In support of the Libraries’ Conservation Laboratory, the University of Iowa Center for the Book, and other Iowa book arts programs, the Department collects vigorously in the areas of fine printing, typography and graphic design, artist’s books, calligraphy, bookbinding, paper history, papermaking, paper marbling and other techniques of paper decoration, and publishing and printing history. Special collections include:

John Springer Collection on Typography

Includes nearly 2,000 volumes of type specimen books, important works in printing history, and volumes illustrating the art and progress of printing through the centuries. There are also some 2,000 items of printed ephmera dating 1875-1935. Springer, an Iowa City printer, presented the collection in 1936.

Typographic Laboratory Collection

Almost 350 books on printing, along with many examples of fine printing, supplements the Springer Collection.

Private Press Holdings

Holdings for numerous presses are nearly complete. Among them are the Bird & Bull, Coffee House, Cummington, Perishable, Prairie, and Windover Presses. Holdings of the work of illustrator, wood-engraver, and printer Barry Moser (Pennyroyal Press) are also essentially complete, and the Libraries has long had standing orders with the Arion, Good Book, Granary, Midnight Paper Sales, Quelquefois, Penumbra, Whittington, Yellow Barn, and Yolla Bolly Presses and the Book Club of California. Gifts in 1999 and 2000 from the Angora Ridge Foundation made possible acquisition of nearly all the livres d’artiste published by Vincent FitzGerald & Co. of New York City. Ephemeral items — prospectuses, small broadsides, invitations, etc. — produced by a broad range of private presses and book artists have been collected in the Private Press Ephemera collection. There is also an online introduction to the artists’ books collection created by Kimberly Nelson. See also holdings of presses, editors, designers, etc.

The Charlotte M. Smith Collection of Miniature Books

This collection of 4,000 books under 3″ tall collected (or published) by Charlotte M. Smith of Newton, Iowa ranges in time from the 17th century to the present. While the range of subjects is equally broad, many of the books concern, as well as demonstrate, arts of the book. The collection has been exhibited as Tiny Tomes and Mrs. Smith wrote two articles for Books at Iowa: The Joys of Miniature Books and The Tamazunchale Press: A Bibliographic Checklist.See also the Smith Papers.

The Guild of Book Workers Library

700 books, journals and videotapes on the book arts assembled by a national organization of book artists and craftspeople. Items in the collection circulate to members of the Guild.

The William Anthony Memorial Collection of Bookbindings<

Thirty books in design bindings by William (Bill) Anthony, Conservator at the University of Iowa, 1984-1989. His work is additionally represented throughout the collections.

University of IowaBookbinding Models

Bill Anthony also created a number of models of historic book structures and thereby began a tradition of modeling continued by apprentices and colleagues. These models, now over 40 in number, are held as a special collection in the Libraries’ Conservation Laboratory. A collection of bookbindings of structural or historic interest is described here.

Medieval Manuscripts

This annotated inventory lists books written by hand held in the Department of Special Collections. A guide to research resources for medieval studies is also available.


This annotated inventory lists books printed before 1501 held in the Department of Special Collections or in the Hardin Library with InfoHawk call numbers. A guide to research resources for medieval studies is also available.

Emblem Books

A list of emblem books held in Special Collections, including descriptive text and a virtual exhibit, created by Nana Diederichs, describing the history of emblem books. A bibliography of secondary literature is also provided.

The Mark Ranney Memorial Collection

More than 3,700 volumes of limited editions in fine bindings, illustrated books, art books, and Dr. Ranney’s personal library of 19th Century books (English and American literature and books on religion, psychology, natural science, travel, history, etc.) is no longer an active collection except for additions to Corpus Vasorum. Bequeathed in 1907 by Mrs. Martha Wright Ranney in memory of her husband, at one time a member of the University College of Medicine, the collection was one if the earliest gatherings of rare material acquired by the University Libraries. See also The Papers of Mark Ranney.

The Hertzberg Bindery/Library Binding Services (LBS) Records

Scrapbooks, photographs, paper sample books, and other materials documenting the history of the Hertzberg Bookbindery in Des Moines (established 1920). The company was renamed Library Binding Service by the late 1930s and continues to operate as three divisions under that general name (usually abbreviated to “LBS”). MsC545. (Finding Aid)

Uncataloged Broadsides

Broadsides and posters, often of tyographic interest, have been listed.