The Council on Library and Information Resources (C.L.I.R.) awarded The Newberry Library $216,100 to bring 29,800 additional items into The Newberry Library’s John M. Wing Collection, one of the world’s best collections on book arts and printing history, as The Newberry Library announced in January. The Newberry Library stated, “Backlogged for a decade or more and dating from 1605 to the present, materials in this ‘hidden collection’ include examples of type and printing, ballad sheets, advertising posters, direct mail pieces, and books, both beautiful and homely, of all periods.”
“The Wing Collection attracts scholars from around the world, particularly members of the design community and historians of printing,” said Newberry President & Librarian David Spadafora. “It is therefore very important that these materials be available to them, and we are grateful to CLIR for making this project possible.”
Envisioning “a great typographical library,” Chicago journalist and publisher John Mansir Wing (1844-1917) donated his personal book collection to The Newberry Library and made a bequest for its support and expansion. The Newberry Library stated, “The initial impulse of the collection was to represent as many different printers and type faces as possible from the earliest period of printing with moveable type, and the design of letter forms remains a central theme. Calligraphy, type and type-founding, technical innovations in printing, design usage and theory, book-selling, book-binding, paper-making, the history of book-collecting, and the history of libraries are also well represented.”
“The backlog contains significant additional material in all these categories, especially those small and ephemeral printed objects that make up the bread and butter of everyday communication,” said Paul F. Gehl, George Amos Poole III Curator of Rare Books, and Custodian of the John M. Wing Foundation on the History of Printing. Gehl has curated the Wing collection since 1987. “Getting it processed will enrich our sense of how pervasive print was and remains in daily life –an important historical lesson.”
Particular strengths of the Wing Collection are incunabula, chosen specifically to represent the type faces of the 15th Century; specimens of calligraphy of all periods; printed calligraphic manuals; type specimens from around the world; the products of such Chicago printers and publishers as A.C. McClurg, W.B. Conkey, R.R. Donnelley & Sons, Stone & Kimball, and Way & Williams; fine and private press books, whether English, American, or Continental European; books and ephemera from the Officina Bodoni private press in Verona, Italy; and editions of the Roman playwright Terence.
Several important collections assembled by individuals are to be found within the Wing collection, notably John M. Wing’s own extra-illustrated books; the Coella Lindsay Ricketts and Alfred E. Hammill collections of calligraphica; the Herbert M. Stone collection of Stone & Kimball imprints; the Norma B. Rubovits collection of marbled and decorated papers; printed ephemera collected by such designers as William Kittredge, Will Ransom, and Robert Hunter Middleton; the Jane Gilmartin Gilchrist collection of alphabet books; the Klaus Stopp collection of printed birth and baptismal certificates of German-Americans; and the Henry Rosemont Typographical Union collection.
The grant was made as part of C.L.I.R.’s Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives program, which is generously supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Since the program began in 2008, the CLIR has awarded 109 grants worth a combined $23,500,000.
The C.L.I.R. states, “Libraries, archives, and cultural institutions hold millions of items that have never been adequately described. This represents a staggering volume of items of potentially substantive intellectual value that are unknown and inaccessible to scholars. This program seeks to address this problem by awarding grants for supporting innovative, efficient description of large volumes of material of high value to scholars.”
According to the C.L.I.R. and The Newberry Library, “CLIR is an independent, nonprofit organization that forges strategies to enhance research, teaching, and learning environments in collaboration with libraries, cultural institutions, and communities of higher learning. It aims to promote forward-looking collaborative solutions that transcend disciplinary, institutional, professional, and geographic boundaries in support of the public good.”
In 2009, the C.L.I.R. awarded The Newberry Library a grant for $488,179 to catalog four French pamphlet collections: the French Revolution Collection (F.R.C.) of over 30,000 pamphlets and 180 periodicals published between 1780 and 1810; the Saint-Sulpice Collection (also known as the Recueil du pieces historiques) of 2,600 biographical pamphlets, funeral sermons, orations, and commemorative verses compiled by Sulpician priests; the Collection of publishers’ prospectuses, catalogs, and other materials pertaining to publishing and bookselling between 1700 and 1850, mainly in France; and the Louis XVI Trial and Execution Collection of 600 pamphlets about the imprisonment, trial, and regicide of Louis XVI of France & Navarre.
According to the CLIR, four collections “are primary sources for legal, social and cultural history; literary studies; and the history of publishing in France. The material is of particular interest to scholars of the French Revolution, but the value of the pamphlets is not limited to scholars of French or European history. The French Pamphlet Collections also enrich research into colonial history in North America and the Caribbean; the impact of the French Revolution, in the United States and elsewhere, on the concept of 'revolution' and attitudes about 'radicals,' 'conservatives,' 'the bourgeoisie'; and the debates about the meaning of citizenship. Included are 18,000 pamphlets published between 1780 and 1810 from the French Revolution Collection; 2600 biographical pamphlets, funeral sermons, orations, commemorative verses, and discourses dating from the 16th to the 19th centuries and collected by the religious order of Saint-Sulpice; 700 publishers' prospectuses and catalogs from 1700 to 1850; and 600 rare government pamphlets documenting the trial and execution of Louis XVI. The project blog recounts discoveries made during the cataloging process as well as details of the technical decisions staff make along the way.”
This project ended in July of 2013. It was more successful than expected.
They were able to catalog 27,125 pamphlets in six collections. The other two collections were the Howard Mayer Brown Libretto Collection (B.L.C.) and the Pamfletten-Verzameling. The musicologist Howard Mayer Brown (1930-1993), a professor at The University of Chicago, left The Newberry Library as a bequest his collection of Italian and French opera libretti, as well as texts of oratorios, cantatas, and ballets published in other European countries, the United States, and Australasia. The Pamfletten-Verzameling consists of Dutch pamphlets published between 1574 and 1849 that deal with Holland’s relationship with England, as well as Dutch histories of France, Spain, the Scandinavian kingdoms, and the Holy Roman Empire/Germany.