Printing History and Book Arts

The John M. Wing Foundation on the History of Printing Collection consists of 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 and represents as many different printers and type faces as possible from the early period of printing.

If you’re not sure where to begin searching the catalog, you can search for “Printing” as a subject term then use the facets on the left side of the page to view related subject headings. You can search by Subject in our Primo VE catalog using the “Advanced Search” function to the right of the search bar. Select “Subject” in the drop-down menu of search features in place of “Any field,” then copy-and-paste one of the following subject headings:

Printing -- History
Books -- History

To find artists’ books you can search by subject for “Artists’ books”.

If you are interested in books from the Chicago Calligraphy Collective that have won the Purchase Prize, search by author for “Chicago Calligraphy Collective” or search by subject for “Newberry Library Purchase Prize".

To find books printed between 1450-1500 (incunables), as well as books about incunables, search by subject for “Incunabula”. To find a more complete list of incunables, use the Advance Search option to set the date range and search for “Inc.” in "Any field".

Online, you can search for many designers, presses, illustrators, publishers and printers by name using the author search function. Examples of author searches include:

Jenson, Nicolas
Kelmscott Press
Rogers, Bruce

An author search will bring up material created by a printer, designer, press, etc. For example, a search for “Kelmscott Press” will generate a list of books published by the press.

You can also find many examples of types in use use the Subject function to search by type name:

Centaur type
Miller type

Be aware that a subject search for “Baskerville” (for example) will bring up not only specimens of Baskerville type and Baskerville italic type, but also books about John Baskerville (but not books printed by Baskerville to find these you must use the author search).

If you want to search for a specific foundry’s version of a type, use the subject search:

Linotype Caslon
Ludlow Garamond
Monotype Baskerville

You can also search for works printed in a specific city, using the advanced search. Enter the name of the city you are interested in as a subject local geographic search, and the word “Imprints” as a subject word. For example, “Venice” and “Imprints” will give a list of books printed in Venice. You can further sort this list by “oldest first” or “newest first” to get a chronological list.

Results can be filtered by Material Type, Language, Date, Author, Title, etc. prior to searching by using the drop-down menus in the search panel. If your search produces too many options, you can also narrow results using the faceted options on the left-hand side, under the heading “Refine your results.” Clicking on one of these filter terms or the box to their left will limit results to only those that fit this criterion, while clicking on the red box to the right of the term will exclude those results. For more information about searching in our online catalog, please see our Guide to Primo VE.

This is a selection of reference books broadly related to various topics in printing and book history. You should browse the stacks around these call numbers, since there should be materials dealing with similar topics nearby. All items with a “Ref” call number, or located on the 4th floor open shelf, do not need to be requested through Aeon and should be viewed on the 3rd floor or 4th floor when noted.

When doing research on a book, don’t overlook basic biographical sources such as the Dictionary of Literary Biography (Ref PN 451 .D5), the Dictionary of National Biography (Ref DA28 .O95 2004), or American National Biography (Ref CT213 .A68 1999) check for entries on printers/publishers as well as authors.

Glaister, Geoffrey Ashall. Glaister’s Glossary of the Book: Terms Used in Papermaking, Printing, Bookbinding and Publishing with Notes on Illuminated Manuscripts and Private Presses. 2d ed., Berkeley: University of California Press, 1979. Location: Reference 3rd floor. Call number: Ref Z118 .G55 1979.

Pearson, David. Provenance Research in Book History: A Handbook. New and revised edition. London: The Bodleian Library, 2019. Location: Reference 3rd floor. Call number: Ref Z921.A1 P362 2019. While this handbook is specifically aimed at researchers who are trying to identify owners from inscriptions, bookplates, binding stamps, or other marks found in particular books, it is also of relevance to anyone who is interested in book ownership generally. The 1994 edition is also available (Wing Z921.A1 P362 1994)

Jaspert, W. Pincus. The Encyclopaedia of Type Faces. London: Cassell Paperbacks, 2001. Location: Temporarily shelved at Special Collections Reference 4th floor. Call number: Wing folio Z250 .J36 2001. This source will help in identifying type foundaries.

Morison, Stanley. A Tally of Types. Cambridge: University Press, 1973. Location: General Collection 2nd floor. Call number: Wing Z 403 .595.

Dane, Joseph A. What Is a Book?: The Study of Early Printed Books. Notre Dame, IN: [2012]. Location: Reference 3rd floor. Call number: Ref Z1001 .D227 2012.

The Newberry’s John M. Wing Foundation has collected manuscript materials relating to the history of printing since its establishment in 1919. These items range in date from the sixteenth century to the present. The subjects and personalities represented are roughly the same as those represented in the printed books in the Wing collection. There are also some more complete archives of individual twentieth-century presses, publishers, and printing folk, over thirty collections in all. To browse the modern manuscript collections related to printing history and book arts, go to the Modern Manuscripts and Archives search page and use the “Browse by Topic” function.

We also have manuscript collections outside of the Wing Collection about printing, design, and book arts in Chicago and those largely about other subjects that include important individual items or substantial amounts of material related to graphic design in Chicago.

Some notable collections are:

John M. Wing Foundation Printing Ephemera Colletion, approx. 1750-ongoing, Wing.Ephemera.File

Printed ephemera from a variety of companies, organizations, and individuals, mostly concerned with printing, publishing, graphic design, and related book arts.

Norma B. Rubovits Papers, 1800s-2009. Wing.Modern.MS.Rubo

Professional files and decorated, especially marbled, papers assembled by Chicago paper artist Norma B. Rubovits.

Oswald Bruce Cooper Papers, Wing.Modern.MS.Cooper

Papers of Oswald Cooper, Chicago lettering artist, advertising designer, and type designer best known for his Cooper Black and Cooper Bold typefaces.

Will Ransom Papers, 1883-1954, Wing.Modern.MS.Rans

Printer, commercial artist, bibliographer and author of works on American printing history and private presses who did freelance work in lettering, design, and typography before becoming art editor at the University of Oklahoma Press.

Movable Books (available as PDF file)

Printed Ephemera (available as PDF file)


Early English Books Online (EEBO): Digital facsimiles of English books, 1475-1700, including more than 125,000 titles listed in Pollard & Redgrave’s Short-Title Catalogue (1475-1640) and Wing’s Short-Title Catalogue (1641-1700) and their revised editions, as well as the Thomason Tracts (1640-1661) collection and the Early English Books Tract Supplement.

Iter: Middle Ages and Renaissance: Provides access to a bibliography covering literature pertaining to the Middle Ages and Renaissance (400-1700) plus seven or eight additional databases.

MLA International Bibliography: Indexes materials on literature, languages, linguistics, and folklore, excluding book reviews. Citations from over 4,000 journals and series published worldwide, as well as books, essays, working papers, proceedings, dissertations, and bibliographies. Also includes citations to books and journal articles having to do with linguistics and language topics.

Digital Publications

These resources are freely available and accessible from anywhere.

Humanism for Sale

This digital resource examines the ways books were written, designed, printed, and marketed for schools in Renaissance Italy.

Polyglots: The Bible in Multiple Tongues

This resource introduces the great polyglot Bibles of the early modern period. Through this, you can learn more about their creation and use.

The Bible in Print

Through the images and texts on this interactive map, you can learn about some of the Newberry’s most important Bibles and gain a sense of how the different editions shaped religion, intellectual culture, identity, politics, and language in ways that continue to resonate today.

The Religious Geography of Venice

This interactive site allows you to explore the Venetian landmarks, minority enclaves, churches, convents and monasteries, processions, and printing centers.

Digital Exhibitions

These resources are freely available and accessible from anywhere.

Chicago’s Great 20th- Century Bookman: The Newberry Career of James M. Wells

Highlighting Wells’s contributions to the Newberry, the exhibition documents his acquisition of significant collection material (such as antiquarian books, cartographic materials, and modern literary manuscripts), the publications he authored and edited, and his relationships with key friends and donors to the library.

Ephemeral by Design: Organizing the Everyday

Ephemera are traces of the everyday—materials, usually printed, designed to be read or consumed in some way and then discarded. Whether studied as forensic evidence of a bygone era or as a link in the progression of printing history, ephemera can almost always be appreciated for their wry messages, bold color schemes, or innovative designs.

Illuminated Manuscripts and Printed Books

This exhibit displays excerpts from over twenty illuminated manuscripts that span the century 1450 to 1550.

Religious Change and Print, 1450-1700

This exhibition explores the intersection of religion and print culture during the early modern period.

Have a Question?

Our librarians are here to help you get the most out of your research.

Submit Your Question