Frequently Asked Questions
- Rosenbach collections
- Research services
- Questions about your books, manuscripts, and art
Q: Was all of this collected by the Rosenbachs?
A: Most of what you see on tour was gathered by the Rosenbachs. Our collections have grown by about one-third since their deaths, mostly due to the addition of several large collections like the Marianne Moore Papers, the Rush-Williams-Biddle Family Papers, and the deposit of Maurice Sendak’s drawings.
Q: Does the Rosenbach still purchase items for the collection?
A: Yes, though we have very limited funds for the purpose. We focus our purchasing on items that are closely related to our present collections, and ﬁll signiﬁcant “gaps.”
Q: Does the Rosenbach accept donations?
A: We do accept donations of items that ﬁt within the scope of our collections and meet our criteria for signiﬁcance and condition. If you have an item that you would like to have considered for donation, please contact jmguston [at] rosenbach [dot] org (Judy Guston), Curator & Director of Collections. Please note that we cannot accept donations of objects that are left at the museum without prior arrangement.
Q: What’s the oldest material in the collections?
A: Our oldest printed book is a copy of the I Ching (Book of Changes), printed in China during the Sung Dynasty, about the tenth century. We also have one leaf of the Gutenberg Bible (1455), the oldest Western book printed in movable type. Our oldest manuscript books are three Christian commentaries dating from the twelfth century.
Our oldest art object is a small sardonyx gem amulet with an inscription in the name of Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon from 606 to 561 B.C.E.
Q: What’s the most valuable thing in the collections?
A: There are many kinds of value: cultural, aesthetic, and research value among them. Since these cannot be measured objectively, it is impossible to point to a single item as the most valuable on any of these scales. Even monetary value, which seems so concrete, is largely determined by subjective criteria, and it can only be established with certainty when an item is sold.
Q: How do you pronounce “Rosenbach,” anyway?
A: People who knew the Rosenbach brothers testify that they pronounced their last name “Rosenback,” and this is supported by documentary evidence.
Q: Why do I need an appointment?
A: We need to be sure there will be space for you in the reading room, since at times it is ﬁlled to capacity with researchers. We need to schedule time for staff members to work with you. And we can make the best use of your time by taking time before your arrival to locate the materials appropriate to your research and to make sure they will be available (not, for example, on exhibition or loan or undergoing conservation) when you want to come.
Q: Can I check out books?
A: Because our books need special handling, and many are irreplaceable, we do not check them out or lend them through interlibrary loan. We do lend materials for exhibition to other museums and libraries that meet our rigorous display and care criteria.
Q: Who owns the copyright to works in the collections?
In almost all instances, the Rosenbach owns only the physical property in its holdings—not the intellectual property, or copyright, associated with them. For items not in the public domain these rights are retained by the authors and artists or by their heirs or estates.
For help in identifying copyright holders, consult WATCH, an extensive database of copyright contacts for writers, artists, and prominent ﬁgures in other creative ﬁelds. WATCH also has links to other useful information about copyright and intellectual property.
Q: Does the Rosenbach offer fellowships for research in its collections?
A: At this time the Rosenbach cannot offer ﬁnancial support for research in its collections. These sites may help you locate funding:
In addition to information on the Council’s own program of fellowships and grants, entries in the online directory of constituent societies list each organization’s offerings
The links page includes an extensive section on funding and grants
Questions About Your Books, Manuscripts, and Art
Q: Can you tell me if my old book is rare?
A: For a helpful explanation of the concept of rarity, and answers to other frequently asked questions about rare books and book values, look at the excellent Your Old Books, from the Rare Books and Manuscripts Section of the American Library Association.
Q: Can you tell me what my book/manuscript /work of art is worth?
A: The Rosenbach cannot appraise or authenticate objects. The following sites will help you ﬁnd qualiﬁed dealers and appraisers who can do this for you.
Search for Appraisers from the Maine Antiques Digest covers the three major American appraisal groups: American Society of Appraisers, the Appraisers Association of America, and the International Society of Appraisers
Q: Can you give me advice about conserving, repairing, or restoring my books, manuscripts, and art?
A: The American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works operates a free conservation referral system and offers some other useful documents:
Q: I have a book or manuscript that may have come from the Rosenbach Company. What can you tell me about it?
A: The Rosenbach Company archives include book and manuscript stock books and ﬁles with descriptions of and information about the purchase and sale of items. There are also vouchers documenting purchases by the company, sales books documenting every purchase from the company, customer account records, correspondence, and catalogs of many auctions at which the Company purchased material.
You may submit an inquiry about your item using our web form.When you contact us about an item that may have come from the Rosenbach Company, please give the following information to guide our search:
1) If the item is a printed book, transcription of the information on the title page. (This is a more authoritative source than the cover.) If there is no title page, look for author, title, printer/publisher, edition and date information on the opening or closing pages or the cover. If the item is a printed document, provide as much of this information as can be located; it can often be found on the ﬁrst or last pages of the document.
2) If the item is in manuscript (that is, handwritten), the author, recipient (if a letter), title or type of document (for example, deed, letter, diary), and date, if any of these are known.
3) Number of pages
4) Description of the binding: material, color, and decoration (if applicable)
5) Any information you have about former owners and history of the item, either before or after it came into the Company’s hands. This includes names, dates, any inscriptions; bookplates or labels; initials or coats of arms on bindings. Anything you may know or guess, such as auction dates or booksellers who might have handled the item, could prove helpful as well.
7) Penciled numbers or strings of letters that may be Rosenbach Company stock numbers or price codes. These are usually found inside the front cover, sometimes inside the back cover or on a preliminary page. Stock numbers have the form of a number between 1 and 821, followed by a slash (/) and another number between 1 and 30 (for example, 364/21). Price codes are strings of capital letters based on a keyword, which stand for numerals as follows:
HOVERZACKS=1234567890 The letter N is also used to stand for additional zeroes, and X to indicate a repeated digit.
Q I have an old painting/print that has a “Rosenbach Galleries” label on the back. What can you tell me about it?
The Rosenbach Company, whose showrooms were also known as the Rosenbach Galleries, was in business from 1903-1953. Rosenbach Company records will typically indicate an object’s purchase price, its sale price, its buyer, and its sale date. Sometimes records will indicate where the Company acquired the object and/or the date of purchase, but this information is spotty. Company records will not help in authenticating a piece of art (since their own attributions were often faulty) or in establishing current market value.
The Rosenbach Company both sold artwork and framed clients’ art. Typically art they sold would be marked with a stock number in the form of a number between 1 and 821, followed by a slash (/) and another number between 1 and 30 (for example, 364/21). Items they framed would typically have a label saying “to reorder this frame, please mention” followed by a two to four digit number.
The best way to track down the original sales record is through the stock number or frame number. It is also often possible to track down the record if you know the original purchaser. Please include any additional information you may have regarding artist, title, and the framed size of the picture. Unfortunately the art sales were not indexed by artist or title, so we cannot look up records this way; however you are welcome to make a research appointment and look through the complete stock books yourself.
You may submit an inquiry about your item using our web form.
Q: Can you help me ﬁnd biographical information about an artist?
A: Our reference collection is small and focused on people and objects represented in our own collections. The reading room does have copies of biographical dictionaries, including The Benezit Dictionary of Artists, which you are welcome to consult. The following online resources may also be of use:
And don’t overlook that great resource, your local reference librarian, who can help you use print and electronic resources in the library and direct you to additional sources at other libraries or on line.