Guide to the Research Collections



Collecting Policy

Folklore is one of the strong features of the library's collection, with holdings of 6,650 volumes. The collecting policy is comprehensive in all areas except in Oriental languages, which are collected on a representative basis. The collection of periodicals, including society publications, is good, with generally complete files in many languages. The Research Libraries currently receive approximately 40 periodical titles from the United States, England, and both Western and Eastern Europe dealing directly with folklore. Most of the important works on the subject which have appeared since the 1870s are in the holdings, as are a number of others of secondary importance. Related materials are found in the resources of such fields as dance, music (folk songs), juvenile literature, and philosophy (with works on occultism, witchcraft,6 etc.).

A collection of about 450 volumes in the American History Division (Billings class mark HABR) contains material on Indian folklore of tribes of the Americas. It reflects the awakening of interest in American folklore just after World War II, and covers folk tales, folk dances, and folk songs. Periodicals include the Journal of American Folklore (1888-) and many other journals of a regional nature. The division selectively collects folklore written for children.

Most of the library's Oriental folklore holdings are in Western European languages, with the exception of rare illustrated books, manuscripts, and scrolls in the Spencer Collection and reprints of original texts in the collections of the Oriental Division. Other material in this division includes Henri Doré's Recherches sur les superstitions en Chine (1911-38), published first as part of Variétés sinologiques, also in the division, both in French and in English translation, and the works of Verrier Elwin on Indian folk tales and folk lore.

A folklore collection of about 1,500 titles in the Balto-Slavic languages in the Slavonic Division emphasizes folk tales and folk songs. The collecting policy is comprehensive, with the exception of materials in the Uralic and Altaic languages, which are selectively collected.

The Jewish Division holdings in folklore, numbering about 700 volumes, are strong in editions of the Aggadah. There are many editions of Jacob ibn Habib's anthology of the aggadic sections of the Talmud, Ein Yaakov (1460-1516). There is a good collection of modern periodicals and books on Jewish folklore.


The collection of English, Scottish, American, Italian, and other European chapbooks in the Research Libraries numbers 2,650 pieces, ranging from the fifteenth century to about 1850, and provides strong supplementary materials for the study of folklore and folk traditions.7 Chapbooks include anything from broadsides to full-sized books sold by chapmen, peddlers, hawkers, or flying-stationers. Many chapbooks were designed for children. The Spencer Collection has over the years acquired a strong collection of Italian rappresentazione and other popular tracts of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Rappresentazione are chapbooks, usually of four to six leaves, reproducing miracle and other sacred plays given on certain saint's days. The contemporary popular tracts consist of frottola, noveli, romances, etc. illustrated with woodcuts. About 150 items of this nature join the other rich holdings of material in the Rare Book Division and the Central Children's Room of the Branch Libraries. An alphabetical card catalog of all single chapbooks in the Rare Book Division is located there; other items in the Research Libraries are entered under the heading "Chapbooks," with geographical designations, in the Rare Book Division public catalog. Since 1935 the collections have been substantially augmented by gifts and purchases.

Other Folklore-Related Materials

The Spencer Collection's holdings of Oriental books, manuscripts, and scrolls contain a wealth of folklore-related material from China, Japan,

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India, Arabia, and other countries. The Indian materials dating from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries are written in Sanskrit or Hindi, and finely illustrated by artists of the Rajasthani, Punjabi, Kangra, and other schools. Japanese scrolls, books, and manuscripts in the collection excel in imaginative folklore; examples are a 1587 scroll entitled Zegaib[omacr ] emaki, illustrated with impressionistic and humorous sketches of a Tengu (a dweller of the forest, winged, beaked, and clawed, belonging neither to heaven nor to hell), a printed version of The Story of the Fox of 1650, and a seventeenth-century scroll of demons roaming the streets at night.

The Prints Division has always emphasized imagerie populaire. A colorful group of Chinese New Year's pictures of ethnographic significance hail from many different provinces.