Collection MSG 1203 - Casey Albert Wood Collection

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Casey Albert Wood Collection

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  • Source of title proper: Title based on content of the collection.

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  • approximately 1850-1981, predominant 1913-1940 (Creation)
    Wood, Casey A. (Casey Albert), 1856-1942

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Physical description

11.25 m of textual records and other material.

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Biographical history

Casey Albert Wood (1856-1942) was an ophthalmologist, an ornithologist, and a bibliophile. He was born to American parents in Wellington, Ontario on November 21, 1856. Wood attended school in Ottawa and graduated from the Ottawa Collegiate Institute in 1874. He then attended Bishop’s College in Montreal where he graduated with an M.D.C.M. degree in 1877. Wood was awarded an ad eundem degree in 1906 following Bishop’s College merger with McGill University. He also received D.C.L, LL. D honorary degrees from these institutions. Under Sir William Osler (1849-1919) Wood became the first clinical clerk at Montreal General Hospital, which began a close lifelong friendship.

On October 28, 1886, Casey Wood married Emma Shearer, the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. James Shearer, a prominent Montreal family.

Based in Montreal from 1878-1886, Wood practiced general medicine and surgery and taught chemistry and pathology. By 1886, Casey Wood decided to make Ophthalmology and Otology his speciality, beginning further studies in New York followed by Europe. In 1890, Wood settled in Chicago where he practiced, taught and published extensively. He also travelled, held various appointments, and conducted research during this time.

From 1916-1920 Wood served in the United States Army Medical Reserve Corps as a member of the Office of the Surgeon General for the majority of his military career. In Autumn 1917, Major Wood was put in charge of Camp Sherman Hospital’s Ophthalmology Department in Chillicothe, Ohio. Then in December 1917, he was transferred to the War Department in Washington, D.C. where he served until his retirement in 1920 holding the rank of Colonel.

Casey Wood's research in ophthalmology extended to an interest in the history of ophthalmology, comparative ophthalmology, ornithology, and finally into a passion for collecting books and other materials on these subjects. In 1917, Wood published the monograph ""Fundus Oculi of Birds, Especially as Viewed by the Ophthalmoscope," a major milestone in his career. He also translated many hitherto untranslated works of historical interest on ophthalmology and ornithology.

From 1920 until mid-1930, Casey Wood, his wife Emma, their niece Marjorie Fyfe, and their beloved parrot John III travelled extensively to study birds in their natural habitat. They explored Europe, British Guiana, India, Ceylon, Kashmir, the South Pacific, Northeast and Southeast Asia, Australia, and New Zealand. Wood was supported in his travels and research by friends, researchers, book dealers, libraries, museums, and locals. Wood also continued to produce publications and was an active member in many international ornithological societies, unions, and associations. Wood also taught ornithology at Stanford University beginning in 1927 and was research associate at the California Institute of Technology in 1932.

In 1911, Wood presented a large collection of rare books on the subject of diseases of the eye to McGill's Medical Library and in 1919, he established and endowed the Emma Shearer Wood Library of Ornithology. The Blacker Wood Library of Biology, established in 1988, resulted in the fusion of the Emma Shearer Wood Library of Ornithology with the Blacker Library of Zoology founded and endowed by his friends Robert Roe Blacker (1845-1931) and his wife Nellie Canfield (d. 1946) of Pasadena, California in 1920. During his travels, Wood actively collected materials for the Emma Shearer Wood, Blacker, and Medical Library collections at McGill University and other institutions.

In 1931, Wood published one of his most extensive works "An Introduction to the Literature of Vertebrate Zoology, based chiefly on the titles in the Blacker Library of Zoology, the Emma Shearer Wood Library of Ornithology, the Bibliotheca Osleriana, and other libraries of McGill University, Montreal." The volume was well received and provided a thorough catalogue of works published on vertebrate zoology.

Wood’s last work, published after his death and written with his niece F. Marjorie Fyfe, was "the Art of Falconry," a translation of Emperor Frederick II of Hohenstaufen’s De Arte Venandi cum Avibus.

Casey Wood passed away on January 26, 1942 at the Scripps Clinic in La Jolla, California, survived by his wife Emma. Wood was cremated and buried in Mount Royal Cemetery in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

Custodial history

The majority of the collection was donated by the Wood Estate in July and September 1942 to the Wood Library. The largest donation of materials by Casey A. Wood was to the Emma Shearer Wood Library of Ornithology in 1934. Wood also donated material to the Emma Shearer Wood Library from 1920-1936, Blacker Library from 1924, 1931-1933, and to the Wood Library from 1937-1939. Other associates of Wood also donated materials to the Emma Shearer Wood, Blacker, and Wood Libraries from 1920-1944 and 1962. Additional custodial information is provided within acquisition descriptions for files and items where applicable.

