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Robert Fridenberg Collection of Portrait and Topographical Prints

Call Number: GEN MSS 1000

Scope and Contents

A collection of European and American portrait and topographical prints that includes work by printmakers Samuel Arlent Edwards, George Edward Perine, Eugène Sadoux, and others.


  • 1500 - 1945
  • Majority of material found within 1750 - 1900


Language of Materials

Captions in English, French, Dutch, and German.

Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

The Robert Fridenberg Collection of Portrait and Topographical 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

Gift of Joseph Verner Reed (Yale 1926), 1958.


Organized into five series: I. Portraits, 1500-1910. II. Topographical Views, 1750-1900. III. Book Illustrations. IV. Other Prints. V. Robert Fridenberg Administrative Records.


143.98 Linear Feet (390 boxes + 1 broadside)

Catalog Record

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

Persistent URL


A collection of European and American portrait and topographical prints that includes work by printmakers Samuel Arlent Edwards, George Edward Perine, Eugène Sadoux, and others.

Robert Fridenberg Collection of Portrait and Topographical Prints

The Robert Fridenberg Collection of Portrait and Topographical Prints was purchased in New York by Joseph Verner Reed (1902-1973, Yale 1926) sometime after Fridenberg’s death in 1946. Reed, a collector of fine prints, had been a patron of Fridenberg and his successor, Joseph A. Heckel. The prints were moved from New York into an outbuilding at Reed’s home in Greenwich, Connecticut, where they remained for more than a decade. In 1957, at his wife’s urging because she needed the outbuilding for a potting shed, Reed offered the collection to the Yale University Art Gallery, but finding the contents more historical than fine art, the museum declined. Reed’s second offer, to the Yale University Library, was accepted by then-Yale University Librarian James T. Babb. Described in an April 3, 1958, list of “Important Recent Gifts” to the library, the “collection of prints and plates contained in eighty-nine cabinets, two sideboards, eighty-two cartons, and eighty packages” was move into the basement of Sterling Memorial Library. In his 1958 appraisal for Reed, Heckel stated that the collection held “over 500,000 Old Engravings” consisting of historical portraits and views, and English and American drama, that “took over 75 years to accumulate.”

The collection remained in the basement until the early 1960s when the Yale library administration decided to bring the history of printing, fine printing, and graphic arts volumes together following models established in 1938 at Harvard University by founding curator Philip Hofer (1898-1984) at Houghton Library’s Department of Printing and Graphic Arts, and in 1940 at Princeton University by the printer and typographic designer Elmer Adler (1884-1962) at Firestone Library’s Graphic Arts Collection. Dale R. Roylance was hired away from Princeton’s Graphic Arts Collection in 1960 as a reference specialist for graphic arts, and in April 1962 a new curatorial position was planned in order to support the library’s goal of creating a special collection with a “selective, artistically qualitative approach to printing, illustrating, and book-making.” Mentioned as cornerstones of the new Graphic Arts Collection were the collections of fine printing previously donated to Yale by Frank Altschul (1887-1981, Yale 1908) and John Hay Whitney (1904-1982, Yale 1928), and the “Reed prints”; they were to be joined by other materials combed from Sterling Memorial Library’s general book stacks. Dale Roylance was made a full curator in 1965, and actively developed, exhibited, and published the collection until he returned to Princeton in 1979; Gay Walker followed him as curator, and served from 1979 until 1991. The collection itself was retitled the Arts of the Book Collection by April 1972 and thereafter was moved into a suite of rooms on the library’s ground floor south of the High Street entrance.

At some point after 1987 the Fridenberg prints, then known as the “Vertical File Collection of Plates and Prints,” were moved from Sterling’s fourth floor to a room just outside Arts of the Book Collection. Partially organized and little used, most of the portrait prints had been rehoused by students in several (generally incomplete) campaigns, and were stored in file cabinets. Oversized prints remained housed inside labeled folders Fridenberg created from extra plates taken from broken folio volumes, primarily sets of the nine-volume Galeries Historiques du Palais de Versailles (Paris: Imprimerie Royale, 1839-1853). The small topographical prints were largely untouched and stayed as they had been in Fridenberg’s shop, in geographic-based groupings held within repurposed and relabeled cases of disbound books.

On March 16, 1992, the prints were moved in their file cabinets to Yale’s Lewis Walpole Library in Farmington, Connecticut, and placed in an outbuilding. Joan Sussler, curator of prints at the library, mined the collection for images relevant to the Walpole collection. Approximately half of the prints of England and Scotland, and a good selection of English portraits, were extracted and taken into the library’s storage area but were not cataloged, processed, or integrated into the Lewis Walpole collection. In 1999 the “Prints and Plates Collection” was acquired by Beinecke Library, packed into cartons, and returned to New Haven; retitled the “General Print Collection,” it was given the call number Uncat MS Vault Prints, and a box-level inventory was created without a catalog record in Orbis. In 2012 more refined processing began on the peripatetic collection, and it was once again retitled, this time to acknowledge Robert Fridenberg as its collector. In 2015 the British prints at the Lewis Walpole Library were transferred to Beinecke and added to the collection. Views of London and English towns were either interfiled with those already sorted and filed or added to the end of the existing topographical files. The portraits were left physically together and filed at the end of the topographical files; both were integrated intellectually through listings in the finding aid.

This collection history was compiled through telephone interviews with Joseph Verner Reed Jr. (1937-2016, Yale 1961, son of the donor), former Arts of the Book curators Dale Roylance (1924-2013) and Gay Walker, and former Yale Librarian James R. Tanis (1928-2015, Yale 1951, librarian 1965-1968), in addition to extensive research in the Yale Librarian Records (RU 120) at Manuscripts and Archives, Sterling Memorial Library.

Former call number: Uncat MS Vault Prints

Guide to the Robert Fridenberg Collection of Portrait and Topographical Prints
Under Revision
by Beinecke Staff
2017, updated 2023
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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


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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.