Library Company Collection Development Guidelines: Graphics
The Library Company has collected graphics throughout its long history and in 1971 a separate Print Department was formed. Disassembled contents of scrapbooks containing prints, photographs, and drawings of local and antiquarian interest became the core of the graphics collection. Prints and photographs of Philadelphia or by Philadelphia artists have remained at the core of the collection as it has grown over the last 35 years. The Print Department, at present consists of approximately 75,000 items, and is a vital resource for any researcher looking for visual documentation of the city from the 18th through the early 20th centuries. Through prints, photographs, maps, and original drawings and watercolors, our collection documents the city’s architecture, commercial life, transportation systems, neighborhoods, and special events.
Areas of Strength in Philadelphia Graphics Collection
Views of the city including maps, engravings, lithographs (including more than half of the approximately 500 pre-1866 lithographs of Philadelphia cited in Nicolas Wainwright’s Philadelphia in the Romantic Age of Lithography), and photographs.
Substantial photographic holdings of important 19th and early 20th century professional Philadelphia photographers including Frederick Gutekunst, John Moran, Robert Newell, Frederick deBourg Richards, and William Rau.
Important collection of early Philadelphia daguerreotypes including works by Robert Cornelius, Marcus Root, Montgomery Simons, and the Langenheim Brothers.
Significant holdings by amateur 19th century Philadelphia photographers including George and Mary Vaux and Marriott C. Morris.
Areas of Strength in non-Philadelphia Graphics Collections
Large holding of political cartoons satirizing national events and people from the mid- 18th century through the Civil War era. Many relate to economic issues (taxes, bank failures, fiscal policies) and are a collecting priority for the Print Department as part of the Program in Early American Economy and Society.
Large print portrait collection containing images of both local and national figures including politicians, reformers, soldiers, actors, and business entrepreneurs.
Substantial collection of late 19th century trade cards relating to patent medicines, physicians, and pharmacies. Many pertain to popular culture and are a collecting priority for the Print Department as part of the Visual Culture Program.
Building on our collecting strengths including acquiring more views of Philadelphia, additional lithographs cited in Wainwright, and works by Philadelphia artists, lithographers, engravers, and photographers. For a select group of photographers and artists, we collect beyond their Philadelphia work as a way to more fully illuminate their careers.
Items relating to particular subject areas of interest such as Afro-Americana, visual culture, popular medicine, women’s history, and early American economy and society.
Acquiring appropriate material that does not duplicate collections in other local repositories, particularly the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.
Visual Culture Program
The overarching collecting policy in place for the development of the graphics collection applies for the Visual Culture Program. In addition, visual materials documenting the technology of the production of graphics; graphic ephemera that complement the more national collecting strengths of the library, including Afro-Americana, popular medicine, and economy and society; and separately-issued graphics pertaining to late 19th- and early 20th-century popular culture are pursued for acquisition.
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