You are here

Rare Books

Firestone Library
One Washington Road
Princeton, NJ 08540
609-258-3184
Acting Associate University Librarian for Rare Books and Special Collections
609-258-3165

Location designator: GA, GARF and GAX
For access, see the Special Collections office in Firestone Library.

Established in 1940, the Graphic Arts Collection is founded on the collection of Elmer Adler. Included are about 20,000 books about paper making, printing, binding, and other aspects of the book arts. As well, there are over 10,000 prints and drawings (European and American); 4,000 photographs; 300 books illustrated with photographs. Special areas: artists' books; private press book; (Kelmscott, Baskerville, Grabhorn, et al); children's books.

Also includes the Sinclair Hamilton Collection of American Illustrated Books. (See entry for ILLUSTRATED BOOKS)

For particulars refer to: American Graphic Arts special issue of the Princeton University Library Chronicle (Winter, 1981) [full text] . For details about how the Collection started and came to Princeton see: Lawrance Thompson. Elmer Adler at Princeton. (Princeton, 1952) [(GA) LD4606.A3 E453 1952]. For details about Gillett Griffin, successor to Elmer Adler, see the illustrated article "Thereby Hangs A Mouse's Tale: Gillett Griffin and the Graphic Arts" by Rebecca Warren Davidson in the Princeton University Art Museum Record, volume 64, 2005, pp. 21-25.

Some particulars about 13 gatherings of book and non-book materials held in the Graphic Arts Collection:

1) Prints and drawings. The Graphic Arts Dept. indexes its holdings in the Visuals Database. It is searchable by artist, printmaker, publisher, subject, medium, size, reference to printed source, subject, dates, and other selections. Exhibition catalogs are a good source of additional information about GA holdings in prints and drawings--two in particular: American Graphic Arts (1981 exhibition; revised and enlarged in 1990) and European Graphic Arts (1986 exhibition) The Marquand Library of Art and Architecture also holds an extensive print collection.

2) Iconographic materials in B-floor vault. Topics include: Aeronautical prints & drawings (McCormick Coll.); Alpine views (Thorington Coll.); Angling (Kienbusch Coll.); Artist's portraits; Author's portraits in original paintings, drawings & prints; City views (Milberg Gift); College views, including much on Princeton; Costume prints (Theatre Collection also); Historical prints including the John Douglas Gordon Collection of 17th Cent. portraits; Natural history; Trades (E. Adler); Women (Holden Collection)

3) Printed catalogs and examples of fine printing. Approx. 1000 items in vertical files, manuscript boxes, and mats.

4) Ephemera in vertical file and boxes. Arranged in categories.

5) Bookplate collections. Arranged in categories.

6) Caricatures in prints and drawings. Approx. 5000 items in print boxes, vertical files, map case drawers. Arranged by country and artist.

7) Poster collection. Arranged in map case drawers. Mainly World War I (in 1920 nearly 2000 posters; much reduced because of deaccessioning; currently about 50+ items) but also art and topography. See printed catalogue of the posters prepared by the Library ca. 1920: War Posters in the Princeton University Library. [(GA)NC1830.xP7]. [full text] "In the 1960s it [the Smithsonian Institution] acquired some ten thousand World War I and II posters from Princeton University Library." (S. Lubar and K. Kendrick, Legacies: Collecting America's History at the Smithsonian [Washington, D.C., 2001] p. 166). (Further details are here.) A remnant remain in GA's plan cases, flat storage, marked GC156.

8) "Artists'" books. Approx. 300, arranged alphabetically by artist in Hollinger boxes, some of which are in C Mss ca. Range 40.

9) Iconography--Topography. Arranged in framed prints, vertical file, map drawers. Pride of Place: early American views from the collection of Leonard L. Milberg '53; by Dale Roylance and Nancy Finlay. the catalogue of a 1983 Graphic Arts exhibition, serves as a good information source for these holdings [(GA) NE505 .R67 and (GARF) NE505 .R67].

10) Iconography--Portraits. Arranged in print boxes, map case drawers, vertical file.

11) Paper collection. Antique papers, decorative papers, watermarks, Dard Hunter archive.

12) Printing artifacts. A miscellaneous object collection ranging from engraved copper plates and wood blocks to an entire press room.

13) Women printers, binders, and book designers. See the online exhibition "Unseen Hands."

See also: Dale Roylance, "The Graphic Arts Collection and Gallery at Princeton University Library" in Edward Ripley-Duggan (ed.), Book Arts Collections: A Representative Selection (New York: Haworth Press, 1988).

There are many early 20th century American prints in the collection, resulting from Elmer Adler's personal collecting in this field.