The purpose of the Special Collections Division is to enhance the study of the visual arts, particularly the graphic arts. In 1902, the Library's second director, John Cotton Dana, began assembling a circulating collection of thousands of illustrations from various periodicals. He supplemented this collection with original prints purchased from around the world. Dana also purchased many art books which he hoped would inspire and encourage Newarkers to learn more about different types of art.
Over the years, the collection grew as a result of generous gifts of unique materials by artists, art enthusiasts, and collectors. In addition to prints, the collection now includes posters, artists' books, autographs, cards, drawings, and shopping bags. The Special Collections Division is one of the foremost collections of graphic art in New Jersey.
Materials from the collections are regularly exhibited at the Main Library. The Special Collections Division is a research collection and materials of interest may be requested and viewed by individuals, small groups, and classes by appointment by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org . While some items may be found in the Library's catalog and some collections have been inventoried in finding aids, most of the holdings have not yet been cataloged. Subscriptions are also maintained for important periodicals about art, printmaking, papermaking, and artists' books.
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.
Leaf from a Book of Hours (Folio 47) in Fifty Original Leaves from Medieval Manuscripts compiled by Otto Ege. Late 15th century.
Jenkinson Collection Thousands of publications (approximately half of which, 3,600 works, have been catalogued), 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 more than 800 presses are included and these are augmented by manuscript pages, incunabula, broadsides and announcements, periodicals and the art of papermaking. Begun by Richard C. Jenkinson, a Trustee of the Newark Public Library for more than 35 years, the collection represents the history of books and written communication, and the arts of typography and fine printing. Contained are examples from the great printers and typographers from the 16-18th centuries, including Aldus Manutius, William Caslon, and Giambattista Bodoni. Works by noted book artists William Morris, Dard Hunter, and Bruce Rogers are also represented, with examples of notable illustrations, bindings, title pages, and colophons from the past 500 years. Also included are:
Atlas Sive Cosmographicae Meditationes de Fabrica Mundi et Fabricati Figura by Gerard Mercator. 1595.
Rare Books A wide-ranging collection of over 1,000 items including atlases from the 16th century, first editions, autographed books, and collectible items
Pop-Ups Over 500 historic and contemporary examples of books with three-dimensional elements designed by artists and paper engineers
McEwen Christmas Collection Begun by a Newark physician and donated to the Library in 1932, contains over 1,000 adult and children’s books about national, religious, and intercultural aspects of the celebration of Christmas. The nostalgic collection also includes a collection of Christmas seals sold by the Essex County (NJ) Tuberculosis League, mounted and captioned in books, including the very first seal sold by the League in 1908.
Wilbur Macey Stone Children's Collection Acquired from a patent attorney, engineer, and collector of rare children's books and includes almanacs, fables, illustrated storybooks, miniature books, and primers (17th – 20th century). Stone served as a trustee of the Newark Museum. The collection of 300 books has been augmented to more than 1,200 works.
Camouflage by Maria Pisano. c. 2003.
Reference Collection of Books
Artists' Books More than 600 publications spanning the decades from the late 1950's to the present. 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.
Illustrated Books In this collection, over 2,500 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, and Arthur Rackham. 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."
Art and Design Periodicals The Library retains 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: Kokka, Parkett, S.M.S., and Cahiers D'Art
Fine Prints 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, 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. The collection also includes Newark iconography, many prints by Puerto Rican artists, and the Elizabeth Delson Collection and the Shahn Estate Collection
Shopping Bags This special group of bags, which are frequently referred to as "portable art," was founded in 1970 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.
Posters This grouping preserves the history of notable poster design with an emphasis on the post-1950 renaissance of poster art. Over 5,000 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; and Music. This collection contains several noteworthy donations:
Tradecards More than 500 cards representing the commercial history of Newark and the surrounding area
Greeting 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, customs of vibrant eras in America's past, and the history of the graphic arts business. Hundreds of cards preserve designs and printed messages from the Golden Age of cards which began in the 1860s. Within the collection are examples of greeting cards designed and sent by artists.
Postcards A collection of thousands, with a focus on popular subjects of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It includes images of landmarks and structures no longer standing, unique views, novelty cards, and sets of postals, providing a visual record of the places visited by Newark residents.
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.
Rabin & Krueger Gallery Archives Consists of letters, notes, and other materials from the Newark (NJ) gallery which flourished on Halsey Street from 1930-1965. Many of the records relate to NJ artists and collectors.
John Tasker Howard Collection of 20th Century American Music Contains responses from hundreds of composers and artists, including Aaron Copland and Charles Ives, to Howard’s survey questionnaire of American music. Howard was a composer, pianist, and eminent writer on American musical subjects.
Schlessinger Collection of Theatre History Includes autographed photographs of notable performers, including Billie Burke, Helen Hayes, Eddie Cantor, and many others, assembled by a local theatre director.