Category Archives: Archives and Manuscripts

EVENT: “Bill Griffith: A to Z” Wednesday, March 16, 6 PM, 523 Butler

Bill Griffith 2The cartoonist Bill Griffith has had a storied career, from his early underground comics featuring Mr. the Toad, to his long-running character Zippy the Pinhead, to his involvement in the influential comics anthology, Arcade, to his recent foray into long-form comics with his revelatory family history Invisible ink: my mother’s secret love affair with a famous cartoonist.

Griffith, a native Brooklynite, published some of his earliest comics in the East Village Other, then moved to San Francisco to join the burgeoning underground comix scene.  There he introduced Zippy and co-founded Arcade with Art Spiegelman.

Now back on the east coast, Griffith has decided to bequeath a substantial portion of his archives to Columbia’s Rare Book & Manuscript Library.  While the Zippy dailies will find a home in Columbus OH, at the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum, the archives of the early underground comic books, of Arcade, and of his graphic novels will be available for researchers here in New York City.

In celebration of this future–we hope, far in the future!–gift, Comics@Columbia and the Rare Book & Manuscript Library present a conversation with Bill Griffith and Art Spiegelman, moderated by Karen Green.

Please join us for this event, and for the reception to follow.

Wednesday, March 16

6:00 PM

Butler Library, room 523

RESOURCE: medieval art in CORSAIR, the Morgan Library’s catalog

Scholars looking for medieval illuminations to illustrate their arguments need look no further than the Morgan Library.  The Morgan has digitized and cataloged every image in its vast holdings of medieval manuscripts.  While an image search can be made in CORSAIR, the general catalog of manuscripts and printed books, there is a specific area of the site for searching solely the medieval and Renaissance images in the collection.

Find images in a number of ways:

  • by manuscript number (e.g. MS M.25, selected from a drop-down menu)
  • search by subject term (e.g. archer)
  • browse by category of manuscript (e.g. psalter), by country of origin,  and by century (also, both, selected from a drop-down menu)

Browsing by manuscript is also possible.

Results of searches display in a vertical list or as a "lightbox" grid, five panel across. The cataloging metadata for each image is extensive, and there are often multiple views of a given illumination. 

For example, the page below, a single folio from a twelfth-century English psalter (MS M.724):

also offers four additional detailed images of the upper half of the page and of selected panels, such as this closer look at the third panel in the top row, or "zone":

with extensive accompanying description:

3a) Moses: Burning Bush, and Moses, Miracle of Rod changed to Serpent — Beside burning bush, serpent crawls toward Moses as Shepherd, with head draped, stands with leprous right hand raised, beside five sheep on hill.

3b) Moses: Miracle of Rods, and Aaron: Miracle of Rods — Pharaoh, crowned, seated on cushioned bench, extends right hand toward Moses, with rod in left hand, and Aaron; three serpents on ground at their feet; behind Aaron, two men, possibly magicians.

Scenes in frames decorated with abstract ornament.

Clicking through to the CORSAIR record for this image, one can see the highly granular subject analysis applied to the image:

Psalters –England –Canterbury –Illustrations. 1155-1160.

Pharaoh –commanding Shiphrah and Puah.

Crown –worn by Pharaoh.

Arms and Armor –Sword.

Furniture –Bench.

Jochebed 2. Scene.

Moses –Birth.

Moses –in Bulrushes.

 Furniture –Bed.

Moses –brought to Daughter of Pharaoh.

Moses –Child at Court of Pharaoh.

Crown –worn by Moses as Child.

Furniture –Throne.

Moses –Burning Bush.

Moses –Miracle of Rod changed to Serpent.

Moses –Leprous Hand.

Moses –as Shepherd.

Moses –Miracle of Rods.

Aaron –Miracle of Rods.

Figure, Male –Magician.


For further information on searching CORSAIR, or finding medieval images, please feel free to contact Karen Green, the librarian for Ancient & Medieval History.

Columbia University Libraries Expands Support for Research in Comics and Graphic Novels

Columbia University’s Rare Book & Manuscript Library (RBML) is pleased to announce the acquisition of two significant additions to its Comics and Graphic Novels collections:  research materials for Larry Tye’s well-received 2012 book, Superman: The High-Flying History of America’s Most Enduring Superhero, as well as six 1940’s Batman scripts from the estate of Jerry Robinson.


Bill Finger Batman Script
A selection from Batman #31/Oct-Nov 1945, "Punch and Judy". Bill Finger.

