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Series 01: James M. Wells papers, 1951-1984

Identifier: NL Archives 03/21/01

  • Staff Only

Scope and Contents

Correspondence, memoranda, reports, manuscripts, etc., documenting Wells' Newberry career and his many connections with colleagues and organizations in the fields of printing history and book arts. Wells' correspondence file, dating from his first years at the Newberry, contains letters from staff members (Pargellis, Towner, etc.), from calligraphers, fine printers, type designers, and others associated with typographic arts (Banks, Barker, Crutchley, DaBoll, Dreyfus, Hayes, Howes, Mardersteig, Morison, Stone, Wellington) and from Newberry donors, trustees, and patrons. Also included is Wing Collection reference and acquisitions correspondence. Wells' administrative file documents his library responsibilities (Newberry Library Associates, committees, events, publications, research and education, and the Wing Foundation) and his organizational ties (Arts Club of Chicago, Bibliographical Society of America, Caxton Club, Grolier Club, Society of Typographical Arts). Also among the Wells papers are records of the Renaissance English Text Society, a few personal files, articles, reviews, and speeches.


  • Creation: 1951-1984


Conditions Governing Access

The Newberry Library Archives are open for research in the Special Collections Reading Room; 1 box at a time (Priority III).

Unprocessed records are available by appointment only. Advance notice is necessary, particularly for administrative files, so that files may be screened for personnel records that are removed when records are processed.

Files containing personal or confidential information about individuals (including individual files on members of the Board of Trustees, individual donor files and records reporting the donations of an individual, personnel records, payroll records, and individual accepted fellows files) are closed for 30 years.

Biography of James M. Wells

Librarian and printing historian. Born in 1917 in Charleston, West Virginia, and educated at Northwestern and Columbia Universities, James Wells served in the Navy and taught English at Columbia and West Virginia before coming to the Newberry in 1951 as Curator of the John M. Wing Foundation for the History of Printing (1951-1984). In 1962, Wells also became Custodian of the Rare Book Room, a position he vacated in 1964 when Lawrence W. Towner appointed him Associate Director, a newly created post with responsibility for The Newberry Library Bulletin, publications programs, research and fellowships programs, and acquisitions. In 1975, Wells was appointed Vice President and on September 2, 1981, the 30th anniversary of his appointment as Wing Curator, Wells was named George Amos Poole III Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts. Wells retired from the Library in 1984.


25 Linear Feet (5 boxes and 23 record cartons)


Organized in seven subseries: Correspondence (03/21/01/01), Correspondence - Outgoing (03/21/01/02), Administrative Subject File (03/21/01/03), Renaissance English Text Society (03/21/01/04), Personal (03/21/01/05), Works (03/21/01/06), and Photographs (03/21/01/07).

Repository Details

Part of the The Newberry Library - Modern Manuscripts and Archives Repository

60 West Walton Street
Chicago Illinois 60610 United States