Event—Public Programming

Typographic Realia: Wood Type as Historical Objects

—Wing Foundation Lecture Series on the History of the Book

Join David Shields as he explores how the study of a specific collection of wood type, and of its collector, reflects a broader network of relationships, objects, and research activities.

This program will be held in-person at the Newberry and livestreamed on Zoom. The online version of this event will be live captioned. Please register below.

Examples of wood type manufactured and used for letterpress printing in the nineteenth-century United States form the Rob Roy Kelly Wood Type Collection at the University of Texas at Austin. The collection was gathered in the mid-twentieth century by Kelly, a noted design educator, collector, and historian. His published research — including the classic book American Wood Type 1828–1900 — helped fuel a revival of interest in these fascinating American printing types. Kelly’s work remains an important starting point for current scholarly inquiry.

David Shields has approached the collection as more than simply 25,000-plus pieces of wood type. Instead, he dynamically defines it in broader terms as a range of objects, publications, research papers, and attendant activities in archives throughout the US. Viewing the collection broadly, he looks past Kelly as the sole instigator and investigator to perceive him as a link in the broader network of relationships that led to the success of his research project.

Wing Foundation Lecture Series on the History of the Book

John M. Wing was a remarkable and eccentric collector whose bequest founded the Newberry's John M. Wing Collection on the History of Printing. Over the last one hundred-plus years the collection's curators have amassed an extraordinary group of materials, ranging from incunables to modern artist's books and everything in between. Together they represent one of the world's best known collections related to the history of the book and book arts, used by all manner of readers: scholars, students, printers and other book artists, calligraphers, designers, and general readers interested in seeing and learning about books and manuscripts.


David Shields, Associate Professor in the Department of Graphic Design at Virginia Commonwealth University, engages in physical and historical research on the production and use of American and European wood type. He wrote and designed the 400-page monograph, The Rob Roy Kelly American Wood Type Collection: A History and Catalog.

Cost and Registration

This program is free and open to all. Advance registration required.

Registration opens March 1.

In-Person Registration

Support the Newberry

This program is presented as part of National Library Week (April 7-13), a week-long event organized by the American Library Association to celebrate the work of libraries across the United States.

As we celebrate how libraries support communities nationwide, it is also important to remember that, as a non-profit organization, we need your support in return. Make a gift this National Library Week to ensure the Newberry continues to inspire new research and learning—in our reading rooms, program spaces, and exhibition galleries​—​for years to come!

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Past Public Programs

Check out video recordings of past Newberry public programs on our YouTube channel.