RBML Exhibition– “Comics at Columbia: Past, Present, Future”

Columbia University Libraries/Information ServicesRare Book & Manuscript Library (RBML) is pleased to announce the exhibition:  Comics at Columbia: Past, Present, Future.  The exhibition opened October 6th and runs through January 23rd, 2015 in the Kempner Gallery at the RBML – 6th Floor East, Butler Library.


Charles Saxon (’40 CC), Untitled. Charles Saxon Collection, Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

The exhibition presents art, manuscripts, and ephemera from Columbia’s Rare Book & Manuscript Library, including items associated with the university’s history, as well as art from Mad artist Al Jaffee, Elfquest artist Wendy Pini, and New Yorker cartoonist Charles Saxon; drafts and notes from X-Men writer Chris Claremont and Legion of Super Heroes writer Paul Levitz, and correspondence from mainstream and indie comics luminaries Stan Lee, Harvey Kurtzman, and Howard Cruse, and more.

An irreverent comic strip confiscated from undergraduates in 1766 joins political cartoons from Thomas Nast and Rube Goldberg, Jerry Robinson’s early sketches of Dick Grayson and Bruce Wayne, Milt Gross’s contracts with The New York World, and a Joe Shuster Superman sketch, along with work from up-and-coming cartoonists. The exhibition also features works “on the fringes” of comics, such as Rodolphe Töpffer’s The adventures of Obadiah Oldbuck and Lynd Ward’s wordless woodcut novels.

Comics at Columbia is curated by Karen Green, Librarian for Ancient & Medieval History and Graphic Novels Librarian at Columbia University.

“The rather racy 18th-century cartoon, confiscated from undergraduates when Columbia University was still Kings College, is an indication of just how deep the roots of comics reach at this institution,” said Green. “Our recent archives acquisitions join comics materials already embedded in a broad array of collections. This exhibition brings these varied materials to light, and demonstrates the power of the comics medium to inform research into history, social mores, popular culture, and so much more.”

Comics at Columbia showcases the RBML’s support for research, teaching, and learning with comics and graphic novels. Since its beginning in 2005, a growing circulating collection of such graphic novels at the Libraries has inspired scholarly inquiry, as well as 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, and a long-running summer course on comics as literature. The exhibition also highlights a major collecting strength of the RBML, the history of publishing and related archives, with notable recent additions including the archives of Granary Books, the Dalkey Archive Press, Ballantine Books, and the papers of Barney Rosset, founder of Grove Press.

For hours and more information, please visit the RBML website.

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