Comics at Columbia

Columbia University Libraries’ comics collection began in 2005, with a small budget and a big dream.  At that time, the libraries’ holdings were limited to three curricular favorites: Art Spiegelman’s Maus, Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis, and Joe Sacco’s Palestine.

The original goal of the collection was to capture the unique nature of New York in comics as well as in other mediums, and to gather the crème de la crème of comics (as measured by the Eisner, Harvey, and Ignatz awards).  As the collection grew however–standing now at over 2,200 titles, many of them multi-volume series–the scope grew as well.  Now, the libraries seek to collect works that display artistic, literary, historical, and/or pedagogical merit.

A complement to the graphic novels collection in Butler Library is the zine collection in Barnard College’s Wollman Library.  Barnard’s zines are written by women (cis- and transgender) with an emphasis on zines by women of color, as well as zines on feminism and femme identity by people of all genders.  The collection contains minicomics, as well as zines, including several by artists who have gone on to create full-length graphic works represented in Butler Library’s collection, for example Gabrielle Bell, Abby Denson, Fly, Corinne Mucha, MariNaomi, MK Reed, and Columbia alumna Ariel Schrag.

The newest participant in comics at Columbia is the Rare Book and Manuscript Library (RBML).  With the gift of noted comics writer Chris Claremont’s archives, Columbia can begin to position itself as an important destination for comics research.  Once the archives have been processed, an online finding aid will be available for anyone to peruse a detailed description of the contents.   Researchers will then be able to come to RBML to consult the archives directly.

We in the Columbia University Libraries hope that the Claremont archives are the beginning of wider acquisitions in the papers of comics writers and artists in the New York City area.

For questions about comics at Columbia, please contact Karen Green at klg19@columbia.edu.