Places & Spaces: Libraries & Centers: Special Collections and University Archives:

Rare Books and Book Arts

THE RARE BOOK COLLECTION of the Rutgers University Libraries contains over 53,000 printed books, pamphlets and broadsides covering a wide range of subjects as diverse as fifteenth century cooking, nineteenth century broadsides announcing escaped slaves and twenty-first century artists' books. The collection supports advanced research in virtually all fields in the humanities and social sciences, with notable depth in American and British literature and history.

Strengths of the collection:

The collection is particularly strong in literary holdings of the Early Modern period, with first editions and contemporary texts by Milton, Donne, Spenser, Richard Baxter, Jonson, and Shakespeare, including a second and fourth Shakespeare folio, and the second quarto of The Merchant of Venice. Contemporary historic bibles, such as The King James Bible, the so-called Treacle or Bishops' Bible, and copies of The Geneva Bible are present as well. Among early and contemporary copies of Paradise Lost, the Rutgers copy of the 1669 edition compiled in ten books bears the bookplate of the great Romantic poet, William Wordsworth, and a presentation statement from the actor Thomas Powell.

Highlights of our seventeenth and eighteenth century literary holdings are early and contemporary works by John Dryden, Alexander Pope, William Congreve, Jonathan Swift, including a first edition of Gulliver's Travels (1726), John Gay, Henry Fielding and Sarah Fielding. The collection is particularly strong in works by Philip Freneau, sometimes called the "Poet of the American Revolution," Daniel Defoe, one of the founders of the English novel— including over ninety editions of Robinson Crusoe published before 1890—and William Cobbett, the fiery, prolific pamphleteer who used the pen name Peter Porcupine. The collection includes many contemporary canonical and non-canonical works by authors of the nineteenth century in Great Britain and the United States. In addition to early and first editions by the major Romantic poets, including first editions of Wordsworth's The Prelude, and Keats's Endymion, and a nineteenth century illustrated edition of Rime of the Ancient Mariner once owned by Samuel L. Clemens, the collection has significant holdings of works by the Victorian novelist, Mary E. Braddon, first editions by Charles Dickens, both in boards and in parts, and many contemporary and early works by Charles Algernon Swinburne. American literature of the nineteenth century is well-represented, most prominently in early and contemporary works by Hawthorne, Stowe, Melville and Twain. Pre-eminent among the collection's nineteenth century American and British holdings is a deep concentration of contemporary, early, and later fine press editions of works by Walt Whitman, with copies of the numerous editions of Leaves of Grass, including the rare first, which Whitman typeset himself, and the copy of the 1876 edition the poet had with him at the time of his death in 1892 in Camden, NJ. This volume is one of the most intricate examples of provenance in the Rutgers Rare Books collection. It includes a letter addressed to Whitman from the poet and bibliophile, Frederick Locker-Lampson, in which the writer passes along comments about Whitman from Tennyson, and a letter handwritten on the endsheets from Thomas Biggs Harned, a Camden lawyer and one of Whitman's three literary executors, to Clara Barrus, a New York doctor and close friend of the naturalist, John Burroughs. Barrus wrote a two volume work on the friendship between Whitman and Burroughs.

The collection is also strong in twentieth-century modernist literature, including first and early editions of works by T.S. Eliot, James Joyce and W.B. Yeats, notably, editions of Yeats's poems published by the poet's sisters under their Kuala Press imprint.

Supporting research in our English and American literature collections are several archives and manuscript collections. Chief among these are the John Alexander Symington Collection, which consists of original correspondence and other manuscripts focused on Algernon Charles Swinburne, Theodore Watts-Dunton, Swinburne's lawyer and housemate, and Edmund Gosse, the literary critic and Swinburne's first biographer; the Siegfried Sassoon papers, which includes Gosse's letters (1908-1928) to Sassoon; and the Philip Freneau Collection, comprising manuscripts and letters focused on Freneau. Other literary archives are the Robert Kriendler Collection, which includes manuscript poems by the poet John O'Hara; the Paul Foster theatrical papers, which contain manuscripts of Foster's plays, and the William Dean Howells Collection, which comprises correspondence from Howell-the so-called "Dean of American Letters"--along with literary manuscripts.

