Fonds 79 - Jay Macpherson fonds

Identity area

Reference code

CA ON00399 79


Jay Macpherson fonds


  • Predominant 1950-2005 (Creation)
  • 1931 - 2012 (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

3.12 m of textual records
12 photographs: b&w
7 photographs: sepia toned
2 contact sheets
1 charcoal drawing

Context area

Name of creator


Biographical history

Jean Jay Macpherson was an award winning Canadian poet. She was born in 1931 in London, England, to James Ewan Macpherson and Dorothy Macpherson. She immigrated to Canada in 1940 with her mother and younger brother Andrew as a “war guest”, living in St. John’s, Newfoundland, with a local family for four years before joining her mother and brother in Ottawa where her mother worked for the National Film Board.

She received a BA in classics, German, and philosophy from Carlton College in 1951, followed by a Library Science degree from McGill University. She obtained her MA in English in 1955 and PhD in 1964 from the University of Toronto where she was mentored by Northrop Frye, with whom she later co-wrote Biblical and Classical Myths: The Mythological Framework of Western Culture. She spent her career teaching in the Department of English at Victoria College, University of Toronto.

Jay Macpherson's work was heavily influenced by her mentors Northrop Frye, George Johnston, and Robert Graves. She published her first poem at age 15 and her poems regularly appeared in Canadian poetry magazines such as Contemporary Verse and The Fiddlehead. In the 1950s and early 1960s she ran her own small press, Emblem Books, and produced eight chapbooks by emerging poets, starting with her own O Earth Return in 1954. Her publications include Nineteen Poems, 1952, The Boatman, 1957, Welcoming Disaster, 1974, a high school mythology textbook Four Ages of Man, 1962, The Spirit of Solitude: Conventions and Continuities in Late Romance, 1982, as well as numerous papers on the connections between The Magic Flute and Freemasonry.

She has received the E.J. Pratt Medal, the Levinson Prize, and the Governor-General's Literary Award for her poetry.

Archival history

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

Records were acquired from Diana Macpherson in 2012. In 2013, records from accession 2013.03 were acquired from the Heather Spears archives at the University of British Columbia. Records from accession 2013.05 were acquired by Diana Macpherson.

Content and structure area

Scope and content

The fonds consists of Jay Macpherson's records relating to her poetry, academic career, and personal life.

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling


Further accruals may be expected.

System of arrangement

Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access

Some restrictions apply. See series 1 and series 4 in the finding aid.

Conditions governing reproduction

Language of material

Script of material

Language and script notes

Physical characteristics and technical requirements

Allied materials area

Existence and location of originals

Existence and location of copies

Related units of description

Related descriptions

Notes area

Alternative identifier(s)

Access points

Subject access points

Place access points

Name access points

Genre access points

Rules and/or conventions used




Accession area

Related subjects

Related people and organizations

Related genres

Related places