Library of Congress Rare Books and Special Collections: An Illustrated Guide
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The Book Arts

The Library of Congress has a strong concentration of materials relating to the production of finely crafted and beautifully illustrated books. Even as we move farther into the electronic "library without walls," the Library remains strongly committed to collecting the printed word with an emphasis on the blending of design, type, and illustration.

The Rare Book and Special Collections Division holds the collections of two of the greatest American book designers of the first half of the twentieth century: Frederic Goudy and Bruce Rogers. The first, Frederic Goudy (1865-1947), commands a special place in the American book arts. In addition to his work as printer, book designer, and author, he was the first American to make the designing of type a separate profession. He was successful and prolific, designing 124 different typefaces and executing many of these from the drawing stage to the casting. Goudy and his wife, Bertha, operated the Village Press from 1903 to 1939. The press produced books of high quality with compelling designs. Printing and type design for Goudy were activities that required all of the skills of fine craftsmanship while still operating in the framework of the Machine Age.

In 1944 the Library of Congress purchased from Frederic and Bertha Goudy their collection of books, original type designs, drawings, type specimens, and ephemera. This collection was supplemented in 1975 by the purchase of a collection of manuscripts relating to Goudy. These files are of special importance since the original Goudy purchase was weak in these materials as a consequence of disastrous fires that raged in Goudy's workshops in 1908 and 1939. The Goudy Collection is substantial. It contains about 150 items from the Village Press: drawings, proofs, and specimens of the 124 typefaces that Goudy designed; Goudy's personal library with particular strength in fine printing from 1890 to 1944; and a collection of manuscripts amounting to nearly 3,200 items.

Two of the more interesting books in the collection are the first book of the Village Press, William Morris's essay Printing, and Filson Young's The Lover's Hours, of which only three copies survived the devastating fire of 1908. The collection contains some interesting association copies. Bruce Rogers's famous printing of Fra Luca da Pacioli contains production materials for a small type ornament that Goudy provided for the book. Goudy's copy of the Grabhorn Press Leaves of Grass (printed in Goudy Newstyle type) was inscribed to Goudy and autographed by all of the members of the press.


 
Thumbnail image of Stanley Morison's "Fra Luca di Pacioli" (New York, 1933) Stanley Morison. Fra Luca di Pacioli (New York, 1933). Drawing and pattern of a dingbat by Frederic Goudy. It was commissioned by Bruce Rogers who was the designer of the book.
 

Bruce Rogers (1870-1957) is represented in the division by two remarkably diverse and rich collections relating to his type and book designs and printing activities. Rogers grew up in Indiana and after graduating from Purdue University, worked as a newspaper illustrator. It soon became apparent that he had a special talent for designing title pages, and he went to work for the Riverside Press and Houghton Mifflin. During the years between 1917 and 1919 he worked in England, spending some of that time as typographic adviser to the Cambridge University Press. He designed a typeface called Centaur in 1915 and printed a few books, notably T. E. Lawrence's translation of Homer's Odyssey; but his greatest achievements were in the area of book design. It is in this field, in both commercial and limited editions, that the division's holdings are strongest.

The Bruce Rogers Library was given to the Library of Congress in 1989 by the Pforzheimer Foundation of New York. Carl Pforzheimer had purchased the library from the Rogers estate in 1958. The collection contains drawings, manuscripts, books designed by Rogers, and the books that he collected for his personal library.

In 1958, S. R. Shapiro presented to the Library a collection of materials relating to Bruce Rogers. This collection focuses especially on the period between 1897 and 1912, when Rogers served as the art director of Houghton Mifflin and the Riverside Press. It contains 226 volumes, 114 miscellaneous items, and 790 manuscripts. The collection has an interesting file of correspondence between Rogers and H. Watson Kent of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, including an unpublished manuscript entitled "Epistoleary Letter's to My Co-respondents Written on My Tipewriter by Gess Who?" In addition to these collections the Library of Congress has a unique copy of Rogers's Oxford Lectern Bible. This copy was underwritten by friends of Bruce Rogers for presentation to the Library. It was printed on a paper made specially in England from Japanese fibers and bound in pigskin to a design made by Rogers.

The Goudy and Rogers Collections are outstanding examples of materials from twentieth-century book designers. The division's collections on the book arts also contain other complementary collections for the researcher on the history of the book. Harrison Elliott (1879-1954) was the most prominent maker of handmade paper in America during the early years of the twentieth century. He spent many years working for the Japan Paper Company, a New York importing firm. Elliott designed and commissioned hundreds of paper specimens and was a prolific writer on the history of papermaking. In 1954 Elliott donated his study collection, built up over forty years, to the Library of Congress. The collection contains many materials relating to twentieth-century papers. For the most part, Elliott collected these materials as part of his day-to-day business activities. He also had a fine collection of specimens of historical papers. The collection is especially strong in early American papers. Elliott was a close personal friend of Dard Hunter, the authority on papermaking, and the collection contains correspondence and memorabilia relating to this friendship. The collection contains approximately 4,500 paper specimens and 5,800 objects, photographs, trade journals, and other secondary materials.

