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Interview With Donna Jane Campbell

In a recent e-mail interview with KindredSpaces Project Librarian, Donna Campbell shared the fascinating story of the development of the Ryrie-Campbell Collection and the KindredSpaces project.

Q: When did you first begin collecting Montgomery material, and what was the impetus behind that initial collecting?

A: I began collecting L.M. Montgomery material during childhood for the pleasure of the reading. I received some LMM books as gifts at Christmas and I was keen to read more. My local rural library also had some LMM books, but several of the titles were repeats. The Eaton’s store in Toronto stocked some Montgomery books, but not the complete range of titles. The first books that I encountered were from the Ryerson or the McClelland & Stewart Canadian editions, both listing additional titles on the backs of the dust jackets. The prospect of other Montgomery books with tantalizing titles such as Magic for Marigold or Tangled Web provided the impetus for me to try to obtain these books at second-hand stores when the opportunity occurred.

Q: What is the history of the collection? First item in the collection? Did you focus on one area of collecting first (ie. books before periodicals), or did you simply collect whatever material you could find in whatever format available? Why is it called the Ryrie­-Campbell Collection­­ what is the significance of those names?

A: The L.M. Montgomery books were my primary focus, but I did not read or collect the books in any particular order, rather just as I encountered them, so I met Sara Stanley (The Story Girl) before I met Anne Shirley (Green Gables).  I do not recall the first Montgomery book that I read (and thus collected).  However, I was especially fond of Chronicles of Avonlea and Further Chronicles and re-read the short stories many times, although I was unaware that they were originally published in periodical format.  I found my first periodical (The Delineator with one of the Emily stories) in an antique furniture shop. I collected whatever L.M. Montgomery material I could find in whatever format available, and as my collection grew, so too did my knowledge of Montgomery and her work.  Over time the collection expanded to include first editions & special editions, anthologized works, reference works, editions in translation, magazines & old papers, stage & screen adaptations, and special items such as personal books, correspondence, autographed items, photographs and ephemera.

The naming of the Ryrie-Campbell Collection has both a personal family link and a Montgomery link.

For the personal link, I am a Campbell by marriage and my husband has provided unfailing support. I am also a Campbell by maternal family descent. My mother’s name was Anne (spelled with an e) Ryrie Campbell. She was born in Scotland and her Ryrie relations were silversmiths. The Ryrie Brothers came to Canada and established a successful jewellery business in Toronto using their Ryrie hallmark and naming their store, Ryries.  Later they merged with Henry Birks, a jewellery business familiar to many Canadians. The Ryrie name passes down through the generations in the family, currently extending to my nieces and grandnieces.

For the L.M. Montgomery link, I refer to a Journal entry (Volume 3: Friday, November 25, 1921, p.28, & Notes p.408). In 1921, Montgomery was living in Leaskdale, Ontario and she made an excursion to Toronto in November for Canadian Book Week, an event including speeches, presentations, meetings, receptions, readings, dinners, entertainments, and more.  She also used this opportunity for shopping and she selected “an adorable Chessy-cat brass knocker” at Ryries.  Her delight with this purchase involved a connection to her beloved cousin, Frede, and to her young sons, Chester and Stuart. Also at this time, Montgomery was composing the novel, Emily of New Moon, and she placed a “Chessy-cat knocker” on the parlour door at Wyther Grange.  I am pleased that LMM was pleased with her shopping at Ryries.

So the names were joined together into the Ryrie-Campbell Collection.  In retrospect, I realize that the name is somewhat lengthy and cumbersome, so I refer simply to the collection as The Ryrie or The RCC.


Q: Do you have a specific methodology or process that you follow when looking for material, or does each item require a different approach?