The acquisitions are the latest development in Columbia University Libraries’ support for the research and teaching of comics and graphic novels.  Since 2005, a circulating collection of such materials has inspired scholarly inquiry, academic writing and coursework, including The American Graphic Novel, a course co-taught by Columbia University Professor Jeremy Dauber and former DC Comics president Paul Levitz.

To commemorate the significant advances in this area, Columbia University Libraries and the Institute for Israel and Jewish Studies will host a panel discussion, Comics at Columbia: The Golden Age at 6pm in 523 Butler on March 7th.  Reception to follow; admission is open to the public.

Materials in the Tye collection include a seventy-page transcript of an oral history interview with Jack Liebowitz, a founder of the company that would become DC Comics; Superman creator Jerry Siegel's unpublished memoir; a transcript of a lengthy conversation between longtime DC editor Whitney Ellsworth and Superman historian Gary Grossman; as well as documents that outline the sale of the rights to Superman.  Along with Tye’s own research library of nearly 200 books, the collection also includes clippings from publications such as Look Magazine and The Saturday Evening Post that chronicle Siegel and Shuster's creative development, and the typescript for an unpublished Superman story by Jerry Siegel, "The Death of Clark Kent."

“The story behind the story is knotty and complicated as life always is, and excavating it takes laborious research and hard digging,” recognized Dauber.  “Larry Tye’s work – and the records of it he’s donated to Columbia University – provides a treasure trove for scholars of a significant corner of American Culture.”

The gift of Tye’s research materials coincides with the 75th anniversary of Superman’s introduction in a 1938 comic book, Action Comics #1.  Columbia University Libraries has been invited to co-sponsor the Center for Jewish History’s January 27th event and panel discussion: Superman at 75: Celebrating America’s Most Enduring Hero.  Experts on the superhero, including Tye, will gather to discuss Superman’s inception and endurance as a cultural icon. For more information on this event, please visit

The Robinson Collection’s Batman scripts, which feature extensive editorial corrections and emendations, provide a valuable glimpse into the collaboration between Robinson and writers such as Bill Finger and Alvin Schwartz.  Robinson is best known for the character design of the Joker.

“Unlike prose, the hidden ‘art direction’ in comic book scripts never makes it from the manuscript to the printed page,” said Levitz. “The gifted scripts are a treasured look at an amazing moment in comics history…and a wonderful resource for scholars.” 

“I am delighted that Jerry Robinson’s personal collection of original Batman scripts from Detective Comics and Batman by Bill Finger and other writers will be available for scholars and serious enthusiasts of twentieth century American popular culture,” said Jens Robinson, son of the late Robinson and donor, with his mother Gro, of the Batman scripts.  “These characters – from the Joker, Penguin, Two-Face, Catwoman and others in the Rogues gallery – to Robin and the faithful Alfred – were only the very beginning of decades of literary, artistic, journalistic, entrepreneurial and humanitarian contributions to the world by a ‘boy wonder’ from Trenton, New Jersey.”

For more information about Columbia University Libraries’ Comics and Graphic Novels resources, please visit

Columbia University Libraries/Information Services is one of the top five academic research library systems in North America. The collections include over 11 million volumes, over 150,000 journals and serials, as well as extensive electronic resources, manuscripts, rare books, microforms, maps, and graphic and audio-visual materials. The services and collections are organized into 22 libraries and various academic technology centers. The Libraries employs more than 500 professional and support staff. The website of the Libraries is the gateway to its services and resources:

Explore the Library’s Online Exhibitions

The Libraries house so much more than print resources! Four new online exhibitions opened recently, ranging in topic from social welfare to journalism to architecture to literature.

Photographs from the Community Service Society Records, 1900-1920

An exhibit of photographs (by Jessie Tarbox Beals, Lewis Hine, and others) and publications used in the “scientific charity” movement by the Association for Improving the Condition of the Poor, founded in 1843, and the New York Charity Organization Society, founded in 1882, which are today merged and known as the Community Service Society (CSS). Their innovative methods were later incorporated into the practices of social work, government welfare programs, and philanthropic organizations.

Joseph Pulitzer and the World

An exhibition of the papers of Joseph Pulitzer and of his newspaper, The World, held by the Rare Book & Manuscript Library. The exhibition contains a variety of materials that show the working life of this truly remarkable individual. Included are letters, documents, ledgers, newspapers, photographs, and realia concerning his life, as well as material documenting Pulitzer’s role in the founding of Columbia’s School of Journalism and the creation of the Pulitzer Prizes.