The histories of printing and the book are amply represented in the collection. Although housing works by important and influential early English and European printers, such as Wynken De Worde, Nicolas Jensen, Aldus Manutius, John Baskerville, Giambattista Bodoni and John Bell, the collection mainly documents the history of the book as it touches on New Jersey history and material culture. The collection includes numerous examples of printing by the state's first printers, the colonial James Parker and the state's second printer, Isaac Collins, ephemeral type specimens issued by the American Type Founders (ATF) in the nineteenth century, and many various examples of fine printing in New Jersey throughout the twentieth and twenty-first century. The Golden Hind Press (whose proprietor, Arthur Rushmore, Roderick Cave names as the finest American private printer active during the period between the wars), The Oriole Press operated by the radical Joseph Ishill, John Anderson's Pickering Press, Elmer Adler's Pynson Printers, several presses operated by the wood-engraver, John DePol, and St. Theresa's Press, operated by the nuns of the Carmel of Mary Immaculate and Saint Mary Magdelene, among others, document the state's significant contribution to the evolution and diversification of the book from the end of First World War to the present.

Other notable American and British Presses represented in the collection include, Abecedarian, Appletree Alley, Arion, Ashendene, Barbarian, Blue Sky, Boars Head, Bullnettle, Buttonmaker, Caradoc, Cummington, Curwen, Daniel, De La More, Derrydale, Doves, Essex House, Fanfrolico, Glad Hand, Golden Cockerel, Grabhorn, Gregynog,Victor Hammer, Hammer Creek, Harsimus, High House, Hogarth, Hours, Andrew Hoyem, Incline, Iron Horse, George Jones, Kelmscott, Kuala, Lakeside, Marion, Merrymount, John Henry Nash, Old School, Overbrook, Ovid, Pandora, Pentagram, Prairie, Rampant Lions, Raven, Red Ozier, Seizin, Seven Acres, Shakespeare Head, Stonehouse, Tuscany Alley, Vale, Ward Ritchie, Whittington, Windhover, Woolly Whale, Yellow Barn, and the Zauberberg.

The Libraries' collection of artists' books complicates and extends the history of the book into the late twentieth and twenty-first centuries. While the thrust of the collection is to broadly document the production of artists studying, working, residing or born in New Jersey, or producing work about New Jersey, it also contains works by artists outside of the state as well as multiple works by a handful of influential or exemplary New Jersey artists, including John Ross, Sarah Stengle, Lois Morrison, Evelyn Eller, and Barbara Henry. The strongest single collection of artists' books is the work of Suellen Glashausser, represented by 72 (71 one one-of-a-kind) artists' books created between 1981 and 2000. These collections nicely dovetail with holdings in other parts of the university, such as the print collections at The Brodsky Center and artists' books in various collections at the Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Museum.

Several archives in Special Collections support research in the book art and artists' book collections. The John DePol Archive of American Wood Engraving contains archival and artifactual materials bearing on the history of wood engraving beginning in the 19th century. In addition to correspondence, artists proofs, edition prints, tear sheets, correspondence, cards and engraved wood blocks focused on the work of John DePol, the archive includes an extensive collection of engraved wood-blocks produced by Lynd Ward, including all but one of the blocks used in Ward's final masterpiece, Vertigo (1937), and all of the blocks engraved but never printed in an unnamed project begun toward the end of the artist's life; it also includes engraved wood-blocks, woodcuts, original prints, drawings, and notes by the artist and writer, Winifred Milius Lubell, and late 19th century woodblocks, engraving tools and ephemera constructed by George Howes Whittle, an engraver and biographer of Timothy Cole, as a teaching collection in the early 20th century.

Further support for research in book art and artists' book collections is provided by the archives of individual book artists, such as Erena Rae Friedrich, Suellen Glashausser, Frances Manola, and Karen Guancione as well as by The New Jersey Book Arts Archive, which documents the history of the annual New Jersey Book Arts Symposium and the related activities in the field of New Jersey Book Arts, and the department's deep holdings of archival and manuscript material relating to women artists. The comprehensive Miriam Schapiro Archives on Women Artists includes collections of individual women artists and art organizations: the National Association of Women Artists, the Women's Caucus for Art, Heresies Collective, inc., the Mary H. Dana Women Artists Series, the papers of Judith K. Brodsky, Ora Lerman, Faith Ringgold, among others.

The collection boasts a small but significant group of early printed books, including 42 incunabula (books published before 1500), and various loose incunabulum leaves. Rutgers is known to have the lone surviving copy, or lone surviving copy in America, of several of these titles. Highlights of our incunabulum holdings would include the Editio Princeps (first printed edition) of the works of Homer (1488), a copy of Josephus's De antiquitate Judaica (1481), magnificently illuminated in red, blue, green, magenta and gold, and Francesco Filelfo's Epistolae (1473). The latter book is historically significant for its early ownerships, which include the Florentine ecclesiastic Giorgio Antonio Vespucci, the uncle of Amerigo Vespucci, whose generous annotations appear throughout in pink ink, and the celebrated library of San Marco, the chief resort of Florentine humanists. The Rutgers copy is one of only a handful known outside of Italy. Literatures in non-English languages are present in rare and possibly unique early volumes within the collection as well, notably several sixteenth century volumes in small formats of the poems of the French authors Jean Marot, Clement Marot and Théodore de Bèze.