A: The various items in The Ryrie were gathered together by various means and from various sources and contacts.  Some were acquired via personal interaction at shops or book fairs or via telephone conversations and letter correspondence; others were acquired via orders placed from paper catalogues or internet listings. Many of the items were delivered to my rural address by postal and courier services.  Some items were actively sought; some were out-of-the-blue lucky finds; some were gifted by kind friends/ relations/ acquaintances; some were offered by booksellers/old paper dealers.  Each category of items requires a different initial approach and often multiple approaches.


Firstly, I will use the international translations category as an example. In 2000, I contributed to an exhibit, L.M.Montgomery: Life & Legend, at Stratford-Perth Museum in Ontario and the curators specifically requested Anne of Green Gables in as many languages as I could locate (within a one month time frame!). Without access to email, I phoned and/or faxed letters everywhere: Canadian embassies around the world, personal contacts travelling or living abroad, acquaintances with “foreign backgrounds” such as my veterinarian from Poland and my neighbour dairy farmer from Holland, ethnic community groups and government agencies, L.M. Montgomery conference participants, booksellers & publishers & translators, etc..  In my deliberate quest for international editions, I met with genuine enthusiasm and cooperation from many “kindred spirits” around the world who shared admiration for the writing of L.M. Montgomery and I gathered many interesting editions with fascinating illustrations.


Secondly, I will relate an anecdote to illustrate a fortunate acquisition (to which I give credit to the luck of the Irish from my paternal family descent).  I was searching for reference material during the making of the Macneill Homestead Scaled Model by A. Edward Powell. The Cavendish Post Office was operated from the kitchen of the Macneill home and I wished to locate an item sent via this post office with the cancel stamp of Cavendish, PEI.  I found a vintage postcard with a date stamp of Cavendish 1906, listed on an internet site, and purchased it for a modest sum, thinking how exciting it would be to have an item that LMM might have actually handled and processed through the post office. When the card arrived, I flipped it over to study the Cavendish cancel and then glanced casually at the bottom and was thrilled to see “LMM” signed  below her distinctive scrawl of the message. At first I could not believe my good fortune, but then I rallied quickly and wrote to the seller requesting other similar postcards and I was fortunate to acquire several more from LMM, including the one from 1908, Bathing Scene, P.E.Island,  now featured on the Kindred Spaces website.


Q: Is there a particular item that you’re most proud of collecting, or one that was particularly difficult to find or collect?


A: Each item in The Ryrie holds my interest and affection, but two particular items are special to me.

The 1908 first edition/first impression of Anne of Green Gables in light green coloured binding was the first book that I donated to the L.M. Montgomery Institute during the 2004 L.M. Montgomery conference and that gift marked the official beginning of The Ryrie-Campbell Collection.  A few years later I was able to acquire two other first editions of Anne of Green Gables in taupe and dark brown , so I am pleased that the Institute now holds the three variant colour bindings of this rare L. M. Montgomery book. The three books were acquired with the assistance of three separate antiquarian booksellers.


“Una of the Gardenwas also a special item to discover and collect. Montgomery mentioned this serial story in her journal and letters, but did not provide any specifics about the name of the periodical in which it was published or the number of monthly issues involved.  By combining my growing familiarization with the wide array of periodicals using Montgomery’s work and my process of reasonable deduction, I was able to narrow the search to The Housekeeper magazine and then to hunt methodically for issues with the “Una” story, using the internet to access a broad spectrum of old paper offerings. The first month located was December with Santa Claus cover art, which was surprising because I was expecting the story about a garden to be published in spring or summer issues. However, that December issue began the serial and led me during the next two years to discover the five parts, although for January I could locate only the cover of the magazine without the story content.  Simon Lloyd & I prepared the facsimile edition of “Una of the Garden” and published it in 2010.  Shortly afterwards, Christy Woster located an intact January issue and very graciously donated it to The Ryrie-Campbell Collection in order to complete the set for the L.M. Montgomery Institute.


