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Autograph Collection

Identifier: MG 6

Scope and Contents

The Autograph Collection consists of a compilation of signatures on letters, postcards, photographs, concert/theater programs, etc., the earliest of which is a commission signed by John Hancock on February 1, 1776. The collection began in the early twentieth century when hundreds of signed letters and documents by individuals were donated to the Newark Public Library. Since then, hundreds more have been saved and added by library staff from donations, purchases or work-related correspondence. Much of the collection came from this saved correspondence, dating largely from 1900 to 1990. Much of this correspondence was between library staff and authors, writers or musicians, for acquisitions or information from the former Art and Music Department of the Newark Public Library.

Notable autographs include letters, notes or photographs from U.S. presidents, such as John Adams and John F. Kennedy; other politicians, such as Winston Churchill; artists, such as Norman Rockwell and Andy Warhol; famous authors, such as Thomas Paine and Langston Hughes; royalty, such as King George III; musicians, such as Nat King Cole and Aaron Copland; and even businessmen, such as John D. Rockefeller. Each autograph folder contains information about the author, date, place, recipient, subject and source of the autograph. In addition, there are over 200 clipped autographs or signed letters affixed onto note cards. It is an open collection and is periodically added to.


  • Majority of material found within 1900 - 1990
  • 1776 - 2019

Conditions Governing Access

Available by appointment only. Photocopying of materials is limited and no materials may be photocopied or photographed without permission from library staff.

Conditions Governing Use

Researchers wishing to publish, reproduce, or reprint materials from this collection must obtain permission.

Biographical / Historical

The earliest Newark Public Library exhibit from the Autograph Collection dates to December 1916. Major original donations include a collection of letters from musicians, given by A. W. Brigham, an organist from East Orange, NJ, in July 1916. Over seventy letters signed by Timothy Cole were donated to the collection by George H. Whittle, in November 1911. Over thirty miscellaneous autographs were donated by J. Ackerman Coles in October 1922. A majority of the collection are twentieth century materials saved by library staff from correspondences with artists, authors, politicians, other librarians, and others. Older autographs, from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries were generally given by donors. A small number of autographs were purchased for the collection, from authorized autograph dealers.


4 Linear Feet (3 filing cabinet drawers and 1 flat box)

Language of Materials



The Autograph Collection consists of over 1,000 signatures of musicians, librarians, authors, politicians, artists, and others present on photographs, letters, postcards, and other documents.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Many of the autographs were acquired as gifts, while many were acquired through correspondence with library staff. For most autographs, source information is provided in its accompanying folder.


Autograph Magazine.
Benjamin, Mary A. Autographs: a Key to Collecting, New York: R.R. Bowker Co., 1946.
Cappon, Lester J. Walter R. Benjamin and the Autograph Trade at the Turn of the Century. Massachusetts Historical Society. Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, Third Series, Vol. 78, (1966), pp. 20-37, 1966.
The Manuscript Society.
Professional Autograph Dealers Association.
Sullivan, George. The Complete Book of Autograph Collecting,New York: Dodd, Mead, 1971.

Physical Description

Autographs, business letters, cards, clippings, photographs, postcards, programs, sheet music

Processing Information

Processed by Natasha M. Pereira; processing completed May 2010. Each accompanying folder includes contextual information about the autograph. Each folder was photocopied in order to preserve this information when the collection was re-housed. Materials inside, including the autographs themselves, were placed in new, acid-free folders, along with the photocopied information. The goal was to keep only documents in the collection folders; a few larger materials, such as books or notebooks were removed to the Rare Books Collection. Some large artist autograph files contained much accompanying information and were removed to the Artist Information File Collection. Further contextual information included with some autographs was moved to the Information File at the beginning of the collection, under the Subject Name, in order to keep the Autograph Collection as condensed as possible. Translations and transcriptions of foreign language or illegible letters and notes are also included in many files. Some acquisition information from autograph sellers is included in some files. A new oversize collection was created; oversize items were placed in a flat box labeled Oversize Autograph File. Several items were also de-framed and the autographed material, as well as any contextual information, was kept in the file. Excessive materials, such as copies and generic information, were discarded. Photographs and fragile materials were placed in Mylar covers for better preservation.

Separated Materials: Transferred to “Artist Information File” Carter, Mary; Citron, Minna; Matisse, Maria-Gaetana (Tana); Page, Thomas Nelson

Transferred to Rare Books Collection Darrow, Clarence Seward Transferred to Richard C. Jenkinson Collection Information Files Bullen, Henry Lewis; Cobden-Sanderson, Thomas James; De Vinne, Theodore Low; Dwiggins, William A.; Fenton, Daniel; Finberg, H.P.R.; Firmin-Didot, Maurice; Guthrie, James; Hunter, Dard; Rogers, Bruce; Rollins, Carl Purington; Updike, Daniel Berkeley

Natasha M. Pereira
May 2010
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections, Newark Public Library Repository

5 Washington Street
PO Box 630
Newark NJ 07102 USA