Paper on Terence Tanner Collection

A new Occasional Paper, “Early Illinois Newspapers and Job Printers: The Terence A. Tanner Collection,” describes in detail one Chicago antiquarian bookseller’s efforts to write a revised history of nineteenth century Illinois newspapers and commercial job printers.

The paper’s author, Ryan A. Ross, worked closely with Tanner’s collection (spanning 1981 through 2002), which includes two published articles, copious notes, and research files, now located in the Illinois History and Lincoln Collections at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Library . The collection is a rich treasury of source material for the early history of Illinois and its newspapers and printers.

“The treasury of Tanner’s notes and published items is overwhelming in breadth and detail, and invaluable to the field of Illinois history,” writes Ross, an archivist in the Illinois History and Lincoln Collections. “Tanner’s two decades of research, while never completed, provide the most extensive study known of Illinois job printers and newspapers for the period 1814-58.”

Tanner devoted the last 20 years of his life to updating two standard, but incomplete, Illinois bibliographies: Franklin William Scott’s Newspapers and Periodicals of Illinois, 1814-1879 and Cecil K. Byrd’s A Bibliography of Illinois Imprints, 1814-58 . He donated his files to the University Library in 2002, one year before his death.

“On occasion the long hard work of the collector/researcher meets with the skills of the library archivist/scholar.  Such a meeting, of great importance for the history of printing and publishing in Illinois, occurred when Terry Tanner’s papers were given to the U of I Library. Ryan Ross organized this mass of material into 17 boxes and interpreted it for all future students of print culture in a useful guide to the Tanner Collection,” said James M. Cornelius, Ph.D., curator of the Lincoln Collection at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. “His 32-page descriptive inventory is both an overview of the topic and an introduction to serious research on an amazing—and scarcely examined—part of our intellectual past.”

Thomas F. Schwartz, Ph.D., currently the director of the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum and formerly the Illinois State Historian, said, “No individual knew more about Illinois newspapers than the late Terry Tanner. The significance of Tanner’s research notes is clearly explained in Ryan Ross’s seminal study of the Tanner archive. A must-read for those interested in the early history of Illinois.”

Ross’s paper, Occasional Paper No. 216, is available in PDF format through the Illinois Digital Environment for Access to Learning and Scholarship (IDEALS), the digital repository for scholarly works produced at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Visit to view and download the paper in its entirety.

The Occasional Papers Series is published by the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. It consists of papers addressing varied aspects of librarianship, as well as those of specialized or contemporary interest, that generally are too lengthy or detailed for publication in a periodical.

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