Manuscript Collection MS COLL 00657 - Marshall McLuhan Papers

Identity area

Reference code



Marshall McLuhan Papers


  • [196-]-1990 (Creation)

Level of description

Manuscript Collection

Extent and medium

34 boxes (3.7 metres)

2.9 linear metres of documents
38 colour slides
63 reel-to-reel audio tapes
2 audio cassettes
4 audio cds
8 video cassettes
2 16mm film reels , approx. 1 metre, and 75 metres in length

Context area

Name of creator


Biographical history

Herbert Marshall McLuhan was born in Edmonton, Alberta on 21 July 1911 to Herbert Ernest McLuhan, a salesman, and Elsie Naomi (Hall) McLuhan, an actress and monologist. The family moved to Winnipeg, where McLuhan attended the University of Manitoba from 1929 to 1934, receiving a Bachelor or Arts and a Master of Arts in English literature.

After teaching English at various American universities, McLuhan returned to Canada in 1944 to teach at Assumption College in Windsor. From 1946 until shortly before his death, he taught English at St. Michael's College, University of Toronto. In 1963, McLuhan became the director of the University of Toronto's newly-established Centre for Culture and Technology. The Centre conducted research on questions of sensory perception and other communications-related issues and offered academic courses.

McLuhan's books include the following: The Mechanical Bride (1951), The Gutenberg Galaxy (1961), for which he was awarded the Governor General's prize for critical prose; Understanding Media (1964); The Medium is the Massage (1967, with Quentin Fiore); War and Peace in the Global Village (1968, with Quentin Fiore); Through the Vanishing Point (1968, with Harley Parker); Counterblast (1969, with Harley Parker); Culture is Our Business (1970); From Cliché to Archetype (1970, with Wilfred Watson); Take Today (1972, with Barrington Nevitt); and The City as Classroom (1977, with Eric McLuhan and Kathryn Hutchon).

  • Adapted from Library and Archives Canada's biographical note for the Marshall McLuhan fonds.

Name of creator


Biographical history

Eric McLuhan was born in 1941 to Marshall and Corinne McLuhan. He received a B.Sc. in Communications from Wisconsin State University in 1972 and a Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of Dallas in 1982.

For over 40 years, McLuhan has taught at many colleges and universities throughout the United States, Canada and abroad. In 1980, with Roger Davies, McLuhan developed the Thinking and Writing workshops, and together they founded McLuhan and Davies Communications Inc., to help business professionals with their writing and editing skills.\

He has authored many books, including The City as Classroom (1977, with Marshall McLuhan and Kathryn Hutchon); Laws of Media (1988, with Marshall McLuhan); The Role of Thunder in Finnegan's Wake (1997); Electric Language (1998); Theories of Communication (2011); and Media and Formal Cause (2011).

He has also edited several collections of Marshall McLuhan's work, including The Book of Probes (2011); Marshall McLuhan Unbound (2005, with Terrence Gordon); The Medium and the Light (2010); and Essential McLuhan (1997, with Frank Zingrone).

His research and thinking has also been widely published in anthologies, magazines and journals since 1964.

  • Adapted from

Archival history

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

Gift of Eric McLuhan, 2013

Content and structure area

Scope and content

Collection consists predominantly of research and draft materials for The Laws of Media (University of Toronto Press, 1988) as well as related correspondence. Beginning in the early 1970's, at the instigation of McGraw-Hill (the original publisher of McLuhan's 1964 work, Understanding Media) Marshall and Eric McLuhan began generating materials towards what was first conceived of as a revised edition of Understanding Media and subsequently as The Laws of Media, a new work in its own right.

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling


System of arrangement

The collection has been divided into seven series:

  1. Working Materials
  2. Complete Drafts
  3. Publicity
  4. Post Publication Materials.
  5. Miscellaneous
  6. Audio Visual

Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access

Material may be requested in person at the Fisher Library Reference Desk, or in advance using our online stack retrieval request form:

Conditions governing reproduction

Language of material

  • English

Script of material

Language and script notes

Physical characteristics and technical requirements

Finding aids

Uploaded finding aid

Allied materials area

Existence and location of originals

Existence and location of copies

Related units of description

The Fisher Library also holds Marshall McLuhan's personal library of over 6000 volumes. A finding aid for this collection can be found at:

The McLuhan library also includes a collection of added material, or ephemera formerly laid in to McLuhan's books. This material includes notes, correspondence, manuscripts, newspaper clippings and other documents. A finding aid for the added material can be found at:

Related descriptions

Notes area

Alternative identifier(s)

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Description identifier

Institution identifier

Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, University of Toronto

Rules and/or conventions used




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