Scope and content

This collection consists of materials dated from approximately 1850-1981, but predominantly from 1913-1940, relating to Dr. Casey Albert Wood’s research, writing, correspondence, and personal interest concerning ornithology, vertebrate zoology, memoir and family history, Emma Shearer Wood and Blacker Library collection development, ophthalmology, politics, and current events. Materials relate chiefly to Wood’s “Introduction to the Literature of Vertebrate Zoology” (1921-1956), falconry (1930s), his unpublished memoir (1930s), the development of McGill University’s Emma Shearer Wood and Blacker Libraries (1918-1941), the history of ophthalmology (1925-1936), “Fundus Oculi” (1911-1934), his travels and research expeditions studying birds in their natural habitat (1920-1940), political interests, and correspondence relating to these activities and subjects.

There are approximately 2902 incoming and outgoing pieces of correspondence including letters, postcards, notes, telegrams, and cards. Series 1) Research and writing, contains the largest volume of correspondence relating to “the Introduction to the Literature of Vertebrate Zoology.” While Series 2) Research trips, contains the largest portion of photographs. Other materials in this collection include research notes, manuscripts, page and galley proofs, book and article reprint publications, postcards, artwork, glass plate negatives, book plates, palm leaf manuscripts, artefacts, printed ephemera, clippings, journals, and administration and financial records relating to Wood’s publications or the Emma Shearer Wood and Blacker Libraries.

There are gaps within this collection relating to geographic locations, as not all locations Wood is known to have visited are represented or are only minimally represented. Asian countries, such as China or Japan, are not represented in this collection. While geographic locations that are prominent within the collection are Fiji, Sri Lanka and India.

The series consists of 1) research and writing (ca. 1850-1956); 2) research trips (1920-1937); 3) scrapbooks (1887-1946); 4) collection development (1918-1941); 5) published books (1907-1981); 6) artefacts (191-?, 1920-1937); and 7) glass negative plates (1924, 1927, 1930, 1956).

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Physical condition

The collection is in relatively good condition with some colour transfer, bleeding ink, stains, and damage to binding and pages. Some volumes have brittle and/or discoloured pages and clippings, tape and adhesive issues, some prints have foxing, and one leather artefact is damaged.

One photo negative item indicates it must only be opened in a photo development dark room and another file contains untoned photographs which must not be opened in bright light. All glass plate negatives are fragile, while a few are slightly chipped.

Immediate source of acquisition


This collection had no discernible original order and movement overtime likely altered it. The files and items in the collection were arranged based on activity or type of record resulting in seven series with four subseries within series one. Whenever possible original order of files continued and the content of boxes or envelopes within the collection remained as individual files. Files are principally arranged based on research project or activity, title volume if applicable, geographical region if applicable, and then chronologically.

Language of material

  • Arabic
  • English
  • French
  • German
  • Hindi
  • Italian
  • Latin
  • Persian
  • Sinhala

Script of material

Language and script note

The material is predominantly in English, with some textual records in French, German, Latin, Arabic, Italian, Persian, Hindi and Sinhala dialects. Other languages are also present within the collection, largely within correspondence relating to “the Introduction of the Literature of Vertebrate Zoology.”

Location of originals

Availability of other formats

Some materials within this collection have been photographed and featured in the online exhibit The Birdman of McGill: Casey Wood - Avid Collector, Magnanimous Donor and Generous Friend.
Where applicable, links for files and items with electronic copies have been added.

Restrictions on access

Some files subject to specific access conditions. One file within MSG 1203-1-4-11 are photograph negatives and must only be opened in a dark room. Access to glass plate negatives in Series 7 are restricted due to fragility. Please contact the liaison librarian for the Blacker Wood Natural History Collection for further information.

Terms governing use, reproduction, and publication

Items can be requested for consultation by email at Advance notice is recommended.

Finding aids

File level descriptions available.

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Physical description

Also includes 798 photographs, 263 postcards, 125 prints, 97 glass plate negatives, 76 drawings, 30 bookplates, 30 palm leaf manuscripts, 18 imping needles, 14 exhibit cards, 12 place cards, 12 paintings, 11 watercolours, 11 photograph photostats, 10 falcon hoods, 7 illustrations, 5 pictures, 5 feathers, 4 falcon bells, 3 maps, 3 lures, 3 small labels, 2 daguerreotype photographs, 2 saddle bags, 2 jesses, 2 textile badges, approximately 5 undeveloped photographic negatives, 2 large burlap envelopes, 2 small paper envelopes, 1 pair of buckskin gloves, 1 mounted photograph, 1 knife and sheath, 1 three-fingered glove, 1 leash, 1 swivel, 1 taxidermy falcon on weathering block with U.S. Bureau of Biological Survey identification band, and 1 palm leaf manuscript fragment.


The collection was rehoused from individual shelved items and arranged into folders and archival boxes for long-term preservation. Items contained in non-archival boxes and folders were removed and placed in archival quality boxes or folders. Metal pins, staples, and paper clips were removed whenever able. Where needed materials were interleaved to curb colour transfer, ink bleeding, and to protect materials within volumes and file folders. Photographic material, palm leaf manuscripts and delicate textual records were placed in mylar envelopes when loose and interleaved when mounted within volumes. Glass plate negatives were inserted into individual envelopes.

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