Current Exhibitions & Events


Harper Bicentennial poster

Harper & Brothers to HarperCollins Publishers: A Bicentennial Exhibition

January 24 to May 26, 2017

Kempner Gallery, Rare Book & Manuscript Library

The company that is now HarperCollins began as a small family business in 1817, publishing first as J. & J. Harper and as Harper & Brothers beginning in 1833. The company survived several fires and financial crises to become one of the biggest and most successful publishing companies in the United States by the middle of the nineteenth century. Today HarperCollins Publishers is considered one of the five most influential English-language publishers in the world.

This exhibition charts continuity and change in the publishing industry by dedicating cases to the publishing functions that have remained constant even as practices and technologies have changed: acquisitions, editorial, manufacturing, art, marketing, publicity, rights & permissions, and finance.  Harper was quick to adopt emerging printing technologies from its earliest days and the exhibition displays wood engravings, stereotype plates and case bindings from the nineteenth century. The exhibition puts on display the behind-the-scenes work that publishers do to bring together authors and readers, whether the publication in question is print or digital.

Drawing on the archives of Harper & Brothers and Harper & Row held by the Columbia Rare Book & Manuscript Library, this major RBML exhibition shows how the company grows with the nation, its publications not merely reflecting but actively shaping local and national politics. Highlights include the contract for Melville’s Moby Dick, Nast’s political cartoons for Harper’s Weekly Magazine, posters advertising various Harper’s periodicals, correspondence with luminaries including John F. Kennedy and Richard Wright, and profiles of pioneering female editors Virginia Kirkus and Ursula Nordstrom.

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