Avery’s Architectural Novelties

This exhibition highlights a selection of architectural novelties from the Avery Classics collection, displaying items that are both comprehensive and eccentric in their treatment of architecture.

The Reading of Books and the Reading of Literature

This online exhibition was highlighted by a day-long symposium at Columbia University in April 2012. The exhibition, along with the conference, focuses on the relation between literature and the media in which it is conveyed.

Archival Recordings of the Composers Forum, 1951-1977

ComposersForum1966Cover3 Contained within the archives of the Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center (which are held by Columbia University Libraries) there is a series of original reel-to-reel recordings of the concerts of the Composers Forum, made in New York from 1951-1977.

The Composers Forum concerts were an important series of concerts of art music by contemporary American composers. The series was established by Ashley Pettis in the 1930s, under the auspices of the WPA’s Federal Music Project. Beginning in New York, it eventually moved before WWII to California, then went on hiatus during the period around WWII. It was re-established in New York after the war in ca. 1947, under the joint auspices of Columbia and the New York Public Library, with concerts taking place in the Donnell Library and in Columbia’s McMillin Theater. It is the recordings of this post-war period of the Composers Forum which are represented by the recordings held by the Libraries.

An important feature of these concerts was the inclusion of a discussion section, where a moderator would ask the composers questions provided by the audience (in some cases, the concert program included a tear-off tab upon which an audience member could write their question). Some noted moderators included Virgil Thomson, Jack Beeson, and Mario Davidovsky. Here’s an example of a program with the question tear-off:


Composers represented on the recordings include George Antheil, Milton Babbitt, Jack Beeson, George Crumb, Mario Davidovsky, Luigi Dallapiccola, Irving Fine, Kenneth Gaburo, Leo Kraft, Ezra Laderman, George Perle, Julia Perry, Daniel Pinkham, George Rochberg, Ezra Sims, Harvey Sollberger, Carlos Surinach, Charles Wuorinen, and many others. There are also some notable performers represented (for example, Bethany Beardslee, Jan de Gaetani, Bertram Turetzky, Anahid Ajemian, David Tudor); some in early stages of their careers. Examples of composers performing their own works, or serving as moderators, add to the documentary value of this collection. Taken as a whole, the recordings offer a valuable portrait of American contemporary art music in New York for this period, and the discussion sections add particular insights into the musical culture of the time.

These recordings were created in many cases by the staff of the Electronic Music Center, which possessed the necessary recording equipment. Pril Smiley, former Associate Director of the Center, has recounted transporting the heavy Ampex reel-to-reel tape recorder by bicycle to some concerts for recording (way before the existence of niceties such as bike lanes)!

Ampex400TapeRecorder …and, yes…. these were very heavy!

Thirty concerts have been fully digitized and made available to date, funded by a grant from the Association for Recorded Sound Collections (ARSC); they are now available for listening on dedicated workstations in the Music & Arts Library, 701 Dodge. Digitization of the remaining recordings is underway with support from the New York State Conservation/Preservation Program. The recordings digitized to date can be retrieved in CLIO by searching keywords "composers forum". See a sample CLIO record at this link:

To access these recordings, come to the Music & Arts Library, 701 Dodge, and ask for directions on which workstations host the files. Contact us with any questions at

For some further reading on the Composers Forum’s pre-WWII period, see:

Melissa J. de Graaf’s article "Records of the New York Composers’ Forum: The Documentary Motive and Music in the 1930s", Notes, Volume 64, Number 4, June 2008, pp. 688-701

Nick Patterson, Music Librarian, Music & Arts Library

Digitale Sammlungen: Riches from the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek

E-books in CLIO have gotten a lot snazzier.

The Bayerische Staatsbibliothek (BSB) has been digitizing thousands upon thousands of their rare book holdings, and these free e-books are all findable in the Columbia Libraries catalog.  These BSB records have been gathered into a collection called "Digitale Sammlungen."

Thus far there are over 28,000 of the BSB records in CLIO.  The collection includes medieval manuscripts, early printed books, and recent secondary materials.  Some, but not all, are in full color.  The cataloging information is brief, so search techniques need to be creative!

Try one of these keyword searches–some of the results may be found in the images below (be sure to include all the quotation and question marks):

"digitale sammlungen" concilia?
"digitale sammlungen" augustin?


1512 bull from Pope Julius II    Augustine, De consensu evangelistarum, 12th century

Above, on the left, a 1512 printed edition of a bull from Pope Julius II; on the right, a page from a 12th-century manuscript of Augustine’s De consensu evangelistarum.

