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Reference Archives

Special Collections Room

The archival collection is a treasure trove of books, maps, pamphlets and primary source documents with a focus on scarce or rare New Brunswickana, Canadiana, local history and selected works related to the history of the Atlantic Seaboard. It is a respected and much used resource for local history  studies; a genealogy and heritage library reflecting the cultural origins, literary tastes and reading habits of the region from the founding of Saint John to about 1900.


This collection evolved through gifts and bequests from various residents of the City of Saint John including authors, historians and members of the business community. The content of this collection represents the social, legal and business history of the Saint John area. There are numerous documents related to the commercial transactions of pre-Loyalist business pioneers Simonds, Hazen and White, and accounts and correspondence of Colonel Abraham dePeyster whose affairs were settled by a series of decrees by the Executive Council of the Province of New Brunswick.


Subsequent to the arrival of the Loyalists, many of the papers relate to land transactions and legal disputes about the disposition of land. There are letters discussing a scrutiny of voting, itemized accounts of court costs, plans to build a church, a statement of the amount owing for pew rent and an invoice for 55 barrels of herring. An order for the Appearance in Court of one of history's most famous or infamous turncoats, Benedict Arnold, is one of the treasures of this era along with a few very rare political pamphlets. It is a unique collection.


Access and Use

All material in the Special Collection room is listed on the library's Vision catalogue.

  • RA iterms are available any time the library is open.   
  • These items may not be photocopied but digital photography with natural light is allowed.
  • The Reference Archives books are included in Vision, the NBPLS' catalogue. 
  • RA items are used in-house only and require the use of gloves


Voices Vessels and Vellum

VVV is a joint project between the University of New Brunswick Libraries' Electronic Text Centre and the Saint John Free Public Library. Students and researchers will find here digital images and text transcriptions of two hundred 18th century documents from the Saint John Free Public Library Primary Source Documents Collection.  It is a work in progress.