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OISE's Ontario Historical Education Collections (OHEC)

Ontario Textbook Collection (OTC) 1846 - 1970

The Ontario Textbook Collection includes elementary and secondary school texts authorized for use in Ontario from 1846 to 1970, as well as some materials used in nineteenth-century schools which were not authorized by the Ontario Department of Education. The collection includes several sets of Ontario readers. Information about these earlier textbooks was gleaned from recollections of superannuated teachers included in the annual reports by the Ontario Minister of Education. Beginning in 1887, authorized and approved textbooks were listed on the annual department publication, Circular 14If available, accompanying teacher’s editions and student workbooks are included in the collection; these are usually included in the same catalogue record as the main text.


Locating Books in the Ontario Textbook Collection

Find specific titles in this collection by searching the library catalogue using the advanced search function.

  1. Enter your title or key words into the library search box. Using a subject keyword (ie. biology) along with the word "authorized" is a good search strategy for the OTC collection.
  2. Select OISE in the Library drop-down menu.
  3. Press search.
  4. In the results page, select Ontario Historical Ed. under "Library Location."



Other Interesting Facts about the Ontario Textbook Collection

  • Many of the texts in the OTC collection are marked as "File Copies." This means that they were the copies used by the Ministry or Department of Education during review and approval process for inclusion on the textbook list. In some cases, they include marginalia regarding this process: this may include the name and location of the reviewer, their commentary during review, the years and subjects for which these texts were approved, as well as other relevant notes. Occasionally, these copies may also have ephemeral materials tucked in to their pages which originate from their original use. These items include correspondence from publishers, teachers and school boards.
  • The historical collections at OISE also contains a small number of "File Copies" that were deemed "ineligible" for inclusion, with notes on the reasons for their rejection.These are currently uncatalogued.
  • Information on the material in the OTC collection which predate Circular 14 (which began in 1887) was gleaned from superannuated teacher recollections and lists included in early Department of Education’s reports to the Ontario legislature as well as the departmental publication The Journal of Education.
  • This collection does not include some specific types of items because they were not within the scope of Circular 14; these include books used in the French and German schools, and separate school textbooks. Literature textbook (plays, poetry, novels) selection was left to the school boards and was also not listed in Circular 14. Most books used in teaching commercial subjects are also not included.