Printing History and Book Arts – John M. Wing Foundation on the History of Printing Collection Description

Doge Alvise I Mocenigo. Nos Aloysivs Mocenigo... c.1570. Wing MS ZW 1 .575.
Doge Alvise I Mocenigo. Nos Aloysivs Mocenigo... c.1570. Wing MS ZW 1 .575.

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 I, under terms of a bequest by Chicago journalist and publisher John Mansir Wing (1844-1917), who envisioned “a great typographical library.” The initial impulse of the collection was to represent as many different printers and type faces as possible from the early period of printing. The design of letter forms remains a central theme of the collection. Calligraphy, type and type-founding, technical innovations in printing, design usage and theory, bookselling, book binding, papermaking, the history of book collecting, and the history of libraries are other important themes. 

Today, the John M. Wing Foundation on the History of Printing is one of the world’s leading collections in its field, including as it does 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 15th century); and over 15,000 items of printed ephemera. Wing items are listed in the Newberry’s online catalog and in OCLC’s WorldCat database. Wing collection acquisitions to 1978 are also described in the Dictionary Catalog of the History of Printing from the John M. Wing Foundation of the Newberry Library (13 vols., 1961-1981).

Particular strengths of the Wing collection:

  • Incunables, chosen specifically to represent the type faces of the 15th century
  • Specimens of calligraphy of all periods
  • Printed calligraphic manuals
  • Type specimens from around the world
  • The products of such Chicago printers and publishers as A.C. McClurg, W.B. Conkey, R.R. Donnelley & Sons, Stone & Kimball, and Way & Williams
  • Fine and private press books whether English, American or Continental European
  • Books and ephemera from the Officina Bodoni (Verona, Italy)
  • Editions of Terence

Several important collections assembled by individuals are to be found within the Wing collection, notably:

  • John M. Wing’s own extra-illustrated books (not cataloged)
  • The Coella Lindsay Ricketts and Alfred E. Hamill collections of calligraphica
  • The Herbert M. Stone collection of Stone & Kimball imprints
  • The Norma B. Rubovits collection of marbled and decorated papers
  • Printed ephemera collected by such designers as William Kittredge, Will Ransom, and Robert Hunter Middleton
  • The Jane Gilmartin Gilchrist collection of alphabet books (cataloging in progress)
  • The Klaus Stopp collection of printed birth and baptismal certificates of German Americans
  • The Henry Rosemont Typographical Union collection

Modern manuscripts and archives in the Wing collection include the papers of such figures as Raymond F. DaBoll, James Hayes, Douglas McMurtrie, Robert Hunter Middleton, Will Ransom, George Salter, and Platt Rogers Spencer.

The Wing collection is complemented by many other special collections of the Newberry, including, for example, medieval and Renaissance manuscripts, Hebraica, French Revolutionary pamphlets, courtesy books, emblem books, children’s books, cartography, early music, and by the archives of such publishers as the Charles Kerr Company, the Rand McNally Company, and the General Drafting Corporation. 

Other resources: