History of the Book

Nova reperta, print shop. ca. 1580-1600. Call number: VAULT Case Wing oversize Z 412.85

What You Can Research

At the Newberry, you can research type and type-founding, advancements in printing technology, printed ephemera, calligraphy and letter forms, bookbinding, paper-making, bookselling and collecting, the history of libraries, and artist's books that experiment with the physical form of the book.

Books printed before 1501, known as incunables, are the earliest examples of how printers designed texts for readers. The Newberry holds more than 2,500 incunables, including the work of printers like Aldus Manutius and Nicolas Jenson.

The Newberry’s collections include specimens of printing from European, British, and American printers ranging from the 15th century to the present day. The collection also holds over 2,500 specimens issued by type foundries.

Handwriting didn't disappear with the advent of the printing press. Manuscript culture continued to thrive for centuries. The Newberry's calligraphic collections range from the intricate art of writing masters to printed guides introducing students to the basics of handwriting. These collections include over 3,500 printed writing manuals from the 15th - 19th centuries, as well as manuscript specimens from the 15th century through the present.

Ephemera are traces of the everyday: materials, usually printed, designed to be read or consumed in some way and then discarded. Our collection consists of over 30,000 pieces of printed ephemera from the 15th century to the present day, with materials ranging from bus tickets and advertisements to type specimens and stationery.

As the name implies, artist's books are works of art in book form. They can utilize a variety of forms and mediums, and many artists incorporate typography, papermaking, paper engineering, and more in their books. The Newberry’s collection of artist's books largely focuses on American printers and includes those made by contemporary midwestern and Chicago printers such as Jennifer Farrell and Audrey Niffenegger.

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