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Rare Books

Rare Book Division
Firestone Library
One Washington Road
Princeton, NJ 08540
Curator of Rare Books

After a discussion of general references on the subject, several groupings are then discussed below:
     I. Hamilton II. English III. European IV. Livres d'artistes. V. Pochoir (Stencil art)

General references.
For a list of articles and notes on book illustration in the first 19 volumes of the Chronicle, see the following article: "Articles and Notes in the Princeton University Library Chronicle on Book Illustration" in the Princeton University Library Chronicle XX, 1 (Autumn, 1958) pp. 41-44 [full text] .

A good general introduction to the Library's major holdings of illustrated books of European origin is Dale Roylance's European Graphic Arts: The Art of the Book Gutenberg to Picasso. (Princeton, 1986) [(ExB) NE53.P7 .P74 and (F) NE53.P7 .P74] with 17 color plates and 136 black and white illustrations. The text and captions are a virtual "Baedeker" to the major monuments in the field which are held by in the Library. Recommended as the point of departure for beginning any examination of such materials at Princeton. Also to be considered is the exhibition catalogue issued in 1954 which lists and describes some 75 illustrated books. Refer to: The Illustrated Book from the 15th century to the 20th. (Princeton, 1954). [(ExB) 0639.739 no. 13] [full text]..

Also refer to: Knowing through Seeing: Diagrams, Schemata and Tableaux in Early Printed Books, Medieval Manuscripts, and Prints  (Princeton, 1987). [(ExB) 0639.739 no. 51]. [full text]. [full text supplemented with illustrations of items exhibited].

Records of purchases and gifts of important illustrated books can be found in various issues of the Chronicle. As a point of departure, refer to Princeton University Library Chronicle XXVII, 3 (Spring, 1966) p. 193 [full text]; XXXIV, 3 (Spring, 1973) p. 194-6 [full text], and XXXVI, 1 (Autumn, 1974) p. 78-80 [full text].

Not to be overlooked for general access to American graphic materials is the illustrated catalogue by Dale Roylance: American Graphic Arts: A Chronology to 1900 (Princeton: Princeton University Library, 1990) [(ExB) 0639.739 no.61 and (GARF) NE505 .P54].

I. Sinclair Hamilton Collection of American Illustrated Books 1670-1870

Located in the Graphic Arts Collection.
Location designator: Hamilton


The collection was assembled by Hamilton with the intention of showing the development of early book illustration in the United States. Its main subdivisions are: 17th and 18th century: relief cuts on wood, and engravings on metal; 19th century: main emphasis on wood engraving.

Work of more than 700 illustrators, engravers, and firms are present in the collection, and more than 200 18th-century publications. Hammatt Billings, F.O.C. Darley, Winslow Homer, Augustus Hoppin, John McLelan, Thomas Nast, and David Hunter Strother. Special importance lies in the fact that many forgotten 19th century illustrators are represented. More than 3000 books, broadsides, and other materials.

Published catalogue of the collection: Sinclair Hamilton. Early American Book Illustrators and Wood Engravers 1670-1870. (Princeton, 1958 and 1968). Two volumes. Volume II (1968) indicates that since Volume I (1958) appeared over 700 items, including the work of more than 80 additional illustrators, have been added. Volume III available in typescript.

See also: Howard C. Rice Jr., "Soundings in the Sinclair Hamilton Collection" in the Princeton University Library Chronicle XX, 1 (Autumn, 1958) pp. 29-38 [full text] . and Frank Jewett Mather Jr., "A Collection of Early American Illustrated Books" in the Princeton University Library Chronicle VI, 3 (April, 1945) pp. 99-100 [full text] , and Sinclair Hamilton, "Early American Book Illustration " in the Princeton University Library Chronicle VI, 3 (April, 1945) pp. 101-126 [full text] .

Alexander Anderson (1775-1870)

Included in the Hamilton collection of illustrated books are books containing engravings by America's father of wood engraving. Anderson began using wood in about 1793, and until about 1850 he was the country's leading wood engraver.

II. English

The Blake collection, the Beardsley collections and the Metzdorf collection of Victorian Binding (the books of which have interesting decoration within as well) all add to the illustrated book collection.