Claire Van Vliet is one of the most important book designers and artists of the last half of the twentieth century. Since 1955 she has produced books of outstanding quality and creativity at her Janus Press. Currently located in West Burke, Vermont, in a renovated farmhouse, the press remains today the same one-woman operation that it has been for nearly forty years. Van Vliet's untiring energy is evident in all of her work but especially in her edition of Kafka's The Country Doctor and her 1984 printing of The Circus of Doctor Lao. In 1990 Claire Van Vliet was given an achievement and creativity award by the MacArthur Foundation.


 
Thumbnail image of Charles G. Finney's "The Circus of Dr. Lao" (Newark, Vt., 1984) Charles G. Finney. The Circus of Dr. Lao (Newark, Vt., 1984). With production materials produced by Claire Van Vliet who did the relief etchings and printed the text under her Janus Press imprint. (Janus Press Collection)
 

The Rare Book and Special Collections Division and Lessing J. Rosenwald collected the output of the Janus Press from its earliest days, and in 1991 the division acquired the entire Janus Press archive. The collection is organized by individual books of the press and for each book there exist drawings, proofs, layouts, and designs. Claire Van Vliet continues to print books and the division will receive materials relating to all further projects. The Janus Press Collection is an outstanding example of the division's strengths in the area of fine printing. We have a long history of collecting the best in contemporary bookmaking and have been building our holdings of private presses through copyright deposit, purchase, and gift. We have especially extensive collections of the Kelmscott, Officina Bodoni, Golden Cockerel, Arion, and Tragara presses.

Much of the division's collecting was done quite consciously as the books were produced. Copies of the monuments of modern fine printing, the Kelmscott Chaucer, The Four Gospels from the Golden Cockerel Press, and the Cranach Press Hamlet, all came to the Library within a few years of publication. For years the Library also maintained a standing order with the Officina Bodoni in Verona and in the process developed one of the finest collections of the output of this important modern printing operation.

Over the years, through active current acquisitions, copyright deposits, major purchases, and substantial gifts such as the Lessing J. Rosenwald Collection, the Library of Congress has added to its collection many modern books distinguished by their physical characteristics. A number of special methods and ingredients are used in these productions. The printer must select a typeface appropriate for the size, layout, and content of the book. Many of the distinctive typefaces attractive to fine printers can be printed only at slow speeds and on dampened paper. Fine printers often select handmade papers whose texture, in combination with a carefully controlled type impression, allows the printed page to become three-dimensional. The impression is achieved by using a printing press, often a handpress, which can be adjusted in minute gradations. This necessarily slow and exacting process, along with a rich, black ink, creates a page that sparkles. Fine printing sets standards for commercial printers as they use new printing technologies and allows readers to recognize how a well-printed book should look.


 
Thumbnail image of "assortment of miniature books" The division has custody of all books in the Library ten centimeters or less in height. Pictured here is an assortment of these miniature books.
 

The focus of the Fine Printing Collection has necessarily been on American books, although not exclusively. American presses such as the Grabhorn Press, the various presses operated by Victor Hammer, and the Spiral Press are quite complete. We collect comprehensively current works done by Andrew Hoyem at the Arion Press, Leonard Baskin at the Gehenna Press, and Walter Hamady at the Perishable Press. The British presses of the Arts and Crafts Movement are found in strength. Recent acquisitions of an archival set of the output of the Scottish Tragara Press and a complete collection of the Red Hen Press show the continuing Anglo-American connection in fine printing.


 
Thumbnail image of Ted Hughes' "Capriccio: Poems" (Leeds, Mass., 1990) Ted Hughes. Capriccio: Poems (Leeds, Mass., 1990). From the division's extensive Gehenna Press Collection, with engravings by Leonard Baskin. (Courtesy of the Gehenna Press) and {below} Keith Smith. Book 91 (Barrytown, N.Y.: Space Heater Multiples, [1982]). In this artistat book the "text" is composed of strings which move from cover to cover through the pages of the book.
 

We can mention a few other collections that enrich the division's collection of printing and publishing history. Lester Douglas was director of art and printing for Nation's Business and served in the same capacities for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in the 1930s and 1940s. In 1949 the Library of Congress mounted an exhibition of his work. Following the exhibition, 100 items came to the division, including original drawings, proofs, trial pages, completed books, and advertising ephemera.

The Stone and Kimball Collection is a representative gathering of the output of the Chicago publishing firm that was celebrated for its careful design for commerical work. The influence of William Morris is very evident. The firm published 306 books during its glory days (1897-1905) and the division's collection holds 182 of these.

In 1976, Western Publishing Company of Racine, Wisconsin, presented the Library with an archival set of more than 6,000 Dell paperbacks published from the 1930s to the mid-1970s. The collection is arranged by serial number and allows researchers to study the development of cover design and marketing.


 
Thumbnail image of Joseph Heller's "Catch 22" (New York, 1962-74) Joseph Heller. Catch 22 (New York, 1962-74). Seven different printings done over the years drawn from the division's archival set of Dell paperbacks. (Dell Paperback Collection)
 

The division holds the only complete collection (1,324 titles) of the books published during World War II for the American Armed Forces. The Armed Services Editions were a powerful force in the development of the paperback published after the war.

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Rare Book and Special Collections in American Memory

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