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William A. Speck collection of prints.

Call Number: YCGL MSS 11

Scope and Contents

The William A. Speck Collection of Prints contains portraits, views and illustrations documenting the life, work, and reception of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. The collection is housed in 42 boxes, plus numerous broadside folders, and consists of three series: Portraits, Views, and Illustrations. While most of the collection is composed of prints, other formats may also be found, including watercolors, silhouettes, printed ephemera, and a few photographs.

Series I, Portraits is arranged alphabetically by name. Series II, Views is arranged by country, and within that by city. It should be noted that the place names in Series II are those that were in use in the 1920s and 30s, when most of the collection was cataloged, and therefore may not reflect current usage or political divisions.

The Portraits series includes portraits of Goethe and of his associates, but also includes many contemporaries not closely associated with the poet. The Views and Illustrations focus more narrowly on Goethe himself, his life and work, depicting places where Goethe lived or visited, or which he discussed in his works, particularly Weimar, and scenes and characters from Goethe's works, in particular Faust.

In addition to this listing, which was compiled by labeling on the files, a card index exists, which provides access by artist name to many, though probably not all, works encompassed in this collection. These cards also may contain additional information, including such things as names of engraver, place of creation, date of creation, and bibliographic citations. For further information about the card index, consult the appropriate curator.


  • circa 1750-1850


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

The William A. Speck Collection of Prints is the physical property of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. For further information, consult the appropriate curator.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

This collection was built by the library by gift and purchase from various sources. These include a core group of prints collected by William A. Speck and brought to Yale when he accepted the position of curator of the Yale Collection of German Literature; items purchased for the collection with Yale funds by Speck, including approximately 3750 prints from the Berg Collection, or received as gifts during his tenure; and materials acquired since by the library, by gift or purchase.


38.77 Linear Feet ((42 boxes) + 13 broadside drawers)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


Print collection of portraits, views, and illustrations focused on Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. The portraits are of persons associated with Goethe, and include an extensive file on Goethe. The views are of places where Goethe lived or visited, particularly Weimar, and the illustrations are of scenes and characters from Goethe's works.

Processing Information

Collections are processed to a variety of levels, depending on the work necessary to make them usable, their perceived research value, the availability of staff, competing priorities, and whether or not further accruals are expected. The library attempts to provide a basic level of preservation and access for all collections [as they are acquired], and does more extensive processing of higher priority collections as time and resources permit.

The list in this finding aid was created by transcribing the titles on the folders. A partial card index was also consulted.

This finding aid may be updated periodically to account for new acquisitions to the collection and/or revisions in arrangement and description.

Guide to the William A. Speck Collection of Prints
by Beinecke Staff
December 1999
Description rules
Beinecke Manuscript Unit Archival Processing Manual
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library Repository

P. O. Box 208330
New Haven CT 06520-8330 US
(203) 432-2977


121 Wall Street
New Haven, CT 06511

Opening Hours

Access Information

The Beinecke Library is open to all Yale University students and faculty, and visiting researchers whose work requires use of its special collections. You will need to bring appropriate photo ID the first time you register. Beinecke is a non-circulating, closed stack library. Paging is done by library staff during business hours. You can request collection material online at least two business days in advance of your visit, using the request links in Archives at Yale. For more information, please see Planning Your Research Visit and consult the Reading Room Policies prior to visiting the library.