The Books Arts Collection is devoted to the history and art of the book. The research component of the collection consists of over 3,500 volumes documenting all aspects of book production: papermaking, printing, illustration, binding, bibliography, and publishing. In addition, there are over 4,000 volumes of specimens, ranging from the great typographers such as Aldus, Baskerville and Bodoni up to the twentieth-century renaissance of modern fine printing. Here, for example, one can find works from the Kelmscott Press side by side with works by contemporary book artists, such as Claire Van Vliet and Ron King, including limited editions, innovative binding structures, handmade papers, and unique artists' books.
Several large gifts have enriched the Book Arts Collection. Annis Van Nuys Schweppe, class of 1903, gave her Grabhorn Press Collection of over 580 volumes and a large group of ephemera.
In 1983, James F. O'Gorman, Professor of the History of American Art at Wellesley College, gave his Hammatt Billings Collection. Containing over 175 books illustrated by Billings, as well as an archival component including photographs, drawings, engravings, and a scrapbook, the Billings Collection is an unparalleled resource documenting the life and enormously diverse output of this 19th century architect, illustrator, and graphic designer. A printed catalog, written and annotated by O'Gorman, is available from Special Collections upon request. Also of interest is Professor O'Gorman's book, Accomplished in All Departments of Art: Hammatt Billings of Boston, 1818-1874, Amherst, MA, University of Massachusetts Press, 1998.
In 1990, Isabel Ehrlich Goodman, class of 1933, and her husband Charles gave to Wellesley their extensive personal library, which included a book arts collection of over 1,300 volumes. The Goodman gift substantially augmented the existing Book Arts Collection, particularly in productions of twentieth century American private presses, which have been consulted by individual students and art classes. To further support collecting in this growing field, the Goodman family established an endowed book fund as well.
Pictured: Susan kae Grant. Radio-active substances. Dallas, TX, 1995.