Rare Books and Special Collections

In addition to the collections housed in Special Collections and University Archives, the chief repository of rare books and special collections at Rutgers University, the Rutgers University Libraries include other collections of rare and noteworthy historical materials housed in other locations. These include the Art Library, in New Brunswick, The Library of Science and Medicine, in New Brunswick, the John Cotton Dana Library, Newark, the Mabel Smith Douglass Library, in New Brunswick, and the Paul Robeson Library, in Camden.

The Art Library houses a rare book collection consisting of art books; The Library of Science and Medicine, two special collections of rare materials reflecting early works in the fields of science and medicine; the John Cotton Dana Library, Newark, houses rare books in a variety of fields, the Mabel Smith Douglass Library, collections of rare manuscript and archival materials reflecting the field of women's studies and the histories of Douglass College and Cook College, and the Paul Robeson Library, Camden, houses materials about the history and material culture of Camden County, New Jersey.

  • The Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum
    (While not part of Rutgers University Libraries, the Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum--ZAM--houses several major collections relevant to Rutgers University Libraries collections and research undertaken at Rutgers University Libraries.)

The Rutgers University Art Library

About one thousand printed rare books, published between 1501 and the present, including modern livres des artistes, catalogs raisonne, and illustrated books, as well as fine facsimiles of illuminated manuscripts and incunables, one-of-a-kind artists' books and early emblem books, constitute the rare book collection housed in the Rutgers University Art Library Rare Book Room in New Brunswick.

Cesare Ripa's Iconologia published in Padua by Pietro Paolo Tozzi in 1611, and presented to the library by P. Vanderbilt Spader, is one of the oldest books in the collection as well as an excellent specimen of a 17th century emblem book--a picture-book designed to promote what we have come to call traditional values by depicting allegorical figures with accompanying pedagogical glosses. A product of 17th century Italian book-craft , the Iconologia is generously illustrated by woodcuts, the first graphic process to illustrate books printed from movable type, and depends from a tradition of classical design. First published in 1593, the Iconologia has been reproduced twice in our century, most recently in 1984. Other 17th and 18th century illustrated books in the collection include the Trattato Nuovo delle cose maravigliose dell'alma citta' di Roma, published in 1625, and several versions of the ever-popular Dance of Death.

Wenceslaus Hollar's etchings of the theme, after Hans Holbein, were first published in 1651 with borders designed by Abraham a Diepenbeke. They were republished much later as The Dance of Death; from the original designs of Hans Holbein; illustrated with 33 plates in London by J. Coxhead in 1816, with the note: "The plates which appear to have been but little used, have been till lately preserved in a noble family, and impressions from them are once more presented to the public, without the least alteration".


Hans Holbein's designs for a Dance, executed in the early 16th century, quickly became the European and English favorite, and continued to be printed into the 19th century. In Holbein's Dance of Death with an historical and literary introduction, published in London by John Russell Smith, 1849, we have lithographic copies of Holbein's 53 original woodcuts, first published collectively in 1545.

Religious sentiment combined with graphic entertainment in another of our 19th century rare books, The Illustrations of the Bible by John Martin, published in 1838 by Charles Tilt. Martin (1789-1854) was a successful painter and printmaker who, his most enthusiastic supporters claim, "Brought the art of the mezzotint to its highest mark." "The Deluge," a print Martin fashioned after his own oil painting, which hangs at Yale, is a good example of the Exalted geography that finally becomes eerily effective in a murky way. Not only are the miracles exciting, but the tenebrous and melodramatic realm in which they happen pulses with energy. Martin's world is a stage upon which the eschatalogical can occur; the business address of the apocalyptic. Only two other copies of this book are recorded, one at Yale and one at the New York Public Library.

Charles Tilt, publisher of Illustrations of the Bible, is better remembered for his comic almanacs illustrated by George Cruikshank. Known for his many, often cantankerous, relations with London's publishers, Cruikshank also published his own etchings, such as Illustrations of Time. The Art Library's selection of Cruikshank material forms a significant complement to Cruikshank materials housed in Special Collections and University Archives, including a five volume extra-illustrated copy of Jerrold's biography.

