The Newberry – Chicago’s Independent Research Library Since 1887

The Newberry – Chicago’s Independent Research Library Since 1887.

From time to time I like to feature other libraries on this blog, because there are so many excellent digital resources available online now for reading and research. That’s why I have a section on my right-hand column devoted to “digital libraries” (scroll down until you get to it). Through my email subscriptions to various library resources I recently became aware of another fine collection of digital resources – the Newberry Research Library in Chicago. Their collection of materials is amazing! How about their collection of materials on the history of the book? Here’s what their website says about this:

The Newberry’s collection on the history of printing and the book arts is one of the world’s leading collections in the field. Collection strengths include the design of letter forms, calligraphy, type and type-founding, technical innovations in printing, design usage and theory, bookselling, bookbinding, papermaking, the history of book collecting, and the history of libraries.

The Newberry began to collect in earnest on the history of printing and allied fields of the book arts in the years just after World War One, under terms of a bequest by Chicago journalist and publisher John Mansir Wing (1844-1917), who envisioned “a great typographical library.” Today, the John M. Wing Foundation on the History of Printing includes nearly 100,000 volumes of technical literature, periodicals, and historical accounts of printing and book arts; over 600 cubic feet of printing and publishing-related archives (in 56 different collections); 650 calligraphic manuscripts and 2,100 printed volumes on calligraphy; 68,000 volumes of classified printing samples of every period (including 2,200 from the fifteenth century); and over 15,000 items of printed ephemera.


Or what about their maps, travel, and exploration section? Here’s a brief description of this collection:

The Newberry houses an extraordinary collection of maps and sources relating to the history and culture of travel. The geographical coverage of the map collection is best for the Americas and Western Europe, but all regions of the world are well represented. About half of the library’s 500,000 maps (including those found in books) were published before 1900. The holdings for travel history and culture are also strongest for Europe and the Americas, from the sixteenth through the mid-twentieth century. Newberry librarians and the staff of the Hermon Dunlap Smith Center for the History of Cartography work to facilitate research in the map collections and manage programming and fellowships related to the history of cartography.


There are also special collections devoted to the American Indian, to manuscripts and archives, to Medieval, Renaissance and Early Modern studies. You will simply have to poke around their website at the link above to find all kinds of treasures. But this is what also caught my eye this morning. Guess what one of their latest acquisitions is? No less than an early edition of Calvin’s Institutes – here’s the information on that:

Jean Calvin’s Institutes

This is the first edition printed in England of Jean Calvin’s Institutes in the original Latin. In its earliest recension, the Institutes were published in Basel in 1536; the first English-language edition was printed in London in 1561. Our copy has been copiously annotated by an anonymous sixteenth-century reader. Sixteenth- and seventeenth-century books with contemporary reader notes are by virtue of our online catalog easily retrievable. The Newberry has a number of sixteenth-century editions of Calvin’s Institutes with similar annotations.


Exciting what you find in libraries! Real and virtual, literal and ethereal! So, make a visit to Chicago today and browse the Newberry Library. You will be richly rewarded. But, O, how I also want to visit there in person! Anyone want to come along?

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