Fonds F001 - Irving Layton fonds

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Irving Layton fonds

General material designation

  • Multiple media

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  • Source of title proper: Title is based on the provenance of the fonds.

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Issuing jurisdiction and denomination (philatelic)

Dates of creation area


  • 1912-1997 (Creation)
    Layton, Irving

Physical description area

Physical description

7 m of textual records
569 photographs
25 drawings
11 paintings
207 postcards
16 prints
105 audio cassettes
2 sound tapes
37 audio reels
16 moving images
7 name tags
1 plaque
1 sculpture

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Archival description area

Name of creator

(March 12, 1912-January 4, 2006)

Biographical history

Irving Layton, (born Israel Pincu Lazarovitch), a Canadian poet, was born in Tirgu Neamt, Romania on March 12, 1912. He died in Montreal, Quebec on January 4, 2006 at the age of 93. Layton and his family immigrated to Montreal in 1913. Layton attended Alexandra Elementary School and graduated from Baron Byng High School. The poet obtained a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture in 1939 from MacDonald College (presently MacDonald Campus part of McGill University) and in 1946 he enrolled at McGill University where he received a Master’s in Political Science. Layton joined the Canadian army during the Second World War and received an honourable discharge in 1943.

The poet began to teach English, History, and Political Science at the Herzilah High School in 1949 and continued to teach throughout his life. He taught modern English and American poetry at Sir George Williams University (now Concordia University), from 1949-1965, was a tenured professor at York University from 1970-1978, was poet in residence at the University of Guelph (1969-1970), and writer in residence at the University of Toronto (1981). In 1988, Layton became the writer in residence at Concordia University.

During the 1940s and 1950s Layton contributed to and edited many prominent Canadian poetry magazines including First Statement, along with his friend and poet Louis Dudek, and the Northern Review, which included editors such as A.M. Klein, Patrick Anderson, F.R. Scott and P.K. Page.

Throughout his career, Layton would publish many collections of poetry and short essays including: The Gucci Bag, The Improved Binoculars, Final Reckoning, Red Carpet for the Sun, The Covenant, The Cold Green Element, For My Neighbours in Hell, For My Brother Jesus, Balls for a One-Armed Juggler, Collected Poems, The Whole Bloody Bird, A Wild Peculiar Joy,
The Tightrope Dancer, The Laughing Rooster, and The Shattered Plinths. In 1985, the author published his memoir Waiting for the Messiah.

Layton was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in Literature in 1982 and 1983.

Custodial history

Scope and content

Irving Layton fonds consists of records relating to Layton’s life and activities as a writer. Records include correspondence between family members, professionals, friends, newspapers and periodicals, colleges and universities, reviews of Layton’s works, fan letters, published material, offprints of poems, transcripts of interviews, publicity for public appearances and readings, reviews of his works, foreign language articles, manuscripts and drafts of monographs and poems, transcripts of interviews, newspaper clippings, notebooks, journals, calendars, schedules, agendas, personal papers including bills, invoices, finances, awards and certificates, and audio visual material.

The fonds is divided into 16 series:
F001/A Objects
F001/B Audio recordings
F001/C Clippings
F001/D Conferences and festivals
F001/E Correspondence
F001/F Art works
F001/G Manuscripts, poems, articles, and essays
F001/H Notebooks and journals
F001/I Personal papers
F001/J Photographs
F001/K Public appearances
F001/L Reviews
F001/M Schedules
F001/N Scrapbooks
F001/O Transcripts and interviews
F001/P Video recordings

Notes area

Physical condition

Some documents are starting to yellow and fade. Some records are torn, discolored, and foxing. Photographs are cracked and silvering.

Immediate source of acquisition

The materials donated in 1974, 1985, 1989, 1991 were acquired from Irving Layton. A subsequent accrual was received in 2000 by Anna Pottier.


Materials are not in their original order. Early acquisitions have been arranged alphabetically and by subject. Material from the 1974, 1985, 1989, and 1991 acquisitions were arranged by Joy Bennett. Later accruals were arranged by Amanda Tomé.

Language of material

  • English
  • French
  • German
  • Hebrew
  • Italian

Script of material

    Language and script note

    La plupart des documents sont en anglais.

    Location of originals

    Availability of other formats

    Tape cassettes, reels, and video cassettes can be found in digital format.

    Restrictions on access

    Terms governing use, reproduction, and publication

    Reproduction for scholarly purposes is permitted.
    Use of material in publications can only be done with written permission from the copyright holder.

    Finding aids

    Finding aid and box list are available. Item level description for the material accessions from 1974, 1985, 1989, and 1991 can be found in Joy Bennett’s A Catalogue of the Letters, Tapes & Photographs in the Irving Layton Collection (Calgary: University of Calgary Press, 1993). A list of manuscripts can be found in A Catalogue of the Manuscripts in the Irving Layton Collection, Concordia University (Calgary: University of Calgary Press, 1988), compiled by Joy Bennett.

    Associated materials

    Correspondence between Layton and Desmond Pacey can be found in Series 2.2 (Cases 9-11) in the Desmond Pacey fonds at the University of New Brunswick Archives. The University of Saskatchewan’s Special Collections, the University of Toronto Archives, Queen’s University Archives, and the University of Calgary also hold records relating to Irving Layton.


    No further accruals are expected.


    Staples and paperclips were removed and documents were placed in acid free file folders and archival quality boxes. Photos and posters were put into archival envelopes and oversize materials were rehoused in map folders.


    David O’Rouke holds copyright for certain photographs as indicated in item level descriptions.
    All material in the collection is subject to Canadian Copyright Law.

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