The University of King's College Library contains over 80,000 volumes. The general collection supports the undergraduate teaching of the College, particularly in the Contemporary Studies, Early Modern Studies, History of Science and Technology and Foundation Year Programmes, and the School of Journalism. There are over 50,000 volumes in the reference and general circulating collection.
Periodicals do not circulate. Those retained are catalogued and are in the Novanet online catalogue. A list of periodicals received is kept at the Information Desk. Current issues are on stands in the Reading Room and bound back issues are located in the stacks.
The Chronicle Herald and The Globe and Mail are received on a daily basis. The Saturday or Sunday edition of several other papers is also available, along with Halifax's independent weekly, The Coast. A list of newspapers received, as well as those available in full-text databases, is available at the Information Desk.
The Library purchases audiovisual material to support courses taught at King's. The collection is catalogued and searchable in the Novanet catalogue. Audio/visual rooms are provided for viewing or listening to items from the collection.
The Library contains Special Collections of nearly 20,000 volumes, which includes medieval and renaissance manuscripts, incunabula (15th century printed books), and thousands of 16th, 17th, and especially 18th century volumes.
The Weldon Collection of pottery and porcelain includes some notable pieces of 17th and 18th century Chinese Export Porcelain. Specimens from the Weldon Collection are on permanent display in the foyer of the Library. The Margaret and Wallace McCain Gallery, on the lower floor of the Library, contains permanent and changing exhibits of rare books, museum artifacts and archival materials from the Library's collections.
The Bray Collection consists of the surviving books from three early clerical libraries. In the spring of 1977, several boxes of old books were discovered in the belfry of Christ Church, Windsor, where they had lain forgotten for decades. The hundreds of volumes were the remains of a library owned in the 18th century by a clergyman in England. While the collection is largely theological in character, there are also books in other subjects that any 18th-century gentleman might have owned, including classical and English literature, agriculture, mathematics and medicine. This collection of books was given to the Library of the University of King's College by Christ Church Parish in 1979, and is now designated as the Bray Collection.
As indicated by their book-plates, the books were presented to the parish in 1797 by Dr. Bray's Associates of London, which had acquired the library from its former owner. This organization was begun by Dr. Thomas Bray (1656-1730), the Anglican missionary who founded both the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (1698) and the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel (1702). While serving as a missionary in Maryland, Dr. Bray was struck by the intellectual isolation of the clergy. His scheme for providing lending libraries for the parochial clergy, both at home and abroad, arose out of his American experience. Associates of Dr. Bray continued the work after his death.
While the library at Windsor was the first of the Bray Libraries in Nova Scotia, and probably in Canada, a number of others were established throughout the province in the 19th century; two of these are also preserved at King's. The parochial library from Trinity Church, Digby (Bray II), founded about 1844, incorporated books brought to Digby by the first Loyalist missionaries, who brought their books with them when they were forced to leave the rebellious colonies. The parochial library from Trinity Church, Liverpool (Bray III), dates from the middle of the 19th century.
The Bray Collection has been designated as a "Special Collection of Research Value" by the National Library of Canada.
Hollingworth Tully Kingdon (1835-1907), scholar, author and Anglican clergyman, became the second Bishop of the Diocese of Fredericton. Born in London, he was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge, when theological and liturgical developments were sweeping through the Church of England. Kingdon was strongly influenced by these movements, and became a leader in the Tractarian revival of ecclesiastical learning. After serving as vice-principal of Salisbury Theological College, he was elected Coadjutor Bishop of Fredericton in 1881, and in 1892, succeeded John Medley as Lord Bishop of the Diocese.
Kingdon has been acclaimed as "one of Canada's most distinguished theologians." He wrote books on doctrinal subjects, as well as tracts and pamphlets on controversies facing the church in his own day. He was rewarded with honorary degrees from universities in both England and Canada (D.C.L., Trinity; D.D., Vind.)
Kingdon was also a noted book collector: a biographical sketch in 1890 spoke of him as "the possessor of a large and valuable library, containing some works so rare as to be almost priceless." This library has been compared with that of T.B. Akins as among the few really outstanding collections of books in Atlantic Canada formed in the 19th century. His library included mediaeval manuscripts, incunabula, and hundreds of early editions of the Greek and Latin Church Fathers, printed in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries.
The library is also particularly rich in 19th-century works that record theological and liturgical controversies in the Church of England, and is valuable as a contemporary record of the period.
In his will, Bishop Kingdon bequeathed his library, consisting of some 2500 volumes, to the parish of Trinity Church in Saint John, NB. At the time of his death, this collection was described as "the best private theological library in Canada." In 1985, the Parish gave the Library to the University of King's College, where it complements and augments an already very strong collection of historical Anglican theology. The Kingdon Library is valuable not only for the considerable intrinsic merit of the books, but also for the evidential value that they present as the complete working collection of a bishop and scholar of the Anglican Church in Canada in the 19th century.
The Kingdon Library has been designated as a "Special Collection of Research Value" by the National Library of Canada.
The Weldon Collection is one of the oldest collections of ceramics in Canada. It consists of more than 300 items of pottery and porcelain originally owned by early settlers, including Loyalists.
The collection was presented to the College in 1880 by Susanna L. A. Weldon and her husband, Judge John W. Weldon, in memory of their son Haliburton Weldon, who had died soon after graduating from King's in 1873. Susanna, the daughter of Thomas Chandler Haliburton, had collected the items over a number of years. She carefully recorded all her acquisitions in a catalogue notebook, which she titled Specimens of China brought to the Colonies by the early settlers, particularly the Loyalists.
A selection from the Weldon Collection is on permanent display in the Library. This display was designed by Dr. Marie Elwood, formerly Chief Curator of History at the Nova Scotia Museum, who has catalogued the collection.