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Sep 23, 2009

John Bid­well is Astor Cur­ator of Prin­ted Books and Bind­ings at thePier­pont Mor­gan Lib­rary, before which he was Cur­ator of Graphic Arts in the Prin­ceton Uni­ver­sity Lib­rary. He has writ­ten extens­ively on the his­tory of paper­mak­ing in Eng­land and America. 

The Prin­ted Books and Bind­ings col­lec­tion at the Mor­gan con­tains works span­ning West­ern book pro­duc­tion from the earli­est prin­ted eph­em­era to import­ant first edi­tions from the twen­ti­eth cen­tury. Hold­ings encom­pass a large num­ber of high points in the his­tory of print­ing, often exem­pli­fied by a lone sur­viv­ing copy or a copy that is per­fect in every way. Areas of strength include incun­ables, early children’s books, fine bind­ings, and illus­trated books. 

Yolande de Sois­sons in Prayer
“Psalter-Hours of Yolande de Sois­sons”
France, Ami­ens, ca. 1280–90
MS M.729, fol. 232v
Pur­chased by J. P. Mor­gan, Jr., 1927

The col­lec­tion is foun­ded upon acquis­i­tions of Pier­pont Mor­gan, who sought to estab­lish in the United States a lib­rary worthy of the great European col­lec­tions. Among the high­lights are three Guten­berg Bibles, works by Lord Byron, Charles Dick­ens, Edgar Allan Poe, John Ruskin, Mark Twain, Her­man Melville, and Wil­liam Mor­ris, and clas­sic early children’s books. The Carter Bur­den Col­lec­tion of Amer­ican Lit­er­at­ure, a major 1998 gift, strengthens the Morgan’s twentieth-century hold­ings with authors such as Ted Hughes, Sylvia Plath, Vladi­mir Nabokov, Ger­trude Stein, and Ten­nessee Williams. 

I talk here with John Bid­well about the col­lec­tion, what it con­tains, how it was acquired.

 Copy­right © 2009 by Nigel Beale.