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Rare Book Collections

Special Collections and University Archives contains a number of special book collections, described below. Follow the links provided to browse the book collections in the library catalog. Though these books do not circulate and cannot be checked out, they may be read and studied in our Reading Room in Seidman House. Portions of our book collections have been digitized and are available in our Digital Collections.


Politics, Government & War

Abraham Lincoln, Civil War & Slavery Collection

Abraham Lincoln, the Civil War, and Slavery

The collection includes published works on aspects of Lincoln’s life, politics, presidential terms, and assassination; Civil War campaigns, battles, regimental histories; slave narratives of Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Josiah Henson, and others. The bulk of the collection was acquired by Grand Valley as a gift of Harvey Lemmen, but has grown since the initial acquisition.

Click for Lincoln, Civil War & Slavery Books in the Catalog


J. Randall Bergers Presidential Writings Collection

Presidential Writings

This collection is held in association with the Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies. It contains published works of the U.S. Presidents, including diaries, letters, speeches, memoirs, and official papers.

Click for Presidential Writings in the Library Catalog


Don Markle Espionage Book Collection

Don Markle Collection

This collection is held in association with the Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies. The espionage collection includes published works that deal with espionage, military intelligence gathering, cryptology, and policy studies from the nineteenth century forward.

Click for Espionage Collection Books in the Catalog


History of Books & Printing

Incunabula Collection

Incunabula

The term incunabula (Latin: “swaddling clothes”) refers to books printed from ca. 1450 until 31 December 1500, approximately the first fifty years following the invention, by Johann Gutenberg of Mainz, of printing from moveable type.  

Click for a List of Incunabula at GVSU           


Limited Editions Club

Limited Editions Club Records

Limited Editions Club publications are a nearly complete accumulation of all the books, newsletters, catalogs, prospecti, and ephemeral items issued during the first sixty-five years of the Club's existence. It was founded in 1929 by George Macy, a New York entrepreneur and promoter of fine printing. The Club published a dozen books each year, each carefully chosen, edited, illustrated, and printed by renowned craftsmen and limited usually to 1000 copies. The books illustrated by Picasso, Rackham, Matisse, and Grant Wood are particularly noteworthy in this series.

Click for Limited Editions Club Books in the Catalog  


Insel-Buecherei Series

Insel-Bucherei

The German publishing company Insel Verlag was founded in 1899 by Anton Kippenberg in Leipzig. In its early years the firm only printed expensive, beautifully-produced volumes, until demand led to the publication of the more modest Insel-Buecherei series in 1912. Relatively inexpensive but with the same careful sense of design and typography, these smaller-format books reprinted shorter works from a variety of German, European, and world authors. The series numbers considerably more than a thousand titles and is still being issued.

Click for Insel-Buecherei Books in the Catalog           

Click to View the Insel-Buecherei Covers Digital Collection


Scripps College Press

Scripps College Press

The Scripps College Press, located in Claremont, California, was founded in 1941 as an experimental typographic laboratory for art and graphic design students at the College.  At that time a new typeface was commissioned from the renowned type designer, Frederic W. Goudy, for the exclusive use of the Press.  Students set type by hand and printed various booklets and broadsides on a hand press. Today the students experience the complete process of creating a book from the initial conception to the final binding, including design, artwork, and printing.

Click for Scripps College Press Books in the Library Catalog


Deep Wood Press

Deep Wood Press

In 1992 Chad Pastotnik (B.F.A, Grand Valley State University) established Deep Wood Press along the banks of the Cedar River near Mancelona, Michigan.  It is a studio that employs a printing press and hand-set type to produce a variety of handcrafted books, broadsides, and other printed items.  Besides fine printing, the shop also engages in bookbinding, engraving, and linocuts.

Click for Deep Wood Press Books in the Library Catalog


Decorated Publishers Bindings

Decorated Publishers Bindings

From the early 1870s to roughly 1930, many publishers issued their commercial book covers with a remarkable variety of graphic designs and illustrations. This sixty-year period saw many artists and designers contributing to this art form. While some can be identified from their style or initials, others remain unknown.

Click for Decorated Bindings in the Library Catalog 

Click to View the Decorated Bindings Digital Collection


Illustrated Books

Illustrated Books

Illustrated Books includes a significant number of books illustrated by Aubrey Beardsley, Arthur Rackham, William Hogarth, and George Cruickshank. Illustrations by the contemporary master of wood engraving, Barry Moser, are well represented by many of the publications from his Pennyroyal Caxton Press.

Click for Illustrated Books in the Library Catalog


Comics & Graphic Novels

Comic Strips and Graphic Novels

Modest assortment of comic strips and graphic novels, for the most part concentrating on the work of two author-illustrators. George Herriman's (1880-1944) Krazy Kat , which ran in William Randolph Hearst's newspapers from 1916 to 1944, is considered to be one of the classics of the genre. More recently, the Nebraska native and Wisconsin resident, Chris Ware (b. 1967) has become known for his carefully-drawn graphic novels (e.g., his Acme Novelty Library series and Jimmy Corrigan ) that explore the anxieties of modern life.

Click for Comic Books and Graphic Novels in the Library Catalog


Fore-Edge Painting Books

Fore-edge Painting

A fore-edge painting is a miniature watercolor executed on the fanned edge or edges of a book; when the book is closed the art disappears, now hidden by the edge gilding. This genre of painting dates from the 1500s, flourished in the 1800s, and is still practiced today. Anonymous and undated paintings include landscapes, scenes and characters from literature, and portraits of authors.

