By many measures, Hull-House Maps and papers is not a rare book.
In 1895, Jane Addams and her colleagues at Chicago’s Hull-House published Hull-House Maps and Papers: a presentation of nationalities and wages in a congested district of Chicago, together with comments and essays on problems growing out of the social conditions. Their goal was to call attention to the working and living conditions of the people in the “congested district of Chicago” of the book’s title. It also aimed to promote the work of Hull-House, a settlement house on the city’s south side. Across 200-some pages and in eight foldout maps, residents of Hull-House produced “readable, comprehensible narratives of how people lived and worked in the worst slums in Chicago, where the tenements and sweatshops were.” (A companion site produced by researchers at Northwestern University has beautiful images of all eight maps here.)
The efficient and effective presentation of information about wages and nationality across the book’s eight maps – in color – is especially striking. But the book was printed in a large edition and was likely sold at an affordable price. Many copies of the first edition remain in circulation – a search in the union catalog WorldCat yields more than 200 copies of the 1895 edition.
Yet while the book itself remains widely available, the eight maps can be harder to find. Originally issued with the book as foldouts, many copies now lack some or all of the maps. Some were likely lost to use, the brittle, late 19th-century paper not well-suited to repeated folding and unfolding. Other copies may have been deliberately mutilated, the maps on their own now having acquired a substantial monetary value. One copy has long been held by the Burke Library and stored offsite at ReCAP. Earlier this summer, in preparation for an instruction session at Avery Library on historic data visualization and urban planning, I requested Burke’s copy. I was surprised to find that it had all eight maps, neatly tucked into two custom pockets inside the book’s front and back covers. The maps were not in perfect condition, but all of the pieces were there, and when unfolded and assembled, the copy was complete.
In conversation with Jeffrey Wayno, Burke’s Collection Services Librarian, we decided to withdraw the book from ReCAP and to transfer it to special collections storage in Burke Library’s Brown Tower, in effect making this book rare. In doing so, we’ve chosen to make the book less accessible and have, in some senses, created a barrier to access. But we’ve also chosen to protect the book, in an attempt to better-preserve our copy for continued use. The relationship between access and preservation is often construed as one of opposing interests. Ideally, though, and hopefully in this case, one informs the other. Our desire to preserve Hull-House maps and papers by treating it as rare will ensure its continued availability to patrons for many years to come. -LN
About the author
Lena Newman is the special collections librarian at Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library. Her research interests include histories of collecting and reparative collecting practices, two things she is currently thinking about in the context of rare books at Avery.
 “Hull-House Maps and Papers.” The Life and Times of Florence Kelley. Digital project, Northwestern University School of Law. 2012. https://florencekelley.northwestern.edu/historical/hullhouse