenment and the French Revolution
  • Hannah Collection (History of Medicine)
  • H.G. Wells Collection (Early and First Editions of Wells' works)
  • The Alexander Norman Collection of Comic Books
  • The Dr. Eddy Smet Collection of Comic Books