Click for Fore-edge Painting Books in the Library Catalog           


Balinese Palm Leaf Book

Palm Leaf Book

Balinese palm-leaf manuscript (lontar) is made from dried palm leaves and bound between wood blocks by a cord running through the middle of the blocks and each leaf. A coin is tied to the cord. Translation of this document, conducted in 1973, speculates that this may not be authentic to the period (prior to the 19th century when printing presses were introduced), and may have been created for commercial purposes. The first 27 pages are lists of words seeming to bear no relationship to one another with a number of misspellings. Thereafter the subject is rice: the mythology of rice, the god of rice, and growing rice. 

Click to View the Palm Leaf Book Finding Aid            


Folio Society

Folio Society

Founded in 1947 in London, the Society’s aim was to make finely printed books on various subjects available to the general public by combining traditional typographic and artistic standards with modern industrial technology, and continues to do so today.

Click for Folio Society Books in the Library Catalog


Book Club of California

Book club of california

Established in 1912 by bibliophiles and printers in San Francisco, the Club issues a variety of finely-printed publications, many of which deal with California history, literature, and politics.

Click for Book Club of California Books in the Library Catalog


Cranbrook Press

Cranbrook

Established by newspaper publisher and philanthropist George G. Booth (1864-1949), the press operated in Detroit from 1900 until 1902; Booth was an influential proponent of the Arts and Crafts Movement and he later established the Cranbrook Educational Community in Bloomfield Hills.

Click for Cranbrook Press Books in the Library Catalog


Literature & Genre Fiction

Michigan in the Novel

Michigan in the Novel

The Michigan in the Novel Collection is the most comprehensive collection of novels with Michigan settings existing in any institution. Comprising more than 2,600 titles with additional copies in different formats, editions, and bindings, this collection includes the first novel that used Michigan as a setting, Champions of Freedom (1816), Hemingway's first novel, Torrents of Spring (1926), and L. Frank Baum's rare Tamawaca Folks (1907) that he wrote under the pseudonym "John Estes Cooke." All genres of fiction are represented including juvenile literature, mysteries, romances, and science fiction. Visit ScholarWorks@GVSU to read Michigan in the Novel 1816 - 2006: An Annotated Bibliography, by Robert Beasecker.

Click for Michigan Novels in the Library Catalog          


Mystery and Detective Fiction

Mystery and Detective Fiction

Mystery and Detective fiction is represented by a variety of authors, including the French master of the genre, Georges Simeon. Other authors present in significant number include Agatha Christie, Dick Francis, J.J. Marric, Robert B. Parker, Ellis Peters, and Ed McBain. There are also a significant number of novels in the sub-genre "bibliomysteries."

Click for Mystery and Detective Fiction Books in the Library Catalog 


Imaginary Wars

Imaginary Wars

The literary genre of “imaginary wars and battles,” that is, novels and stories that feature fictional conflicts between nations, has existed since the 1700s. There are many reasons for these excursions into speculation:  some were written as warnings of what might befall a country if its armed forces were not adequately prepared for an attack by a hostile army; some look at possible ways a future war might be fought with new weapons and the latest scientific advances; while others showed various scenarios of the conduct of war with specific enemies. More recently a sub-genre has emerged.  Alternate histories explore “what if” possibilities: What if the South won the Civil War?  What if the Japanese occupied the Hawaiian Islands?  What if the United States and Germany fought the Soviets in World War II?

Click for Imaginary Wars Books in the Library Catalog


Lewis Carroll

Lewis Carroll

Lewis Carroll, the pseudonym of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (1832-1898), English author, mathematician, clergyman. The Lewis Carroll Collection, although concentrating mostly on Carroll's Alice in Wonderland and the variety of editions that were published over the years, also contains the author's other literary and mathematical books as well as significant biographical and critical studies on Carroll and the inspiration for his children's classic, Alice Liddell.

Click for Lewis Carroll Books in the Library Catalog


H. Rider Haggard

H. Rider Haggard

H. Rider Haggard (1856-1925). English author of a wide variety of popular adventure novels set in exotic lands, published in the late 1800s to early 1900s. He is best known for his novel King Solomon's Mines, and for his character Allan Quatermain, who has been resurrected in several movies and in the graphic novel, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. This collection includes Haggard's novels and literary analyses of his works.

Click for H. Rider Haggard Books in the Library Catalog


Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930). English novelist of one of the most well-known detective characters, Sherlock Holmes. His works, which include such classic Holmes stories as A Study in Scarlet,The Hound of Baskervilles, and The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes, were published in the late 1800s to the early 1900s. Besides Conan Doyle's stories of his famous detective, this collection includes other works of fantasy and historical fiction, biographies and literary analyses of his work.

Click for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Books in the Library Catalog


Anthony Powell

Anthony Powell

Anthony Powell (1905-2000). English novelist, reviewer, memoirist, and diarist best known for his twelve-volume sequence of novels collectively entitled A Dance to the Music of Time (1951-1975). This roman-fleuve follows the narrator, Nicholas Jenkins (Powell's alter ego), his friends and family from his schooldays, through service in the Second World War, to the early 1970s and is considered a masterpiece that depicts British society during the twentieth century. Present in the collection are a number of editions, both English and American, of the Dance as well as Powell's other novels, diaries, essays, and memoirs. Also included are critical studies of the author and runs of periodicals published by two societies devoted to the study of Powell and his works.

Click for Anthony Powell Books in the Library Catalog


Christopher Morley

Christopher Morley

Christopher Morley (1890-1957). American novelist, poet, essayist, journalist, newspaperman, playwright, and literary editor. His erudition and wit made him a popular author during the 1920s and 1930s. This collection consists of not only his literary works in many editions, but also some manuscript material and books about Morley.

Click for Christopher Morley Books in the Library Catalog