University of Delaware Library

Special Collections Department


The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer
The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer


Special Collections holds a wealth of research material relating to the history and technology of printing, papermaking, and the book arts. The Library's rare book collection ranges from early printed books from the fifteenth century to examples of contemporary fine and small press printing. Special Collections also holds extensive collections of manuscripts, ephemera, and archival materials relating to printing, papermaking, and the book arts.

As part of its effort to document the evolution of printing from its earliest period to the present, Special Collections houses a vast number of rare books in a variety of subject areas. Early works, including incunabula, are present, and many examples of printing from the fifteenth century through the nineteenth century may be found in collections on the history of science and technology and the history of horticulture. Holdings of rare books from this period are also strong in such traditional collecting areas as history, literature, and the arts. The collection includes examples of fine press printing from virtually every significant press from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and is particularly strong in American and British fine presses of the twentieth century. Special Collections also houses an extensive collection of illustrated books, botanicals, and manuscript facsimiles. Another strength in this area is Special Collections's collection of artists books, which includes over two hundred individual works and is particularly strong in the work of American artists of the book from 1970 to the present.

The Library's collection of over two thousand trade catalogs includes a substantial number relating to the printing and publishing industries, such as booksellers' catalogs from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries, as well as trade literature from companies involved in all aspects of printing and publishing. In addition to documenting the history of printing and publishing, the catalogs often serve as examples of developments in the technology of printing and illustration. In particular, the evolution of color printing technology is documented through these trade catalogs, especially the era of chromolithography during the late nineteenth century. Special Collections also houses a strong collection of type specimen books. The collection includes specimens from the seventeenth through the twentieth centuries, but has especially strong holdings for American firms from the late-nineteenth century through the first several decades of the twentieth century. Special Collections's holdings of trade literature relating to the papermaking industry are also extensive and includes trade catalogs, sample and specimen books, and individual samples of handmade and machine-produced paper. Another holding of note is the collection of more than four hundred salesman sample and canvassing books, spanning the period 1856-1967, which were used by publishers' traveling agents to sell forthcoming publications to booksellers.

Special Collections houses a wealth of manuscript and archival materials relating to the history and technology of printing and the book arts. Collections of note include papers or collections centering on John Anderson, Paul A. Bennett, Abraham Colish, John de Pol, Lester Douglas, Frederic W. Goudy, Fridolf Johnson, and Peter Koch. Special Collections also holds the Archives of the Angelica and Amity Press, the Bird & Bull Press, the Black Stone Press, the Pentagram Press, the Pickering Press, and the Plough Press, as well as important nineteenth-century archival collections relating to R. Hoe & Company and the Mergenthaler Linotype Company. Significant collections relating to papermaking include the Paulette Greene papermaking Collection, the Cecil Smith Thayer papermaking and Watermark Collection, and the Thomas L. Gravell Watermark Collection. Special Collections also houses numerous individual manuscripts, account books, ledgers, scrapbooks, and ephemeral material relating to printing, papermaking, and the book arts.

Saint Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury, 1033-1109.
Opuscula beati Anselmi archiepiscopi Ca[n]tuarie[n]sis ordinis. Sancti Benedicti. [Basel: Johann Amerbach, not after 1497]; bound with: Bible. O.T. Psalms. Latin. 1497. Psalterium beati Brunonis Episcopi Herbipolensis. [Nuremberg]: Per Anthoniu[m] Koberger impressum, anno incarnate deitatis [1497] finit feliciter.

The University of Delaware Library houses a small, but significant collection of books printed during the first century of printing. These two remarkable incunables include one of the earliest printed editions of the work of St. Anselm, printed by the famed Basel printer Johan Amerbach; and the second edition of a text by St. Bruno, originally printed in 1494.

Mundi lapis lydius Antoine de Bourgogne, 1593 or 4-1657.
Mundi lapis lydius, siue, Vanitas per veritate falsi accusata & conuicta: opera D. Antonii a Burgundia, Archi-diaconi Brugensis. Antuerp: Typis Viduae Ioan. Cnobbari, 1639.

Emblem books constitute a genre of illustrated books which were particularly popular during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The woodcut or engraved emblem was a pictorial representation of a moral lesson offered in an accompanying printed motto, epigram, or verse. This emblem book was well-known throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and was reprinted a number of times and translated into German and Dutch. This example is a copy of the rare first edition of the book.

Marcus Tullius Cicero.

M.T. Cicero's Cato Major, or, His Discourse on Old Age: with Explanatory Notes. Philadelphia: Printed and sold by B. Franklin, 1744.

This edition of Cicero's Cato Major is considered to be the first American fine press publication and is one of the highlights of American colonial printing. Benjamin Franklin regarded Cato Major as the most important work of printing from his press.

Joh. Enschedé en Zonen.
Proef van letteren: welke gegooten worden in de nieuwe Haerlemsche lettergietery van J. Enschedé. [Haarlem, The Netherlands: The firm]1768.

