Born and raised in France, Jean-François Vilain studied English at the University of Bordeaux. After teaching, he emigrated to the United States and worked in publishing, becoming a senior editor at F.A. Davis Company in Philadelphia. According to Vilain, he began collecting private press books by accident, after seeing a limp-suede binding on a Roycroft book in a used bookstore. Beginning in the 1980s, as his collection grew, he began researching, writing, and presenting on private press history, including on Roycroft and Elbert Hubbard and on Thomas Bird Mosher. He investigated the publications of the Roycroft bestseller "A Message to Garcia," and there are many examples in the collection. The use of color in printing is a particular focus of his study, and two of his articles, "Arts and Crafts Book Illumination" and "Illuminating Americans" were published in Style 1900.
Note: This collection is currently being cataloged. This webpage will be updated as more of the collection becomes available.
The Vilain-Wieck Collection includes an extraordinary breadth of publications by American fine and private press printers. Particular strengths from the early twentieth century include, but are by no means not limited to, the Mosher Press (Portland, Maine) and the Roycroft Shop (East Aurora, New York); Alderbrink Press; Blue Sky Press; Elston Press; Philosopher Press; and many others. The collection stretches from that period to the twenty-first century.
Cataloging of this collection is ongoing. Because printers and presses are fundamental to the collection, researchers will be able to identify and search by printer, within it.
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Beginning in 1945 with the acquisition of the Theodore Dreiser Papers, the Penn Libraries has maintained collecting strengths in modern American manuscripts. Recent acquisitions including the Gotham Book Mart Collection, have added depth and breadth. This page provides an overview of major collections of interest to students and scholars in American studies.
At the University of Pennsylvania, holdings relating to art and architecture may be found in the Anne and Jerome Fisher Fine Arts Library; the Architectural Archives of the University of Pennsylvania; the University Archives and Records Center; and in the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts.