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Early Printed Books, Typography, and the Book Trade

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Type Piece

Oberlin's College Library's Main Special Collections holds approximately 135 cataloged texts and many more text fragments printed before 1540 (when the first Garamond typefaces start to become widely adopted, print based culture, and mature book tools such as bibliographies begin to appear). The Art Library and Conservatory Library Special Collections also hold books and fragments from this early period. Special Collections also maintains a card file of early printers that can be searched by name or region.

This area of strength has been acquired slowly through multiples donations and purchase by librarians for over a century. Oberlin College taught courses in Printing History from 1890 until the 1950s and the  interest in Book History has revived in recent years.  These valuable artifacts demonstate how subject matter, composition and style varied according to printer or region.  Our early texts nicely compliment an outstanding gathering of texts on the History of the Book, typography, and the Book Trade (including the manufacture of type, paper, manuals on printing, and histories of printers and book sellers). In 2011 the Library also added a Letterpress Studio to allow students a first hand experience of typesetting and printing.

The literature on these subjects is vast, and not all of the texts on these topics are found in Special Collections. Furthermore, database records often do not contain information on leaf fragments or the interesting features of texts.  Interested patrons should speak directly with Special Collections Librarian Ed Vermue.

From the Advanced search menu, some helpful OBIS searches include:

  • printing (subject) [and] history (subject)
  • type and type-founding (subject)
  • books (subject) [and] history (subject)
  • books and reading (subject)
  • book industry and trade (subject)
  • papermaking (keyword)

You can further narrow the search results with keywords or date ranges.

Revised June 2013 by ev










Last updated:
August 13, 2015