The Max Stern Project

Dr. Max Stern’s generous bequest of his working library of over 2500 volumes to the three universities close to his heart – Concordia, McGill and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem – was Solomonic in that he delegated the division of his books to the beneficiaries – no simple task given the scope, uniqueness and overall intellectual coherence of the Stern Collection. Art history, connoisseurship, individual artists and the business of art, the four subjects at the heart of the Stern library, were inextricably linked and for a while it seemed that no equitable separation was possible.

It is a tribute to the co-operative spirit of the three institutions, as well as to the technological revolution experienced by libraries in recent years, that by working together we have devised a way in which we are now able to preserve the Max Stern Collection as a shared legacy, regardless of its physical location. Both Concordia and McGill, joint beneficiaries of the larger part of the collection, have collaborated to devise the best possible way of representing close to 2000 books and journals in their respective online catalogues, even though the Stern Collection itself is actually housed at McGill. Distant from Montreal by some 9000 kilometers, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem was given the “first cut” of titles from the Stern Collection; nevertheless, the Hebrew University's books are linked to the new Max Stern Book Collection website.

On the eve of the centenary of Dr. Stern’s birth, in 2004, McGill’s exhibition of highlights from Dr. Stern’s library is part of an important series of projects honouring Dr. Stern’s philanthropy to Canadian museums and universities; projects that together remind us of the tremendous contribution to Canadian culture of the generation of refugees from Nazism who found fertile ground as well as appreciation for their talents in their new home.


Dr. Irena Žantovská Murray
Chief Curator
Rare Books and Special Collections Division
McGill University Libraries