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Rare Book Collections

The following rare book collections are housed in the Oliver Room:

Bernd Collection of Architecture

The Bernd Fund was established in 1895 with a bequest to the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh from the estate of Julius D. Bernd, a successful merchant in the city. Since then the fund has supported the acquisition of books about architecture and related arts. The collection includes materials from the 17th through the early 20th centuries. The Reference Services Department of the library still purchases titles from the fund and houses the non-rare materials.

Highlights include: Leon Battista Alberti, L'Architecture et Art de Bien Bastir, Paris, 1553; Colin Campbell, Vitruvius Britannicus, London 1715, William Chambers, Plans, Elevations, Sections, Views of the Gardens and Buildings at Kew in Surrey, London, 1763; and Wendel Dietterlin, Architetura, 1655.


George F. Black Gypsy Collection

This collection consists of fiction and nonfiction books, periodicals and pamphlets on history, manners, customs, language, music, anthropology and folklore of the gypsies. Assembled by George F. Black, a librarian at New York Public Library, the materials are in a dozen different languages including English, German and French.


Carnegie Collection

This working reference collection contains books by and about Andrew Carnegie and his era. It comprises biographies of politicians, works on labor history, and extensive scrapbook compilations of cartoons and articles about Andrew Carnegie. Dr. Margaret Barclay Winslow compiled this extensive body of work on the life and times of the founder of Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh as a reference library for her own book, A Carnegie Anthology. Mrs. Andrew Carnegie presented the Carnegie Collection to Carnegie Library.


Samuel Harden Church Cromwell Library

This extensive compilation of works by Cromwell biographer Samuel Harden Church includes works by Cavalier and Puritan historians; state papers gathered by John Rushworth; letters and speeches preserved by Cromwell's secretary, John Thurloe; foreign correspondence conducted by John Milne, and 75 biographies of Cromwell.


Edward P. Frohman Collection

The efforts and interests of Edward P. Frohman are reflected in this unique accumulation of books. This inquisitive and active collector assembled works by a number of 19th and 20th century American and British authors, notably, Dickens, Hawthorne, Howells, Crane, Kipling, Clemens, Thackery and Roosevelt.

In addition, selected 18th century British literature, early Americana, deluxe editions, samples of fine printing, illustrated books, private press works and literary oddities complete this distinctive collection.


Imbrie Collection of World War I

Presented to Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh by Mr. B. V. Imbrie in memory of his father, A. M. Imbrie (1853-1932). This collection contains more than 600 volumes on World War I including narratives, novels, memoirs and histories.

Although each book relates specifically to World War I, the scope of A. M. Imbrie's efforts is remarkably wide. One would search in vain for a clue to his personal opinion on the war.

From the thousands of books published between 1915 and 1935, Mr. Imbrie selected outstanding examples to represent the era. There are factual accounts such as B. H. Hart's A History of the World War. There are indepth analyses like J. M.Keyne's The Economic Consequences of the Peace and A. J. Toynbee's Nationality and the War. Memoirs include those of Field Marshall Joffre and Admiral von Tirpitz. The majority of the Imbrie Collection consists of personal narratives, whether told in the first person or disguised as fiction. Included in the narratives are Henri Barbusse's Under Fire and Humphrey Cobb's Path of Glory.


Wilson C. King Collection

This assemblage of rare and significant books deals specifically with early American history. Valuable works in other fields are also represented.

In 1889 Mr. King began a tradition of presenting books to the Allegheny Free Library (now the Allegheny Regional Branch of Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh). These books came from Mr. King's personal library. Also, Wilson C. King regularly visited British bookshops and avidly read their catalogues. He frequently selected items specifically for the library, and he usually had the booksellers send the chosen purchases directly to the Pittsburgh.

Mr. King was keenly interested in American history, especially with the America War for Independence. There are many current accounts of the war and 11 volumes containing contemporary pamphlets on the political and economic events between America and Great Britian. This body of work includes many travelers' accounts of journeys through America. Mr. King also selected books that preserved contemporary observations of Western Pennsylvania.


Pittsburgh Imprints

This valuable assemblage is composed of approximately 200 volumes published in Pittsburgh between 1793 and 1849. It includes tracts, sermons, bibles, travel/guidebooks, narratives and histories. (Newspapers and almanacs are not represented.) Hugh Brackenridge's Modern Chivalry (1793), the first book printed in Pittsburgh, and various editions of Zadok Cramer's The Navigator highlight a unique and important section.


Kaiser Wilhelm II Collection

The 11th Annual Founder's Day Celebration in April 1907 served as the formal opening of the enlarged central building of the Carnegie Institute and Library of Pittsburgh. Many notable people attended the festivities by invitation of Andrew Canegie. Among the guests were personal representatives of the German Emperor, Wilhelm II. They presented valuable books and documentary material to Andrew Carnegie on the Emperor's behalf.

Although most of the 139 volumes of the Emperor's collection reflect Germany's technical and architectural pursuits of the 1890's and early 1900's, several exert a more universal appeal. Among the latter are a treasury of poems written by the Turkish Sultan Salim I; a book of wood engravings by Lucas Cranach, a contemporary of Martin Luther; and an exquisitely illustrated fairy tale by J. K. Musaus.

The Emperor Wilhelm's gift to Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh provides a fascinating legacy of pre-World War I society and values.


