In the TMA Library: Collection Catalogues of the Past

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Want your friends to take note of your most prized possessions in 2017? Post pictures of them on Facebook. But in 1917? An altogether more lavish process was in place—one that involved hiring people to make handmade paper, create painstaking reproductions of your art collection, and bind the pages together in a massive tome.

Collectors from J. Pierpont Morgan to the British royal family would have these catalogues of their own collections made, printing 150 or fewer editions and mailing them to their closest friends (and perhaps rivals, too) as evidence of the beautiful art they’d amassed.

Examples of these extravagant private collection catalogues are on display this season in the TMA Art Reference Library, which carries approximately 2,800 examples with publication dates ranging from 1704 to 2017. Many of them show the origins of some of America’s great art museum collections, which were built on donations of these private collectors. To view the catalogues, visit the TMA Reference Library, located on the first floor of the Center for Visual Arts building.

For more information about the TMA Reference Library, visit or call 419-254-5770 for more information.

A version of this article originally appeared in Volume 13, Issue 3 of arTMAtters, the Toledo Museum of Art’s member magazine.

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