The Art Library's collection of modern and twentieth century works constitutes the bulwark of its holdings. Firmly in the satirical tradition of Cruikshank, Max Beerbohm's The Poet's Corner, published in 1904, pokes fun at the more charismatic or simply best-loved bards. "Dante Gabriel Rosetti in his back garden" satirizes the unruly clubby bohemianism of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. Rossetti held a fascination for Sir Max, who claims in his preface to Rossetti and His Circle (1922), a book Rutgers also holds in the first edition, that Rossetti was one of the three most interesting men (Byron and Disraeli being the others) in nineteenth century England. Some of the more prominent characters are: Rossetti sketching Mrs. Rosetti, the former Elizabaeth Siddal, (Ned Jones, I think, declaiming verse), John Ruskin presenting an Aesthetic lilly to what resembles a kangaroo, and Algernon Swinburne peeking over the garden wall. Characteristic of his acute attention to detail, Sir Max reproduced the refined motley colouring of the Brotherhood's own style.

Max Beerbohm's The Poet's Corner,

Among the rarities in the Rutgers' Art Library exists a significant collection of books bequeathed to it by the estate of Louis E. Stern (1886-1962). With interesting exceptions these tend to be modern art books issued in limited editions by small European publishers. The gift of the collection in 1966 helped to bring the Art Library into existence. Marc Chagall, a friend of Stern's, designed the book-plate we see in this slide (right), and Stern's bequest contains a number of beautiful books of Chagall's work. These include a signed copy of Chagall's Illustrations for The Bible, (no relation to Martin's) reproduced in heliogravure. Lengthy, affectionate, inscriptions and improvised sketches by the artists Stern collected and befriended, such as Chagall, Abraham Walkowitz, Max Weber, Jacques Lipschitz, Henry Moore, and many others, give the Stern collection a palpable feeling of community and warmth.

book-plate, by Chagall

Another wonderful example of the Stern collection, Cahiers de'Art, published in 1936, contains 36 original lithographs by Henri Matisse, printed on thin smooth-faced paper and mounted onto 18 unbound folios. It contains a preface by Christian Zervos and a poem by Tristan Tzara. The lithographs are approximately 10 1/2 inches by 8 inches and are for the most part figure studies. In his splendid New Yorker review of the Matisse exhibition held several years ago at the Museum of Modern Art, Adam Gopnick wryly noted that Mattise's muse, at least during his high period, was the stolid, indominable type tending to resemble, in Gopnick's opinion, "the Thurber wife." These lithos were done many years after the high period, but one can see something Junoesque if not Thurberesque about these models, and an undeniably Thurberesque quality as well in Matisse's portrayal of his own exasperated concentration.

Matisse litho

Paul Gauguin's Letters to Ambroise Vollard (1867-1907) and Andre Fontainas, was edited by John Rewald and published in San Francisco by Robert and Edwin Grabhorn in 1943. Almost immediately after its inception in 1920, the Grabhorn Press became one of the most attractive and, ultimately, most enduring American presses of the post-war period. "Nave Nave Fenua--Delicious Earth," originally designed in 1894 in Brittany, was printed in four colours by L. Roy and measures about 16 inches by 8 inches. It is one of ten printed after designs by Gauguin, whose use of contoured shapes in flat had exerted a noticeable influence upon modern painters and print-makers, William Nicholson, Claude Lovat Fraser, Vuillard and Bonnard, to name but a few. Letters was printed on French hand-made paper, the woodcuts on a variety of Chinese silk papers, and the book was published in an edition of 250 copies; the Rutgers copy is inscribed briefly but admiringly by Rewald to Louis Stern "who owns many beautiful pictures."

