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Pages From the Past: Original Leaves From Rare Books and Manuscripts

Identifier: SCA-0053

Scope and Content

The contents of this collection are as distributed by the Society of Foliophiles in 1964. Most of the information is derived from descriptive essays accompanying each item, as well as public catalog records for the original volumes where applicable. One item is disputed and the plaque for one is missing. One manuscript sheet not originally belonging to the set was added for its relevance. These and other notes are indicated under the item’s description.


  • circa 2300 BCE – 1937 CE, bulk 1400 – 1850
  • Majority of material found within 1400 - 1850



Collection is open for research. Staff may restrict access at its discretion on the basis of physical condition.


The leaf book represents a unique and controversial practice in book collecting. In the early twentieth century, some organizations began to deal in portfolios that they constructed from individual leaves, or pages of rare books and manuscripts. Each leaf would be attached to a backing page and accompanied by a short essay describing the work the leaf was taken from, its history and provenance. This offered a way for less well-endowed collectors to possess pieces of history they might otherwise not be able to afford, as well as providing documentary surveys of historical printmaking in an encapsulated format.

While the objects in this collection fulfill the latter objective, they also offer an unintentional lesson in poor custody of rare and valuable materials. This set, collected and mounted by the now-defunct Society of Foliophiles, Inc., is in several respects an irresponsible act of scholarship. Many of the leaves here would have been cut from complete volumes, destroying the original object in the process. They were also affixed to portfolios with tapes and glues that caused irreversible damage to the leaves, particularly in the upper corners. The archive has removed each item from the portfolios and placed them in separate enclosures to ensure their preservation.

However, none of this damage has erased the scholarly and aesthetic value of the pieces themselves. The items in the collection display a wealth of artistry, craftsmanship, and intellectual content from across millennia of Western print history. There are numerous examples of hand press printing and engravings, as well as illuminated and rubricated manuscripts and even artifacts from the ancient societies of Mesopotamia and Egypt.

It is unknown how this particular portfolio set found its way to the holdings of Queens College. A document from 1978 mentions it in the former Paul Klapper Library, so it has resided here for at least that long.


1 Linear Feet (3 boxes, 151 items)

Language of Materials



This collection contains 150 objects from a portfolio set of “Pages From the Past”, collected and distributed by the now-defunct Society of Foliophiles in New York. They are individual leaves from original printed books and manuscripts in several languages, providing a compact yet extensive history of Western bookmaking from ancient Sumeria to the twentieth-century United States.


Materials are separated by the manner of their creation. Within each series, items are organized by date.



Special Formats

Vellum, parchment, clay, papyrus, stone


Pages From the Past: Original Leaves From Rare Books and Manuscripts
Additional processing performed and finding aid prepared by Mark Sacha, Fall 2015.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Queens College (New York, N.Y.) Special Collections and Archives Repository

Queens College Library, CUNY
Benjamin Rosenthal Library RO317
65-30 Kissena Boulevard
Flushing 11367 USA us