Old University Books

When the University of Chicago reopened in 1892, it did so with an extensive research collection for its Library already in place. In her Decennial Report to the President, Zella Allen Dixson, the first librarian at the new University of Chicago, reported on the collections that "form the nuclei of the University Library." Included in this list were the books from the Old University of Chicago. (University of Chicago. Library, and Zella Allen Dixson. The University Library. [Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1904], 230.) Dixson spent the first months of 1893 unpacking and shelving the books from Morgan Park, which would have included the Old University's books, along with cataloging and distributing them between the General collection and the Departmental Libraries. In the 1930s, this work was still not completed.

The Old University of Chicago Library was a broad collection of standard academic publications, almost entirely in English and published in the mid-19th century. In 1912, Harper Memorial Library opened, which held the General Collection. In 1970, the Joseph Regenstein Library opened and the General Collection for undergraduates was merged with the departmental libraries. At this point, most of the volumes of the Old University of Chicago Library were reunited under one roof.

In March of 2019, there were 32 known volumes from the Old University collection, identified from their bookplates by Catherine Uecker. Since then, Anne Knafl and Nancy Speigel have identified another 70 volumes. Patricia Williams is adding notes to the catalog records of any identified volumes. You can see the growing list of the Old University of Chicago Collection in the catalog. In June, 2019, Anne Knafl located Accession logs for the bulk of the Old University collection. Accession Book 20001-30000 has been digitized by Kathleen Feeney. It records approximately 4800 titles from the Old University of Chicago Library or "Chicago University," which were added to the collection starting in 1891.

Volumes from the original collection can be identified by the presence of a bookplate from the original library or a gift acknowledge plate added later. Below are images of all the types of plates that have been identified thus far. If you find a book with such a plate in our stacks, please alert Anne Knafl or Nancy Speigel .

Accessions book from 1891

Zella Neal Dixson added approximately 4800 of the Old University of Chicago Library to the collection in 1891. The volume has been digitized. (University of Chicago. Library. Office of the Director. Zella Allen Dixson. Records, [Volume 3, Accessions Books 20001-30000], Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library.)

Accessions Book public documents

Researchers believe Stephen A. Douglas donated his collection of public documents to the Old University of Chicago Library. The Accession Book from 1891 includes long lists of similar documents. (University of Chicago. Library. Office of the Director. Zella Allen Dixson. Records, [Volume 3, Accessions Books 20001-30000], Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library.)

Original Library bookplate

This is the most common, original bookplate found in the Old University of Chicago Collection.

Original and gift bookplate

It was common to add a gift acknowledge plate under the original bookplate that confirmed the provenance of the volume. The early gift plates include a handwritten acknowledgment, while later they were typewritten.

Old University of Chicago Library bookplate

This green bookplate is a less common, original bookplate found in volumes from the Old University of Chicago Collection.

gift bookplate from the Old University library

This is a gift bookplate from the Old University of Chicago Collection. It is the only one of its kind identified thus far.

Gift of H.M. Thompson

H.M. Thompson donated a complete collection of the Bohn libraries series to the Old University of Chicago in 1870, when he served as librarian. Many of the original bookplates bear his name. As a result, some of the gift acknowledgement plates added by the new University recognized Thompson as the donor and not the old University, though they are part of the Old University of Chicago Collection.

Gift acknowledgement with Dewey call number

By the 1920s, the University of Chicago Library had adopted the Library of Congress call number system. An early gift acknowledgement plate featured the Dewey call number.

Spanish title in Old University Collection

Romero, Matías. El Estado De Oaxaca. Barcelona: Tipo-litografía de Espana y Comp., 1886. This is the only title in the Old University of Chicago Collection identified thus far that is not in English.

handwritten notation

Some of the volumes of the Old University of Chicago Collection bear hand written notations of their provenance on the title page or page facing. In some cases, this is the only proof of provenance, since many of the volumes have been rebound for preservation and their original covers were discarded, along with the bookplates on them.

Accession logs from 1920s

University of Chicago. Library. Office of the Director. Zella Allen Dixson. Records, Volume 1, Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library

processing books from Morgan Park

University of Chicago. Library. Office of the Director. Zella Allen Dixson. Records, Volume 1, Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library