Paul Gauguin's "Nave Nave Fenua--Delicious Earth"

Claud Lovat Fraser (1890-1921) by John Drinkwater & Albert Ruthenton, published in 1923, is a wonderful example of an English press book produced by one of the most successful presses of the typographically rich post-War period. The Curwen Press, named by its founder, Harold Curwen, enjoyed an outstanding reputation for its gracefully illustrated publications of poetry and art. Claude Lovat Fraser worked as a designer and illustrator in the period around World War One. Unfortunately, he followed in the great tradition of English illustrators, such as Charles H. Bennett and Randolph Caldecott, who died young. Lovat, as he was known, died at 31, with a reputation well beyond his years for originality and style. The Cinderella print, measuring 9 1/2 inches by 7 1/4 inches, is one of four nursery prints he made for the Decoy Press of Joseph Thorp, in 1919. You can see something of Lovat the legendary dandy in the expression and demeanor of the prince. The book is no. 2 of 50 copies printed for distribution in the U.S. and signed by both Drinkwater and Ruthenton. Rutgers also owns a copy of Curwen's Heads, Figures and Ideas by Henry Moore.

Claude Lovat Fraser's Cinderella print

One of the rarest items we have from the Louis E. Stern Collection is The Bulletin de lymagier. This obscure journal, published in January, 1895, contains a collection of imagerie populaire, including images from Medieval Music, East Indian religious icons, a lithograph by Henri Rousseau and large, chromolithographic prints from the Epinal. Although the Jan. 1895 issue is number 2, no record exists of any other number of the Bulletin or for another copy of this number.


Contemporary with Bulletin de lymagier, although explicitly modern in its content and treatment, is the work of Felix Vallotton (1865-1925), a Swiss born artist, and contemporary of Ferdinand Hodler, who moved to Paris and adopted French citizenship. He joined the movement known as the Nabis, or prophets, whose associates, Vuillard, Bonnard, Servisier, explored the aesthetic of Paul Gauguin. Valloton is best remembered for reviving the use of the woodcut, and for influencing the early graphic work of William Nicholson. Sometimes his work depicts a localized crisis whose urgency fails to touch anything in the everyday world around it. (The world either fails to notice; one thinks of Durer's Fall of Icarus), or fails to respond with an appropriate emotion: Tragic empathy and catharsis have been thinned to momentary curiosity. In "Le Beau Soir," the ripeness of the evening is conjured with an undercurrent of mystery. Some personal gloom, depicted somewhat comically, poisons the air. Why is the figure apparelled like a Pierrot? What quest has led him to the river? Does he seek beauty or his own death? or Both? In Valloton's eyes, the world of the Deluge has been papered over by the ironic cry of a leaky faucet.

Felix Vallotton's "Le Beau Soir"

Illustrations to Edgar Allen Poe : from drawings by Aubrey Beardsley was privately printed for the Aubrey Beardsley Club in Indianapolis in 1926, in 107 copies, of which The Rutgers Art Library Rare Book Room houses two, including Harry Bischoff Weiss's copy. Weiss, an entomologist and historian as well as a book collector and bibliographer of nineteenth century popular literature, left many fine books to Rutgers. His studies of early children's book publishers, Samuel Wood, Solomon King and the publisher/illustrator William Charles, are seminal and indispensable works in the field. Weiss's extensive collection of 18th and 19th century chapbooks, illustrated with catchpenny prints, are housed in Special Collections and University Archives.Beardsley's Illustrations are beautifully reproduced dark linocuts, such as "the Black Cat."

Jean Cocteau's Maison de Sante

The Rutgers Art Library Rare Book Room houses a number of scarce illustrated books by essential Modern artists, including Chagall, Ensor, Cocteau and Max Ernst. Maison de Sante by Jean Cocteau, published in Paris in 1956, is also signed by Cocteau. It represents a late surrealist flowering within the tradition of the sophisticated picture book and, as well, it is an exemplary specimen of a collection of modern European art books presented to the library by J. Duncan Pitney. Pitney's illustrated books, both in the Art Library and in Special Collections, stand as enduring evidence of the grace and discrimination of another remarkable and understudied collector.

Jean Cocteau's Maison de Sante

Among the late 20th century works in the collection, Jasper Johns' Techniques and Creativity, published with his signature target and set of water-colours, is perhaps our most famous artist's book, which we have replete with the all-important mouldering foam rubber, with water-colour offset.

