Glass Research at The Rakow Research Library: Introduction to the Collection Series

When you hear the word library, the first thing that comes to mind is likely books. With a little more thought, you may come to digital collections, videos, sound recordings, microfilm or archives. You might think of periodicals and articles. If you’re familiar with the Juliette K. and Leonard S. Rakow Research Library, you’ll also think of auction and trade catalogs, photographs, prints and drawings, patents, ephemera and a host of other documents.

Rakow Library reading room

Rakow Library reading room

The Rakow Research Library is the world’s foremost library on the art and history of glass and glassmaking. We want to share our collection with you piece by piece and we hope this Introduction to the Collection blog series will increase your awareness of the different types of materials that can be found in the Library.

De la pirotechnia by Biringucci. Bib. #93699

De la pirotechnia by Biringucci. Bib. #93699

The Rakow Library has books ranging from a 12th-century manuscript to the latest exhibition catalogs of contemporary glass artists. Beside the glass-centered books on art, business, objects, history, people and science, we collect texts to support research in related fields of study. Virtual books make up part of the digital collection, which is also comprised of digitized slides, rare books, trade catalogs, photographs, oral histories, design drawings, works of art on paper, notebooks, and sketchbooks. Making this part of the collection easily accessible serves to support teaching and research while helping to preserve original materials.

Watercolor of Chestnut leaves by Alice Gouvy for Tiffany. Bib. #88922

Watercolor of Chestnut leaves by Alice Gouvy for Tiffany. Bib. #88922

To aid in the study and research of glass, educational and instructional videos, documentaries, lectures, presentations, non-commercial productions, and other films are available. Sound recordings, slides and transparencies also hold useful information for researchers. Unique to the Rakow Library, over 130 archival collections from individual artists, galleries, companies, scholars and organizations consist of primary materials such as personal papers, notebooks, sketchbooks, scrapbooks, drawings, blueprints, ephemera, posters, cartoons, photographs, slides, and transparencies. In addition, works on paper include art originals, drawings, prints, photographs, and posters ranging in date from the 16th century to the present.

Littleton in his office at his farm in Wisconsin. Digitized from Lipofsky slide.

Littleton in his office at his farm in Wisconsin. Digitized from Lipofsky slide.

With over 850 active subscriptions and over a thousand titles from the 18th to the 21st century, the Library houses a large periodical collection to support the study of glass. Online subscription databases also give library patrons on site access to articles, many in electronic full text. Auction and trade catalogs comprise a good part of the library’s collection at approximately 27,000 items. The catalogs are unparalleled resources in providing primary source information for scholars researching glass in its artistic, historic, economic, and sociological aspects.

Robert Florian Negative of June 1962 Toledo workshop. Bib. #105709

June 1962 Toledo workshop (Film Negative by Robert Florian) Bib. #105709

Finally, the Library houses patents, documents, such as glass factory correspondence and other miscellaneous records, and ephemera including postage stamps, calendars, and other glass-related resources.

We hope that this general introduction to the collection helps you understand the different types of resources that are available in the Rakow Library. Be sure to check back for upcoming installments of the Introduction to the Collection series that will focus on specific areas of the collection.

This is the first installment of the Rakow Research Library’s Introduction to the Collection Series. Read the next post: Prints & Drawings >>

The Rakow Research Library is open from 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., Monday – Friday
Telephone: 607.438.5300 | Email (general inquiries):


About amy de simone
Amy is an active volunteer, traveler and photographer. She is interested in art, libraries, museums and nonprofits. She holds an M.A. in Library & Information Studies and a B.A. in Italian Language & Literature from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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