Of the "100 Outstanding Illustrated Books Published in English between 1790 and 1914" listed in the Appendix to Gordon Ray's Illustrator and the Book in England 1790-1914. (New York, 1976). Princeton Library has almost 80%. A copy of the checklist is kept in the Collections Files.

William E. Fiske Collection (dispersed throughout the General Rare Book Collection).

The collection includes 60 volumes exemplifying English books with colored aquatints from the 19th century. Artists whose works are found in these volumes include Isaac, Robert and George Cruikshank, Henry Alken, J. Clark, and Thomas Rowlandson. The volumes' contents include: books on London, Oxford, Cambridge, the English social scene, English scenery, architecture, and landscaping, travel and foreign scenery, telescopic views and a panorama.

See also entries for CRUIKSHANK and ROWLANDSON.

III. European Illustrated Books

See note above about the exhibition catalogue by Dale Roylance. European Graphic Arts: The Art of the Book Gutenberg to Picasso. (Princeton, 1986) [(ExB) NE53.P7 .P74 and (F) NE53.P7 .P74]

Hamilton Gifts.

Besides the American illustrated books donated by Sinclair Hamilton, the Library has received significant examples of European book illustration from him as well. Sixty-six volumes were given by Mr. Hamilton in 1953 for the general collections. For particulars refer to: "Illustrated Books" in the Princeton University Library Chronicle XIV, 2 (Winter, 1953) pp. 102-103 [full text] .

"In addition to the volumes Mr. Hamilton [had] added to his collection of American Illustrated Books, he [had], since 1953, been presenting European illustrated books of the 15th and 16th centuries. Often donations and purchases have added in a variety of ways to the Library's holdings of illustrated books and materials relating to the art of the book." [Earle E. Coleman in the Princeton University Library Chronicle XXXII, 1 (Autumn, 1970) pp. 49-50 (full text) ]. Earliest volume in his European illustrated book collection is Boethius' De Consolatione Philosophiae with 70 woodcut illustrations (Strasbourg, 1501)."

Hamilton continued to add to the collection of the 15th and 16th century European illustrated books until his death in 1978.


Acquired in 1984 by the Graphic Arts Collection was a copy of John Baptist Jackson's Opera selectoria...ligno coelata et coloribus adumbrata. Published in Venice in 1745 [(GA) GC171, disbound and matted] Another treasure acquired in 1986 was a partial set of the chiaroscuro woodcuts for Mantegna's Triumph of Julius Caesar issued by the Mantuan publisher Andrea Andreani in 1599.

Kane Collection.

The Kane incunabula are illustrated in many instances and thus represent examples of very early book illustration.

Baroque illustrated books.

Sixty illustrated volumes from the 17th century are described in detail in a catalogue to an exhibition held at Princeton in 1963-1964: John R. Martin. Baroque Art. Illustrated Books of the 17th Century. (Princeton, 1964) [(ExB) 0639.739 no. 33] [full text]..

IV. Livres d'artistes or, Livres des peintres

See in the Graphic Arts Collection the Library's checked copy of: Museum of Fine Arts. The Artist and the Book, 1860-1960, in western Europe and the United States. (Boston, 1961). Also see: "A Year of Contemporary Collecting in Graphic Arts" in the Princeton University Library Chronicle XXXVIII, 1 (Autumn, 1976) p. 60-64 [full text] .

V. Pochoir (Stencil art)

The Graphic Arts Collection acquired in September 1996, the Charles Rahn Fry '65 Collection of Pochoir. The collection has been catalogued. For particulars about some of the items in the collection see the 1982 exhibition catalogue The Stencil Art of Pochoir: An Exhibition of French Color Prints, 1920-1930 from the Collection of Charles Rahn Fry '65. (Princeton, 1982) [(GA) NK1449.S84] See also Art deco Paris 1900-1925 : pochoir color prints from the Graphic Arts Collection, Leonard L. Milberg Gallery for the Graphic Arts, Princeton University Library, October 15, 2000-April 1, 2001 curated by Dale Roylance. (Princeton, 2000) [(GARF) NK8665.F8 P746 2000].