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Comics at the Library of Congress

by on July 12, 2018

When I volunteered at the University of Toledo Carlson Library, Ward M. Canaday Center for Special Collections, one of the main things I worked on was organizing a huge donation of Pete Hoffman “Jeff Cobb” cartoon storyboards. Pete was born in Toledo, and attended the University of Toledo. When he died in 2013, his family donated the storyboards to the university. Jeff Cobb was a daily cartoon from the 1950s through the 1978, so the donation was quite sizable.

Recently, the Library of Congress received its largest donation of comic books and pop-culture memorabilia. The donation came from a Baltimore-based collector named Stephen A. Geppi and totaled more than 3,000 items. The items include Mickey Mouse storyboards, Beatles memorabilia, an old brownie camera model F, and many other items. The library estimates the value of the entire collection somewhere in the millions. They describe their Comic book collection as follows:

“The largest publicly available collection of comic books in the United States is housed in the Newspaper and Current Periodical Reading Room.The collection includes U.S. and foreign comic books–over 12,000 titles in all, totaling more than 140,000 issues. Primarily composed of the original print issues, the collection includes color microfiche of selected early comic book titles (such as Superman, More Fun, and Action Comics), bound volumes of comic books submitted by the publishers and special reprints.The collection is most comprehensive from the mid-1940s on; however, many titles date back to the 1930s. For some of the earliest modern comic books (those which began publishing in the 1930s), the collection holdings begin with the early 1940s.” (Library of Congress 2017)

Some of the highlights of the collection include translated reissues of Japanese manga, other foreign language titles including German, Spanish and French comics, and a smaller sub collection of underground comic books, which are mainly geared toward adult readers.  Some titles include Akira, Gunsmith Cat, and Edgar Rice Burrough’s Tarzan.

Due to the age and fragility of these items the comic books are available to researchers under special conditions only. Essentially access is granted to serious collectors and researchers of specific issues in order to disseminate the information to the public via radio, film, dissertation, etc.

Geppi feels that his decision to donate makes sense because the collection deserves to be in a place that can preserve it forever. For that, there may be no better place than the Library of Congress.

Library of Congress. 2017. Library of Congress-Researchers. September 12. Accessed June 20, 2018.

The Washington Post. “The Library of Congress Acquires Its Largest Collection of Comic Books Ever,” by Michael Cavna, posted on May 30, 2018. Accessed July 12, 2018.