Sunday School Collection

Historical Background: Sunday School Libraries

The Sunday school library became established early in the 19th century. It contributed greatly to literacy, and the promotion of Anglican and English cultural mores. These libraries also helped to further popularize Sunday schools.

Bookplate thumbnail
The Christ Church bookplate

When Sunday schools were first established, students received a book or tract as a reward for good behaviour. With the advent of Sunday school libraries, however, this reward was transformed into the privilege of borrowing a library book. The library books were used to help the children lead a moral life while away from the church's watchful eye. A book was lent to each deserving child in accordance with that week's lessons. Consequently, the student was not allowed to lend out the book, or exchange it, although they could share it with family members.

Each Sunday school appointed a librarian, who was in charge of lending out the books, as well as building and cataloguing the collection. The Christ Church library was catalogued by age group sometime post-1875. As in other Sunday school libraries, the books were identified by shelfmarks glued to the spine, and bookplates (see example on the left). The Christ Church Sunday school shows evidence of previous cataloguing attempts, as evidenced by different labelling systems present on many of the book spines, and the presence of older bookplates.

Bookplate thumbnail
An older Christ Church bookplate

A rural Sunday school library such as this one was an important educational tool for the students, as well as their parents. St. Andrews was inconveniently far from Montreal, making books difficult and expensive to procure. Sunday schools within the Montreal diocese, for example, banded together to buy books in bulk in order to help rural schools in their efforts to stock their libraries. Also, an established Sunday school would donate its older titles to a newly established school.

In 1860, the Reverend Richard Lonsdell came to Christ Church, having previously been in charge of the St. Mark's Church in Longueuil. In a Diocese of Montreal Report from 1860, he mentions, in regards to Christ Church, that "nothing deserving the name of a Library for our Sunday School" exists. It is therefore possible that he asked St. Mark's Sunday school to donate some books, as evidenced by this example to the left.

Although we do not know the exact date that the Christ Church Sunday school was established, we do know that in 1863, the school had 32 students, and 280 books, and by 1881, there were 27 students, 2 teachers, and 400 books.