The University of Delaware Library houses an exceptional collection of type specimen books. This specimen book from the famed Enschedé firm contains a wide range of European types, as well as exotic specimens of Arabic, Hebrew, and Armenian fonts.

Georg Friedrich Wehrs, 1750-1818.
Vom Papier, den vor der Erfindung desselben üblich gewesenen Schreibmassen und sonstigen Schreibmaterialien. Halle: bey Johann Jacob Gebauer, 1789.

Vom Papier is generally regarded as the earliest major bibliographical and historical work on papermaking. Although it is quite scarce and has never been translated into English, Wehrs's work remains one of the most comprehensive books on the history of early writing materials, including papyrus, parchment, and paper.

Catalogue of the Choicest of the Books Greenleaf's Book Store.
Catalogue of the Choicest of the Books and Stationary in Said Store, November, 1796: Where All Orders from the Country Are Faithfully Attended To, and Libraries Supplied at a Discount. New York: Printed by said Greenleaf ..., 1796.

This scarce eighteenth-century bookseller's catalog was issued by Thomas Greenleaf, a prominent New York bookseller and printer, who is remembered today for his newspaper, the New York Journal. Special Collections houses an extensive collection of trade literature which includes booksellers' catalogs from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries as well as companies involved in all aspects of printing and publishing.

Isaiah Thomas, 1749-1831.
The History of Printing in America. With a Biography of Printers, and an Account of Newspapers. To Which is Prefixed a Concise View of the Discovery and Progress of the Art in Other Parts of the world. In Two Volumes. Worcester: From the press of Isaiah Thomas, jun. (Isaac Sturtevant, printer), 1810.

Isaiah Thomas was the leading publisher of his time. More than four hundred titles, often printed in thousands of copies and numerous editions, were issued from his press. In 1802, Thomas retired to devote himself to scholarship and the writing of this famous treatise on printing in America. This copy of the book is from the library of Robert Vaux, a prominent Philadelphian of the early nineteenth century.

Scenes from The Winter's Tale Scenes from The Winter's Tale. London: Day and Son, Ltd. [1866]

This stunning collection of illustrated scenes from Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale contains lavish chromolithographed illuminations by Owen Jones and Henry Warren. Jones was one of the first printers to realize the vast potential lithography offered for color design and facsimiles. Scenes from the Winter's Tale is one of his most elaborate productions and an excellent example of Victorian book design from this period.

R. Hoe & Company.
R. Hoe & Co., Manufacturers of Type-revolving, Perfecting, Single and Double Cylinder and Adams' Printing Machines, Washington and Smith Hand-presses, Self-inking Machines, etc. ... New York: [The Company, 1871].

Founded by Robert Hoe, an English carpenter who immigrated to the United States in 1803, R. Hoe & Company was one of the most important manufacturers of printing presses and related equipment during the nineteenth century. This trade catalog forms part of the University of Delaware Library's strong collection of research material relating to R. Hoe & Company.

Livre de prières Livre de prières: tissé d'après les enluminures des manuscrits du XIV au XVI siècle. Lyon: A. Roux, 1886.

This work was woven in silk, using the Jacquard loom method of punch cards. Approximately 106,000 cards per leaf were used in this highly complex application. This extremely rare volume, which is the only successful example of an entirely woven book, is often regarded as the first book produced by a computer, since Jacquard's process is viewed as an early precursor to the computer.

The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer Geoffrey Chaucer, d. 1400.
The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer, Now Newly Imprinted. [Hammersmith: Kelmscott Press, 1896].

The Kelmscott Press, which was founded by the great English author, artist, social reformer, craftsman, and designer, William Morris, is considered to be the most important and influential private press of the nineteenth century. The Kelmscott Chaucer is the Kelmscott Press's greatest achievment and is one of the most sought-after examples of fine printing ever produced.

Dard Hunter, 1883-1966.
Old Papermaking in China and Japan. Chillicothe, Ohio: Mountain House Press, 1932.

Dard Hunter was the foremost maker of handmade papers in America and the leading authority on the history of papermaking of his era. In this lavish production, which he designed and printed at his own private press, Dard Hunter chronicles the history of papermaking in China and Japan from the earliest times through the nineteenth century. Old Papermaking in China and Japan forms part of the University of Delaware Library's extensive collection of the work of Dard Hunter.

Five on Paper: a Collection of Five Essays on Papermaking,Books and Relevant matters. North Hills, Pa.: Bird & Bull Press, 1963.

The University of Delaware Library is the repository for the Archives of the Bird & Bull Press, one of the most important post-war American fine presses, and houses one of the largest extant collections of the Press's published work. Five on Paper is one of the earliest Bird & Bull Press publications and is an excellent example of Henry Morris's book design. All of the papers in the book have been handmade by Henry Morris.

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