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Title page: Illustration from William Blake's the Book of Urizen.
William Blake. The book of Urizen.
[ca. 1815].
Page Turner
Bibliographic Information

St. Anne teaching Mary to read: Illustration from Book of hours  (Ms. Library of Congress. Rosenwald ms. 10).
Book of hours. (Ms. Library of Congress. Rosenwald ms. 10). 1524. Page Turner - PDF
Bibliographic Information

Portrait of Gerardus Mercator: Illustration from Mercator's Atlas sive Cosmographicae meditationes de fabrica mundi et fabricati figura.
Gerhard Mercator. Atlas sive Cosmographicae meditationes de fabrica mundi et fabricati figura.1595. Page Turner - PDF
Bibliographic Information

The Lessing J. Rosenwald Collection

The illustrated book, fifteenth through twentieth centuries

The Lessing J. Rosenwald Collection stands out among the distinguished resources of the Rare Book and Special Collections Division. Taking the illustrated book as its central theme and containing books from the last six centuries and manuscripts from the three preceding, the collection's greatest strengths are in the fifteenth century woodcut books, early sixteenth-century illustrated books, William Blake, and twentieth-century livres des peintres. Within this grand design the late Mr. Rosenwald sought books produced by the earliest printers and outstanding presses of later periods, and books on the following subjects: science, calligraphy, botany, and chess. The catalog describing the collection published in 1978 contains 2,653 entries, many for books represented by more than one copy.

Among the characteristics which make this collection such a rich potential resource for study are the presence of an amazing number of unique books and books of such great rarity that only a handful of copies is known. Virtually every book in the collection is in superb condition and many contain such special features as original drawings, artists' proofs, trial states, and laid-in letters. Mr Rosenwald's assemblage of books, plates, drawings, and engravings by William Blake is one of the finest ever brought together. Of the twenty illuminated books described in Geoffrey Keynes's Blake bibliography, the collection contains fourteen, as well as duplicates and extra plates. Finding that the Blake materials received more use than any other section of the collection, Mr. Rosenwald made copies of many of the illuminated books available to the Trianon Press for a series of facismiles.

Outstanding rarities include a volume containing four complete books printed by William Caxton, England's finest printer; eleven block books; the magnificent fifteenth-century manuscript known as the Giant Bible of Mainz, kept on permanent exhibit in the Library's Great Hall; and one of two known copies of the 1495 edition of Epistolae et Evangelia, called by some the finest illustrated book of the fifteenth century. Rarities are, however, but one aspect of the collection. It particular importance arises from the quantity and unity of the material. much of it still awaiting scholarly investigation. Before being purchased by Mr. Rosenwald, the 160 fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Dutch and Flemish books from the Dukes of Arenberg had been inaccessible to generations of scholars and bibliographers.

The collection catalog describes Mr. Rosenwald's gifts to the Library of Congress in the years 1943 to 1975. Accounts of subsequent additions can be found in the division's acquisitions report of the Quarterly Journal.

During Mr. Rosenwald's lifetime the collection was housed in his private gallery, the Alverthorpe Gallery in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania. Not long after his death on June 24, 1979, the collection was brought to Washington and is available for consultation in the Rare Book and Special Collections Division. The division houses a card catalog containing author entries for the books and manuscripts in the collection.

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  December 7, 2012
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