Security prohibits browsing The Rutgers Art Library Rare Book Room, but all materials may be consulted for appropriate purposes and with proper diligence by consultation with a librarian. The Room is open during normal working hours.

Jasper Johns' signature target and set of water-colours

The Mabel Smith Douglass Library

Special collections in the Mabel Smith Douglass Library are accessed through the Library's reference desk. Some of these materials are listed in the Library Catalog. Guides to the Library's special collections, available at the reference desk, provide access to the balance of these collections.

Materials such as yearbooks, the Caellian (student newspaper), memorabilia, deans' papers and reports pertaining to the New Jersey College for Women, renamed Douglass College in1955, are referred to as the NJCANA Collection. Post-1955 items of a similar nature, related to Douglass College, comprise the DOUGLASSENSIA Collection.

The Elizabeth Cady Stanton Papers are part of the JACOBI/STANTON collection. Included are correspondence (mostly typescript), speeches and photographs of this 19th century women's rights activist. The JACOBI collection contains older, fragile books, some of which are autographed.

Cook College yearbooks, the Green Print (student newspaper) and some Cook faculty publications comprise the COOK collection.


Additional collections regarding women's studies, and records pertaining to Douglass and Cook Colleges, are available through Special Collections and University Archives (see below), located in the Alexander Library.

The George H. Cook Honors Papers are housed in the Chang Library.

The John Cotton Dana Library

The John Cotton Dana Library, in Newark, N.J., houses a collection of approximately 250 titles in its Special Collections Room, located across from the Institute for Jazz Studies reading room. Although foreign language books and periodicals are included, this collection consists primarily of English language books drawn from and broadly representative of the library's collections and local history. The earliest books in the collection were printed and published in the seventeenth century. These include Miscellanea by Sir William Temple, (London; 1680) and Some Passages of the Life and Death of the Right Honourable John, Earl of Rochester ... by Gilbert Burnet, (London: Chiswell, 1680). Both are bound in contemporary bindings. Titles in Dana's Special Collections Room include recent books, published in the 1990's, and in the intervening centuries, as well.

Twentieth century fine printing is well represented in a number of outstanding examples. These include the magnificent five volume set of The Bible (London: Nonesuch Press; New York: Dial, 1929). Eric Gill's Clothing Without Cloth (Waltham, Saint Lawrence, Berkshire :The Golden Cockerel Press, c1931), illustrated by his chiaroscuro wood cuts. The Golden Cockerell press is further represented by Salmacis and Hermaphroditus, published in 1951, designed by Christopher Sandford, with ten large wood engravings printed in colour by John Buckland-Wright.

John Cotton Dana Special Collections include other benchmarks of twentieth century fine printing as well, including the folio edition of the Odyssey of Homer (1932), by Emery Walker, Wilfred Merton and Bruce Rogers, in an edition of 530 copies, with Rogers' 26 circular medallions, printed in black and overlaid with gold leaf; and John Milton's Areopagitica, created in folio by The Rampant Lion's Press of Sebastian Carter & Will Carter. And, representing the work of the forebear and enabler of these celebrated presses, is William Morris's Gothic Architecture, printed and published by his legendary Kelmscott Press, in 1893.

Local traditions of fine printing are handsomely exemplified in the publications of the Carteret Book Club, which, among other volumes, include Jemima Condict, Her Book : Being a Transcript of the Diary of an Essex County Maid During the Revolutionary War, designed by Frederick Goudy (Newark, N.J.: The Carteret Book Club, c1930); Colonial Dutch Houses in N.J., (Newark, N. J.: The Carteret Book Club, 1933), with 20 wood engravings by Rowland C. Ellis; and, Newark: A Series Of Engravings On Wood (Newark, N. J.: The Carteret Book Club, 1917), printed in a limited edition of 200 copies by D.B. Updike of the Merrymount Press, with Ruzicka's five full page woodcuts, printed in color, and an introduction written by John Cotton Dana.

