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The Marvin Orbach Collection of Canadian Poetry

The Marvin Orbach Collection of Canadian Poetry


“When I was a young teenager I collected butterflies. Then when I got older I started collecting poets. After all aren’t poets butterflies? When they write, they take wing”


Thus Marvin Orbach, a book collector and a librarian at the Vanier Library, Concordia University, Montreal, writes of his passion for modern and contemporary Canadian poetry. He began collecting at the age of 17 and by 2002 had developed a collection of approximately 2400 books which he donated to Special Collections. This gift has been recognized by the Canadian Cultural Property Export Review Board as being of outstanding significance and national importance.


Mr. Orbach wanted to keep the collection in his home city of Montreal but happy circumstances brought him into contact with Special Collections which houses important archival fonds of Canadian literary figures such as Alden Nowlan, Alice Munro, Mordecai Richler, Guy Vanderhaeghe, Aritha van Herk, and Robert Kroetsch. The gift of such a significant book collection is a perfect complement in presenting the published works of authors who are already represented in the archival holdings.


The Marvin Orbach Collection of Canadian Poetry has representative works from the 19th to the early 20th centuries but the greatest strength is in works by poets who began being published in the 1960s, the era which produced an explosion of poetry by such writers as Irving Layton, Ralph Gustafson, Miriam Waddington, Dorothy Livesay, P.K. Page, and Leonard Cohen. Many of these works are personally inscribed to Mr. Orbach and often contain a poem in manuscript. In addition, there are manuscripts, letters, and advertisements for poetry readings as well as translations into other languages by poets such as Margaret Atwood and Irving Layton. The collection is being continually strengthened by additional donations from Mr. Orbach.


In an article published in Concordia’s Thursday Report (March 18, 2004), Mr. Orbach notes that his collection is his thanks “to the country that accepted his parents after they left Eastern Europe. ‘I love Canada’. …‘This collection is my gift to Canada’ “.


It is indeed a gift which Special Collections shares with Canada. At the present time there is a finding aid for the collection available.