Two early book genres in which the Rutgers rare book collection is particularly robust are festival books-lavishly illustrated books detailing the entrances, coronations, weddings, and funerals of European monarchs-and sixteenth-century medical botanies, or herbals. Noteworthy among the former category are Caspar van Baerle's Marie de Medicis, entrant dans Amsterdam (1638), depicting Marie approaching a large temporary structure erected on an artificial island in the Amstel River, built especially for the festival, and Le sacre et couronnement de Louis XVI (1775), depicting the coronation of the doomed King Louis XVI of France. The collection also contains The Meting of the King of England [and] the Emperor, (1520) a unique Elizabethan manuscript about ceremonies including the Field of the Cloth of Gold. The Collection's early herbals include illustrated and beautifully hand colored copies of Brunfels' Herbarum vivae eicones ad nature imitationem (1530) and Dioscorides' De medicinali materialiri sex (1549).

Another notable holding is in the area of children's books. Rutgers has several related special collections of children's books, in addition to a few shelves of children's books kept in the general rare collection. These are a collection of textbooks and a collection of "juvenile" books (predominantly nineteenth century English and American publications), and a collection of children's "chapbooks" (mostly nineteenth century American and English children's books issued in paper wrappers). Highlights of the general rare collection children's books include the Picture Books by Randolph Caldecott, a seventeenth century illustrated edition of Valentine and Orson, and an eighteenth century edition of Sarah Fielding's The Governess. These collections are additionally contextualized by the Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Museum's holding of rare twentieth century children's books and original art for children's books.

Also included in the Rare Book Collection are early New Jersey laws, atlases, sermons and orations, British and American dictionaries, rare periodicals, literary and gift annuals, nineteenth-century criminal literature, children's literature, chapbooks, miniature books, works on slavery and Native Americans, almanacs (1663-present), theater promptbooks of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, voyages and travels and books about astrology and alchemy.

For additional information, consult the Rare Book Collection Development Policy Statement.


Additional Information

Items in the rare book collection of Special Collections and University Archives are stored in closed stacks and do not circulate. They are identified in the Library Catalog by the presence of an "X," either by itself or in combination with other characters, in an item's sublocation. To retrieve them, it is necessary to fill out a separate call slip for each item. As identified on signs in the New Jersey Room, a few of the genre collections (e.g., items with a sublocation of X- TEXT) are stored offsite and require advance notice to consult.

A small reference collection pertaining to rare books, and to materials in other formats held by Special Collections and University Archives, is denoted by the sublocation X-REF. Unlike the other sublocations which include an "X," this one is housed on open stacks in the New Jersey Room.

Rare periodicals, excluding most newspapers, are identified in the Library Catalog by the PER III sublocation. They, too, are stored in closed stacks and must be requested via call slips. As with the newspapers, holdings for each title vary in completeness. Contact the New Jersey Room reference desk at 848/932-7510, or email Ronald Becker (rbecker@rulmail.rutgers.edu), to determine which specific issues or years are available.

Supplementing the rare book collection are a variety of microform publications available in the Current Periodicals and Microforms reading room on the basement level of Alexander Library. These titles include such sets as the Early American Imprints, Series I: Evans, 1639-1800 and the American Periodical Series. To identify locations for these and other relevant microform sets, consult the list of Microforms in Alexander Library.

One substantial set of early printed texts available to members of the Rutgers community, and accessible to anyone at computer terminals in the Rutgers University Libraries, is Early English Books Online and EEBO - TCP.

The Libraries also makes available Evans Digital Texts Evans Digital is a fulltext, online version of all the titles originally published in a microform set, Early American Imprints, Series I. Based on Charles Evans'comprehensive American Bibliography, it will eventually include over 36,000 works. Evans Digital will make available, in Adobe Acrobat images, every book, pamphlet, and broadside published in the American colonies or the United States between 1639 and 1800.

For additional reformatted holdings of rare books see Major Microfilm Collections, which include Gerritsen Women's History Collection, 1543-1945, Three Centuries of English and American Plays, 1500-1800, Black Literature, 1827-1940, American Periodicals, 1741-1900, and other major databases of early books and periodicals.

Rare printed materials in other formats (newspapers, maps, broadsides and ephemera) that are held by Special Collections and University Archives are included in the description of Other Printed Collections. A description of other rare book collections in the Rutgers University Libraries is also available.


For further information contact:

Ronald Becker, Head, Special Collections
Special Collections and University Archives
Rutgers University Libraries
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
New Brunswick, NJ 08903-1163

rbecker@rulmail.rutgers.edu