Among a modest collection of works of literature are Sherwood Anderson's Hometown (New York : Alliance Book Corporation, c1940), signed by the author; H.G. Wells's The Time Machine (New York: Random House, 1931), a highspot of twentieth century book design by one of the century's most original and revered designers, W.A. Dwiggins; Frederick Locker-Lampson's London Lyrics (London: Methuen, 1904), with a frontispiece by George Cruikshank; the first trade edition of W. Somerset Maugham's The Vagrant Mood (London: William Heinemann Ltd, 1952), signed by Maugham; and Richard Wilbur's A Bestiary (New York: Printed at the Spiral Press for Pantheon Books, [1955]), with illustrations by Alexander Calder, signed by both the artist, and poet.

The John Cotton Dana special collection include a modest but noteworthy group of early and valuable works by Robert Frost, such as A Further Range (New York: Henry Holt and Company, [c1936]), signed by Frost; several volumes illustrated in woodcuts by J.J. Lankes; and a second edition of Frost's first publication, North of Boston (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1915.) There are appoximately a dozen books in all.

Literary works housed in John Cotton Dana's Special Collections room also include a privately published edition of Washington Irving's Angler ([Portland, Me.], 1931), privately printed for the bibliophile and children's book bibliographer, A.S.W. Rosenbach, and presented to the library by him, and the first American edition of Ulysses, by James Joyce, (N.Y.: Random House, 1934), a work regarded by critics as (variously), a standard of Modernism, and a precursor of Postmodernism.

Works of children's literature and exemplars of book illustration--of which the Dana Library has a notable group, as a quick scan of the titles included here should reveal--are simultaneously represented in Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens,, illustrated by Arthur Rackham. Book illustration is further represented by Eric Gill's Unemployment (London: Faber & Faber, 1933), with Gill's woodcut frontispiece; One of Us: The Story of John Reed (New York: Equinox Press, 1935), with lithographs by the distinguished wood engraver, Lynd Ward, and a complete run of the Yellow Book (Vol. 1-Vol. 13). The Yellow Book was a periodical concerned with literature and art, launched by Henry Harland and Aubrey Beardsley, issued in its brief life, original illustrations by such contemporary masters of illustration as Max Beerbohm and Joseph Pennell, as well as Beardsley himself.

Distinguished works in other fields include Henry Walters' Collection of XVth Century Books (1906), the three volume set of Stephen Collins Foster Songs and Compositions, the seven volume set of the Original Journals of the Lewis & Clark Expedition (NY: Dodd, 1905), a pioneering artist's book by Raman Elohim, 5 Silent Songs (1977), and issues of The Commonweal. A newspaper published during the last decade of the nineteenth century, by the Socialist League, the Dana copies of The Commonweal have been bound together and donated to Rutgers by the art historian and author, Stephen DeWitt Stephens, who principally valued them for the activist essays of William Morris.

Catalog records of materials in the special collections room are available only through the library's card catalog, and not yet through the Library Catalog. Materials in the Special Collections room may be viewed by appointment with a librarian.

The Library of Science and Medicine

Sci Med X and Sci Med X2

  • A. The symbol X
    1. Early medical and pharmacy imprints predominate, however, biology, chemistry and psychology are also represented.
      • a. The majority are 17th and 18th century imprints pre 1751
      • b. primarily American before 1820
    2. Other items having recognizable need for protection on the basis of rarity or value (e.g., costly or fragile books, limited editions)
  • B. The symbol X2

Selected monographs and a few periodicals in LC classes BF and Q through RS published post 1751 through mid 1980s. The X2 designation was originally established as a means of preserving the seminal works in a field, e.g. the first published work in an area that became the classic in the field. More recently, the X2 designation has been a useful means of protection for limited editions and lengthy runs of several serial titles, for example, the 1820 to 1975 editions of the Pharmacopoeia of the United States, and the 1845 to 1973 editions of the United States Dispensatory.

The Paul Robeson Library

The Paul Robeson Library in Camden houses a special collection of materials relevant to the history and material culture of Camden County, New Jersey, and to the history of the campus. The Camden "X" collection is fully cataloged and available through the Library Catalog. The stacks are closed and access is through a librarian.