The purpose of the Special Collections Division is to directly enhance the study of the visual arts, particularly the graphic
arts as well as the disciplines of history, literature and the social sciences. Various collections have grown over a century by
purchase, as well as by generous gifts of unique material and most welcome funding from friends, art enthusiasts, and collectors in
Newark and the extended metropolitan community surrounding the city.
A Roe Fawn by Rudolf Pauschinger. Etching.
The Fine Print Collection:
This extraordinary collection is made up of over 23,000 works in traditional as well as innovative media. There are strong holdings of prints by American artists, European graphics from "old masters" through the 20th century, Japanese prints and ehon (picture books) from 1780 to 2001, a basic history of photography, and many artists who worked in The Garden State. Prints by noted artists, such as John Sloan, Matisse, Picasso, Warhol, Lichtenstein, and Rauschenberg are included.
Contributions to the Library's Gertrude Fine Prints Endowment Fund are used to acquire original prints for the Library’s Special Collections Division. To learn more about how to contribute to this fund, please click here.
The Poster Collection:
This grouping preserves the history of notable poster design with an emphasis on the post-1950 renaissance of poster
art. Over 4,000 posters are organized under broad subjects such as World Wars I and II; Travel in Europe, Asia, Africa, and North,
Central and South America; notable posters designed by individual artists; the Olympic Games; Photography; Architecture; Sculpture;
The Artists' Book Collection:
As this is now an art movement of world-wide dimensions, a growing artists' book collection includes about 600
publications spanning the decades from the late 1950's up to contemporary output in 2000. These works are produced in highly
innovative formats by groups as well as individuals who combine literary, artistic and social commentary usually with visual
images and highly avant-garde design elements. Of special interest is an ancillary survey of over 200 movable or pop-up
books which have been of enormous interest, and which require the expertise of paper engineer in addition to author, artist and
The Illustrated Book Collection: In this collection, over two thousand titles present a survey of the work of celebrated illustrators of the 19th and 20th
centuries including Walter Crane, Walt Disney, Kate Greenaway, Picasso, Edward Gorey, Charles Dana Gibson, Lynd Ward, Gustav
Doré, Arthur Rackham, Boutet de Monville, Rien Poortvliet, and Bilibin. Also included are a group of stories made into films.
These include black and white stills from the various historic and nostalgic Hollywood productions mostly from the era of "silents." For information about illustrators in our information files, see our online guide.
The Autograph Collection:
A unique gathering of over 1,000 signed items from celebrated persons such as Thomas Paine, Eleanor Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt, John Hancock, Booker T.
Washington, Willa Cather, Verdi, Wagner and Washington Irving. This collection also includes the Rabin and Kreuger Archive with notes, letters and related materials on visual artists in the metropolitan area plus the John Tasker Howard survey from musicians in response to his questionnaire to several hundred notable 20th century composers and musicians such as Charles Ives, Ferde Grofe, and Aaron Copland. Autographed theater history photos are found in the Schlessinger Collection from a local theater director who had major stars on stage during the period from 1900 to 1940 or so. These include Billie Burke,
Helen Hayes, Paul Muni, Eddie Cantor, Annie Oakley, the Barrymores, and the brightest star performers from the
Kasuga Shrine by Kawase Hasui. Color woodblock print.
The Card Collections, Including Christmas, Greetings, Valentines, Trades and Post Cards:
In these collections are examples of sentimental visual images produced for our major holidays depicting national
celebrations as well as a compelling record of business and social manners and customs of vibrant eras in America's past. Hundreds of Christmas cards preserve designs and printed messages from the Golden Age of cards which began in the 1860s. These files are arranged by iconographic themes such as Trees, Wreaths, Fireplaces, Magi, Stars, Stained Glass, Animals, and Musical Instruments. Another unique gathering includes cards sent by artists who created and signed specific annual holiday greetings.
The Shopping Bag Collection:
This special group of bags, which are frequently referred to as "portable art," was founded due to tremendous popular public interest in shopping bags in the 1960s. They originate from leading commercial firms, shopping malls, deluxe retail stores, and all sorts of merchandising outlets in
the United States, European cities, and stores in countries on the Pacific Rim and the Near East. The more than one thousand bags have been a source of four highly popular exhibitions in the Library's galleries, and also for loans for display at other sites.
Kabuki Actor in the Role of Otomo no Kuronushi by Utagawa Kunisada. Woodblock print.
With over 3,600 catalogued publications, this collection has major value to casual as well as dedicated scholars concerned with printing history, paper making, and the art of fine typography and design. Publications from several hundred presses are included and these are augmented by manuscript pages, incunabula, broadsides and announcements, periodicals and the art of papermaking. Books designed or printed by noted figures in the field are included: Charles R. Ashbee, Will Bradley, Dard Hunter, William Morris, and Bruce Rogers, as examples.
Several thousand publications of literary and historic value are gathered with a notable collection of atlases compiled by Gerard Mercator, Johann Blau and Claudius Ptolemy. There is also a collection of historic children's literature and another on the nostalgic theme of Christmas.
Periodicals for Specialized Research:
The Library maintains long runs of many esoteric periodicals with absorbing content in text and illustration for users interested in particular aspects of art history and social and historic concepts of lasting importance. These magazines helped to form opinions and developments in the fine arts and humanities in our contemporary world of the 21st century. Among these permanent holdings are the following:
Derrière Le Miroir (France)
Vvv and Cahiers D'art (France)
Arrange a Visit:
Individuals, small groups of enthusiasts, and classes from educational institutions are welcome to view, by appointment
please, materials of particular interest to them. Exhibitions which include original prints, posters, artists' books, pop-ups,
autographs, and illustrated books are scheduled for display in the Library's galleries. These shows are open without any fees
for viewing, enjoyment, and general education for visitors to the Library in the expanding cultureplex of Newark's historic