John Worthington Welsh Collection

Presented to the library in 1948, the John Worthington Welsh Collection is considered to be the finest assemblage of works on Wales and the Welsh people. The subjects covered include the topography of Wales, history (ancient and modern), literature, antiquities, and church and county histories. There are also many titles in Welsh. The highlight is Thomas Pennant's Tour in Wales, 2 volumes in eleven, London, 1778. It is in elaborate full red morocco binding and decorated in gilt. Compiled and bound for R.M. Trench Chiswell, of Debden Hall, Essex. Large paper copy, 1 of ten. Extra-illustrated, with almost 2,000 engravings and maps, as well as pen and ink and watercolor sketches by Ingleby.


Historical Collection of Children's Literature

Approximately 200 volumes of late 19th and early 20th century children's books and a run of St. Nicolas Magazine from volume 1 #1 to volume 66 #12 complete this collection. The books have been separated from the collection of the library, rather than given by one donor.

Among the works of note are James M. Barrie's Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens, New York; Scribner's, 1908 (illustrated by Arthur Rackham), and Louise Saunder's Knave of Hearts, New York; Scribner's, 1925 (illustrated by Maxfield Parrish).


Humanities Collection

Subjects cover literature, religion, and philosophy. Important pieces in this collection include: Joseph Smith's The Book of Mormon, Palmyra, New York, 1830 and Sermons: A Collection of 12 Sermons Preached and Printed in Colonial America, 1745 - 1756. Sermons by Reverend Aaron Burr and William Smith highlight the piece printed by Benjamin Franklin.


Music and Art Collection

This area represents materials of significant interest, especially in the areas of art, costume and architecture. The highlights include the Bernd bequest, the Buxtehude (Bach) Manuscript, and Giovanni Piranesi's operas in 18 volumes.


Pennsylvania Collection

An interesting and varied assortment of books, pamphlets, scrapbooks, almanacs, newspapers and photographs comprise this section about Pennsylvania, and in particular Pittsburgh. The highlights include The Pittsburgh Imprint Collection, the earliest known edition of Zadok Cramer's The Ohio and Mississippi Navigator, Hugh Brackenridge's Modern Chivalry (the first book published in Pittsburgh), and T.M. Fowler's Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania Small Town Bird's-Eye Views. This is a large and important group of such views, many of which are quite scarce. This collection is extremely important to the library's extensive holdings in Western Pennsylvania history.


Science and Technology Collection

The most significant book in this collection is the first edition second issue of Isaac Newton's Principia. Other notable items include several runs of 19th century scientific periodicals, publications of the Royal Academy donated by Andrew Carnegie, and the American Philosophical Society Transactions Volume 1-6, 1769-1809. Volume 1 is the scarce first printing issued by William and Thomas Bradford at the London Coffeehouse. This is a significant and fascinating periodical showing the breadth of scientific interest and research during that time. It includes works by Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Joseph Priestly, David Rittenhouse and Benjamin Rush.


Social Sciences Collection

It comes as no surprise that almost one third of the books in the Social Sciences Collection originate from the library of John Worthington. This area also consists of many fine and significant items in the fields of American History (especially the American West), accounts of travel in America (primarily the 18th and 19th centuries), and books about Native American tribes. Travel, exploration and early modern European history are also represented.

Some notable items include: George H.V. Collot's Voyage Dan's L'Amerique Septentrionale, Paris, 1824-6, 3 volumes; Ferdinand V. Hayden's The Yellowstone National Park, Boston, 1876; Thomas Hutchins' A Topographical Description of Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and North Virginia, London, 1778; Thomas Jefferson's The American Atlas, London, 1773; and John Lewis' The Aboriginal Port-Folio, Philadelphia, 1835.


Numismatic Literature Collection

This collection was acquired through a transfer to Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh from Carnegie Museum of Natural History. The literature had formed the reference library of the coin section of the Museum. Because of its ties to the Museum, this body of numismatic literature is a reflection of the Museum's former coin collection and the collectors who formed it. The chief curator and all major volunteer curators were members of the Western Pennsylvania Numismatic Society founded in 1878.

Due to the efforts of these people, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh's numismatic literature collection is very strong in books, catalogs, research notes, and correspondence. The areas represented include: Early American copper coinage, colonial coinage, communion tokens and prison money. Due to their connection with WPNS, the library collection is also very strong in items written by or formerly owned by WPNS and its members.

Highlights are: Panoramus Antiqua 1695, a handwritten manuscript by Valentine on Sassonian Coins; Rudding's Coinage of Great Britain; Burns' The Coinage of Scotland; and Clapp's leatherbound personal copy of his own book, The Cents of the Years 1798-1799. Another rarity is a set of The Numismatist, a periodical in continuous publication since 1888. Only a dozen complete sets are known to exist. The key to the set is the first six volumes.


Philatelic Literature Collection

This collection was acquired through a transfer to the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh from the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. The literature had formed the reference library of the stamp section of the museum.

This collection consists of a reasonable mix of titles for both the U.S. and foreign stamp collector. There are a wide range of old stamp related magazines, newspapers, clippings, journals, catalogs and reference books.

Highlights of the collection are: Canada Postage Stamps (limited edition of 50 copies), A. S. Deaville's The Colonial Postage Systems and Postage Stamps of Vancouver and British Columbia, F.W. Webb's Hong Kong and the Treaty Ports of China and Japan, Sir John Wilson Bart's The Royal Philatelic Collection, and The Work of Jean De Separati (2 volumes) by the British Philatelic Association.