An important part of the Ryrie-Campbell Collection involves Montgomery’s work published in periodical format (1890 to 1940) including stories, poems, essays and articles. Fortunately Montgomery herself provided much of the information about this aspect of her work: with detailed written records in her ledger books; with visual records of periodical clippings pasted into her scrapbooks; with anecdotal records in her letters, journals and autobiography. During Montgomery’s lifetime, a small number of the periodical pieces were collected together and published in book format with some revisions. However, many of the periodical pieces passed into oblivion, until their rediscovery and re-publication beginning some 30 years after Montgomery’s death. Of special significance is the work of Francis Bolger (The Years Before “Anne”, 1974), and the contribution of Rea Wilmshurst, who verified and updated Montgomery’s records, located much previously forgotten material, and published many of the periodical stories grouped thematically (Akin to Anne, Across the Miles, etc.) into book format.


The vibrant popular periodical market in North America during Montgomery’s writing career enabled her work to appear in a wide variety of publications reaching an appreciative readership. Montgomery worked diligently to understand the periodical marketplace and to take advantage of the opportunities available. From her rural homestead in PEI, she found more than 70 periodicals in which to publish and throughout her writing career, her work appeared in approximately 135 different periodicals. The diversity of the periodicals can be illustrated by broad general categories: religious, youth, agricultural, women’s interests, nature and sports, fashion, gardening and food, fiction and poetry, national concerns, and others. Even the titles of the periodicals spark interest: Christian Herald, Youth's Companion, American Agriculturist, Golden Days, Weird Tales, What to Eat, Sports Afield, Literary Digest, New Idea Woman's Magazine, Pictorial Review, Men of Tomorrow, Love Story Magazine, Chatelaine, East & West, etc. Collecting the periodicals followed a similar process of gathering by various means and from various sources and contacts. However, the advent of the digital era increased the availability of old paper items and the ease of acquisition.


Many of Montgomery’s periodical pieces, first published in magazines and newspapers, have now been re-published and the literary content is available, much to the delight of Montgomery readers. However, the essence of the periodical is lost within the formatting and printing into standard book page and font size. In the Ryrie-Campbell Collection, many of the original periodicals are preserved, revealing the stories, poems, essays and articles as they first appeared within the cultural context of the magazine or newspaper. It is fascinating to view the work, sometimes with illustrations, surrounded by other periodical content of the times, such as fashions in clothing and home furnishings, health concerns and medical advice, farm and household management practices, political and religious commentary, financial advice, commercial advertisements, etc. There is much to be learned and enjoyed.


Q: How did the KindredSpaces project develop?


A: The Ryrie-Campbell Collection consists of numerous pieces. Some are rare or unique; others are neither; but together they provide an overview of the world of L.M. Montgomery – her life and her writing.  I have a strong personal attachment to the pieces which I acquired one by one over many years and I wished for them to have a good home in a protected environment and to be available for research purposes and for promotion of further interest in Montgomery.  I have much respect for the L.M. Montgomery Institute at UPEI, founded by Elizabeth Epperly as an international centre of Montgomery scholarship, so I began in 2004 “to transfer the guardianship of the collection to the kindly sympathy of the University”.   


The items were delivered in installments to Simon Lloyd in Archives & Special Collections at Robertson Library and they were housed in archival coverings within a secure, climate controlled environment. All the items were inventoried with reference numbers, but it was difficult for prospective researchers to access and search without a finding guide.  So in 2013, I discussed with Simon the possibility of creating a catalogue of items with an on-line discovery tool.  Simon dubbed this project KindredSpaces and set to work with the establishment of a professional librarian position, filled by Lindsey MacCallum, who catalogued the entire collection of books with bibliographic records and then turned her attention to the periodicals and to the development of a website to host the collection with the digitization of selected materials. The overall goal of KindredSpaces is to improve the visibility and usability of The Ryrie and thus offer increased opportunity for the study of L.M. Montgomery. Also, it is important to note that KindredSpaces is an ongoing project with plans for future additions of significant Montgomery materials.