There are a variety of ways to search this collection.  Be sure to Ask a Librarian if you need assistance!

Presidential Libraries

Separate presidential libraries are a generally a 20th century phenomenon–previously presidential papers were usually kept by the National Archives or in historical societies.  The privately funded museum/library/shrine of modern presidents has many advantages, and some drawbacks.  The advantages are that there is a focused, dedicated staff collecting and arranging material, and the drawbacks are that each library has its own way of listing material, so that there is no consistency.  However, these libraries contain a great deal of information about the period, not just about the president.   Many of the libraries collect oral histories of people associated with the president, and many have copies of archival documents, which can be easier to plow through than the site.   All of the libraries are listed at

though of course Google will find them as well.

It is a good idea to look for a Research button on the home page–many of the libraries stress material for high school students.   But perhaps someone would really like

hooverhatHoover Wore Many Hats, an interactive game for children of all ages. Play the game!

Military History Institute

The website of the Military History Institute at Carlisle PA (official name: U.S. Army Heritage & Education Center)

is a gold mine of useful information, both bibliographic and full text, for an area in which Columbia traditionally hasn’t been strong.   There are two basic catalogs listed on this link, the Research Catalog, which is basically their card catalog, and the Resource Guides Finding Aids, which is a treasure trove, though it can be hard to navigate.

This is their gateway.

Resource Guides/Finding Aids

Groups of  subject bibliographies are listed in folders, alphabetically by subject, so that for instance, the Women folder has bibliographies on various topics as esoteric as “Woman Disguised as Male Soldiers”, (mainly American ones, but there are references to world history) or a three-page bibliography on “Laundresses”, with the irresistible reference

Wettemann, Robert P., Jr. “The Girl I Left Behind Me?  United States Army Laundresses and the Mexican War.”  Army History (Fall 1998/Winter 1999):  pp. 1-10. 

To print these, click on the upper right icon for “Show document”.

Not everything is as specialized; there is a useful and focused bibliography on “Battle Art”, under the “Art” folder, which can be helpful for the inevitable UWP topic of war and art.  (There is also a short bibliography on “aircraft nose art”, which sounds like a paper waiting to happen.)

These bibliographies are useful for less stridently military questions as well; there is one on civil-military relations, which was useful to a student writing about the influence of the DOD, as opposed to the Department of State, in post-WWII foreign policy, and references to fraternization were helpful answering a question on women in post WWII Germany.  Nor are these all focused on the US–there are some bibliographies on classical and European warfare.

Individual bibliographies (presumably ones which didn’t fit under the subjects) are listed beneath the folders, including the intriguing “Lessons Learned” and “Ghosts”.  There is also another UWP perenial, “Films”,  with some useful references to works on war films.

One recent problem (they have just rejiggered the site) is that sometimes you get caught up in a loop, and either a blank screen comes up, or the last search.   I have found that using the “sign out” link on the left hand side (if it is displaying) helps, but if not, starting over again works.

The bibliographies are probably the most useful item, but the digitized documents and photographs are also fun to look through; the photographs, especially are quite rich and varied from the 1912 German Olympics olympicsto an Indian Chief.


British National Archives, plus Manuscripts

The National Archives, English version, is the newish name for the Public Record Office.   The archives has a very good search engine here:

The search link (simple and advanced) is on the upper right hand side.

If the material either hasn’t been microfilmed or if no one in the U.S. has the film, it is easy to obtain the material digitally–though it does cost.  ILL will pay up to $50 to get items, and this is much faster and much more efficient than ordering it through CRL.

There are links to some general subject guides here

for brief introductions to broad fields like “19th century”.  For more detailed subjects, check here

My favorite subject so far is “Lunacy and the State”, where we learn that “For most of the past, the state has had little interest in the mental health of its subjects, unless they had a sufficient amount of property to require the intervention of the Crown as a feudal lord. Pauper lunatics were dealt with locally”, followed by many references to official papers–some of the guides also list useful book titles.

The catalog searches much more than just the official documents in the National Archives–it is a very useful place to find any manuscripts relating to Great Britain.  I recently had a question about Bram Stoker’s manuscripts and the National Archives search was the most accurate, better than his entry in the Dictionary of National Biography, or Archive Finder–the National Archives search found both U.S. and British locations, as well as the reference to the book Location register of twentiethcentury English literary manuscripts and letters.