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Frederick B. Artz Collection on the History of the Book

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Scope and Contents

Frederick Binkerd Artz collected books in three primary areas: wood block and engraved maps from the 15th to the 18th centuries; works on architecture from 1500 to 1800; and books/fragments illustrative of manuscript culture through the history of the printed book. This latter collection covered the very beginnings of typography, and included the master printers of 15th century Europe. Artz also added many products of the 19th and 20th century Arts & Crafts printing revival. It is not an exageration to claim that this donation is the one of the most significant in the history of Oberlin College Library's Special Collections and it has contributed greatly to our ability to lead class instruction using books derived from all periods of study.

History of the Collection | About the Donor | Inventory | Additional Resources

History of the Collection

Artz, historian and francophile, began his love affair with that culture while he served in the Ambulance Corps during World War I. Artz would overcome graduate school resistance to his growing interest in the new field of Intellectual History, and go on to teach a pioneering class in Intellectual History that was for many Oberlin students a memorable highlight of their academic coursework. Artz began building a personal book collection in 1923 specifically for didactic purposes, to serve as material examples for use during his lectures. Artz began to formally exhibit his collection as early as 1930, and began a long history of donations to the library as early as 1957. His generosity and enthusiasm culminated in a bequest of his library made before his death, and another large exhibit and symposium held to celebrate the man and his books in 1986, and these events coincided with the inauguration of the Friends of the Oberlin College Library.

About the Donor

Frederick “Freddie” Artz Oberlin class of 1916, was a visionary historian, professor, and book collector with a teaching career at Oberlin College that began in 1924, and spanned nearly fifty years. Artz published many highly respected books on French and European history, particularly Intellectual History. A complete biography and finding guide to Artz’s personal papers have been published by the Oberlin College Archives, and there are several books about Artz with a biographical focus.


Not all of the over 300 books donated, written by, or about Frederick Artz have complete bibliographic records in OBIS, but a search in OBIS can pull up records for those that do. Many of the manuscripts and fragments donated by Artz; both European and Islamic manuscripts, and the fragments from early printers, are searchable through Oberlin College Digital Collections, with a keyword search for Artz. There are also many mentions of Artz in College publications.

Additional Resources

New York Times Obituary, July 21, 1983

Frederick B. Artz papers (Oberlin College Archives)

Last updated:
December 6, 2018