Merril Collection of Science Fiction, Speculation & Fantasy – Toronto, Ontario - Atlas Obscura

Merril Collection of Science Fiction, Speculation & Fantasy

A unique collection of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and everything in-between. 

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The Merril Collection of Science Fiction, Speculation and Fantasy, located on the third floor of the Lillian H. Smith branch of the Toronto Public Library, is a unique non-circulating research collection of over 72,000 items of science fiction, fantasy and speculative fiction, as well as magic realism, experimental writing and some materials in ‘fringe’ areas such as parapsychology, UFOs, Atlantean legends etc.

The Collection hosts some of the world’s largest collections of science fiction and fantasy art, pulp magazines, graphic novels and fanzines. For the more academically inclined, the Collection holds vast numbers of non-fiction critical works relating to science fiction and fantasy, science fiction and fantasy art books, subject reference tools, limited editions, out-of-print materials, original manuscripts, correspondence, critical, biographical and bibliographical materials and audiovisual and multimedia materials. Reading materials are available to the public on a limited basis, but only in the Collection’s public reading rooms. Artwork is often displayed during frequent public events, exhibits and book launches.

The history of the Merril Collection dates back to August 10, 1970, when an agreement was signed between legendary Canadian science fiction author and editor Judith Merril and the Board of the Toronto Public Library. In this agreement Judith Merril donated to the Toronto Public Library her collection of science fiction, fantasy, and associated non-fiction which contained around 5,000 items. This collection was named The Spaced Out Library.The Spaced Out Library was established as a reference collection of “contemporary speculative literature, including science fiction, certain aspects of fantasy fiction, satire, surrealist, and other speculative, future oriented, and conceptually experimental work, whether in fiction, poetry, drama, essay, or other forms as well as critical and bibliographic materials relating to science fiction and the associated areas of contemporary speculative writing” serving both scholars and the general public.

In 1990 the collection was officially renamed The Merril Collection of Science Fiction, Speculation and Fantasy. Merril herself passed away in 1997.

Know Before You Go

All items in the Merill Collection are held in a section that only staff can access. Visitors must provide their valid photo ID and register with the staff in order to view, handle, or read any material. Visitors must inform the librarians of the items they wish to be brought into the reading room. Items from the collection cannot be taken out of the reading room. The Collection often has small, themed displays that rotate a couple of times a year, with the exception of a few weeks to allow for a new exhibit to be installed. The Collection is available to the public for free.


Closest major intersection: College Street and Spadina Ave. Public Transit TTC College streetcar from College subway station west to Spadina. TTC College streetcar from Queen's Park subway station west to Spadina. TTC Spadina streetcar from Union subway station north to College. TTC Spadina streetcar south from Spadina subway station to College. Parking Paid - Meter parking along Huron Street, more parking at Clarke Institute of Psychiatry on north side of College - entrance on Spadina.

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