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.