Blog—Source Material

The 5 Most-Requested Collection Items of 2023

As the year comes to a close, it is time to review the five most popular Newberry collection items of 2023.

Musical Treatises 2

Medieval musical treatises. Call number: VAULT Case MS 54.1

Every year, Newberry readers request thousands of collection items for viewing in the Reading Rooms. Here’s what this year’s Newberry researchers wanted to see most!

#5. "The Red Man's Greeting 1492-1892," a "Brief account of a judicial inquiry..." (1530-1549), and "Academy Award Statuette" (1928)

The fifth most requested collection item this year is actually a three-way tie! The Red Man’s Greeting 1492-1892 / by Chief Pokagon, a "Brief account of a judicial inquiry into the case of doña Ana, accused of using witchcraft to persuade her Indian lover, don Andrés, to marry her [between 1530 and 1549]", and the "Acadamy Award statuette from Ben Hecht’s Papers" all came in fifth place. However, The Red Man’s Greeting, written by Potawatomi Chief Simon Pokagonwas featured in many collection presentations throughout the year and thus would have been seen by more of the public than the other two. Chief Pokagon sold this book at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893 to address the Exposition organizers' refusal to acknowledge the area's original inhabitants. 

Catalog record
The Red Man's Greeting. Call number: Ayer 251 .P651 P7 1893
"Brief accound of a judicial inquiry..." Call number: VAULT oversize Ayer MS 1908
Ben Hecht's Academy Award. Call number: Midwest MS Hecht

#4. Medieval musical treatises, 1391

In fourth place, we have a collection of medieval musical treatises. These treatises likely examined musical theory of the time and explored new ways to physically display written musical work. 

Catalog record
Medieval musical treatises. Call number: VAULT Case MS 54.1
Medieval musical treatises. Call number: VAULT Case MS 54.1

#3. Papyrus fragment

The third most requested collection item of 2023 is a papyrus fragment credited to Homer’s twenty-first book of the Iliad. This item is also considered one of the oldest collection items at the Newberry!

Catalog record
Papyrus fragment from Homer's 21st book of the Iliad. Call number: VAULT Greek MS 1

#2. Shakespeare's First Folio, 1623

In second place we have Shakespeare’s First Folio! Printed posthumously in 1623 (happy 400th birthday, First Folio!), the so-called Shakespeare First Folio is the first published collection of Shakespeare’s works. Without it, several plays—including Macbeth and The Tempest—might have been lost forever. The Newberry’s copy of the First Folio (to our knowledge) is the only one you’ll find in Chicago. This collection item also came in second place for the most requested items of 2022!

Catalog record
Shakespeare’s iconic portrait appears on a title page under the words “Mr. William Shakespeares Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies. Published according to the True Originall Copies.”
Title page from the Shakespeare First Folio, published in 1623. Call number: Vault Case oversize YS .01
The words “Ann Park is” appear in handwriting in a page from the Shakespeare First Folio.
A former owner of the Newberry’s copy of the First Folio wrote “Ann Park is” above an excerpt from “The Two Gentlemen of Verona.” The inscription flows into the play’s text to read, “Ann Park is That I did love, for now my love is thaw’d...” Call number: Vault Case overside YS .01

#1. Copy of the Popol Vuh, 1700 - 1715

And finally, in first place, we have the Popol Vuh! The full title of this item reads Arte de las tres lenguas kakchiquel, quiché y tzutuhil, however, most people request this item to interact with the Popol Vuh documents specifically.

The Popol Vuh is the creation account of the Mayan people. The text weaves together stories about cosmologies, origins, traditions, and spiritual history. (“Popol” can be translated as “woven mat” and “Vuh” [or “Vuj”] as “book.”)

The Newberry’s copy of the Popol Vuh was transcribed between 1700 and 1715 by a Dominican priest named Francisco Ximénez. Some scholars believe that Ximénez’s copy was derived from an earlier version, probably prepared in the sixteenth century by a native speaker who’d learned Latin characters.

This collection item also came in first place for the most requested items of 2022! After several big years, the Popol Vuh has quite a legacy to maintain. Will its popularity remain in 2024? Only time will tell.

Catalog record
A book is open. The page to the left is blank, the page to the right is the beginning of the Maya creation story. The text is in Spanish. The first few words are “Empiezan las historias del origen de los indios de esta provincia de Guatemala.”
Title page of the Popol Vuh. Call number: VAULT Ayer MS 1515