Founded in 1884, the Grolier Club is America’s oldest and largest society for bibliophiles. The Club has fostered interest in the book arts for over 130 years, through exhibitions, publications, lectures, and—perhaps most importantly—through the formation of a research Library devoted to the arts of the book.
The Library was established to collect, preserve, and provide access to materials relating to the Club’s mission “to foster the study, collecting, and appreciation of books and works on paper, their art, history, production, and commerce.” Today, the Library boasts a research collection of more than 100,000 volumes on the art and history of the book, including bibliographies, histories of printing and graphic processes, type specimens, and fine and historic examples of printing, binding, and illustration. In addition, the Library has exceptionally strong holdings in the literature of collecting and the antiquarian book trade, including book catalogues of all types—printed and manuscript inventories of private libraries, catalogues of antiquarian booksellers, and book auction sales, many annotated with buyers’ names and prices. The Grolier Club Library’s holdings of book catalogues are among the most comprehensive in the country; and these, along with the papers of important bibliophiles, bibliographers, and antiquarian book dealers, have long been recognized as an important and often unique resource for Library patrons. Although modest in size compared to many large research institutions, the Library’s accessibility, manageable scale, and narrow focus endow it with several distinct advantages over larger, more generalized collections.
The Library’s collections are open to all qualified researchers—members and non-members alike—on equal terms, subject to the appropriate care and handling of the materials. Typical users include private collectors, antiquarian booksellers, academic scholars, book artists, and graduate students. In addition, the Library offers two William H. Helfand research fellowships per year, enabling both new and established scholars to take advantage of its unique collections.
Awareness of the collections in the scholarly community is fostered by cataloguing collections according to international standards and making those records available through the Library’s online catalogue and through bibliographic databases such as OCLC’s WorldCat. The Library has also begun modest efforts to digitize materials in its collection. In 2017, the Library received funds from a New York City-based granting agency (METRO, Metropolitan New York Library Council) to support the digitization of a group of approximately 2,500 bookplates representing women book collectors (The Maria Gerard Messenger Women’s Bookplates Collection).