Take a Look at Our Prints


The Osborne Library is pleased to announce the addition of over 160 prints to the Chace Catalogue (with many more coming). Included in this collection are woodcuts, etchings, engravings, lithographs, wood engravings, collotypes, halftones, etc. As part of our recently awarded Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS) grant, the Osborne Library staff has started cataloguing 1,000 objects in this impressive print collection. Cataloguing prints can be challenging, but the staff is up to the task. The first step in the process was a one-day session with a staff member of the Northeast Document Conservation Center (NEDCC) in Andover, MA. Using prints from our collection, we examined examples of the different formats using magnification tools. Our heads were spinning by the end of the day, but we are confident that we can accurately describe a print, and when we can’t, we can call upon the NEDCC for help.

Boott Cotton Mills, Lowell, MA, 1852 (wood engraving)

Sawyer Woolen Mill, Dover, NH, ca. 1880 (lithograph)

Next comes the detective work by our Assistant Librarian, Jane Ward, who creates the accession record. This record contains descriptive and purchase/donation information. Prints are not always dated. To give an approximate date, we must search in city directories or the internet for the name of the artist, engraver or company that produced the item to determine when they were working or in business. Sometimes we have to compare similar views of cities to determine a date. For instance, by examining the number of buildings and amount of surrounding countryside we can figure out which are the earliest and latest prints. With some prints, we sometimes find that we own another image that was copied or modified, which can help us date or describe the original.

Merrimack Mills along Dutton St., 1848 (engraving)

Bridesburg Machine Works, Philadelphia, PA, ca. 1850 (lithograph)

Once we are able to glean as much information as possible about the print, it goes to our cataloguer, Margaret Duggan, who does a little more digging. She searches OCLC’s WorldCat database to see if any other library holds the print. If there is a record, our location symbol will be added. If there is no record, she will record the descriptive information from our accession record and add subject headings and artist’s names as well as other detailed information. Once the record is complete, it goes off to WorldCat where it can be viewed by libraries and researchers worldwide. The completed record is also added to our online Chace Catalogue.

Not only is our print collection impressive, it is one of a kind. Earlier this week, we were amazed to find that we are the only institution in the WorldCat database that reported having an original of an 1876 bird’s-eye view of Lowell. In fact, we have two originals! Even the Library of Congress reported just a reproduction. And their copy is a reproduction made and sold by the Museum in 1976 at the time of the Bicentennial.

Bird’s eye view of Lowell, MA, 1876 (lithograph)

I almost forgot to mention one of the best aspects of this project. Images of the prints are available on the Chace Catalogue. As part of the IMLS grant, we are scanning the prints and posting them to the web via the Chace Catalogue.

This confirms our view that the Osborne Library is not only a very special repository possessing books, trade material and images that are often unique and held by few if any institutions. With the help of the IMLS grant, we are striving to share these treasures with the world.

Clare Sheridan

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