The collection contains ephemeral materials printed with metal or wood type using a letterpress. Ephemeral materials include:
prospectuses, notices, fliers, postcards, broadsides, bookmarks, chapbooks, pamphlets and small books/accordion fold books.
The collection dates range from 950 CE (China) to present, with the bulk of the collection ranging from 1890 CE to present.
Additions to the Collection are ongoing. The earliest printed materials in the collection come from China and Europe, but
the bulk of the collection is from California and the United States of America printed in the 20th century.
Ephemera has been part of Book Arts & Special Collections since 1925 when William Randolph Young, a library trustee, was instrumental
in establishing the Max Kuhl Collection of rare books and manuscripts, after the destruction of the Library’s collection in
the 1906 earthquake and fire. Through generous donations and purchases, ephemeral matter was filed into the collection until
November 17, 1965 when The Grabhorn Collection on the History of Printing & the Development of the Book was officially presented
to the San Francisco Public Library. The Collection contained not only books but single leaves of ephemera printed before
the 20th Century, some of which were by significant printers of the 15th and 16th Centuries. City Librarian, William Holman,
hailed the acquisition of printer Robert Grabhorn’s personal library as the single most important collection ever to come
to the library at one time. Library Commissioner Edward Callanan reported being happy this great collection will be available
for public use in a public library, particularly because the printing industry historically has been so important to the development
of the City. The ephemera collection is now known as The Grabhorn Letterpress Printing Ephemera Collection. From an early
age Robert Grabhorn began collecting the works of printers, with an emphasis on French and Italian printers, type specimens,
and books on the subject of hot metal printing, and realized that his collection should remain in San Francisco as a teaching
collection. Since its acquisition by the Library, the collection has grown to become one of the most important of its kind.
It includes examples of almost every major printer, typographer, and bookmaker since Gutenberg’s time, with the allied fields
of bookbinding and papermaking represented as well.
230.4 Linear Feet; 300 boxes.
Copyright has not been assigned to the San Francisco Public Library. All requests for permission to publish or quote from
materials must be submitted in writing to the department of Book Arts & Special Collections. Permission for publication is
given on behalf of the San Francisco Public Library as the owner of the physical items.
The Collection is stored onsite and is open for research during Book Arts & Special Collections hours.