University of Notre Dame


Hesburgh Libraries

Rare Books & Special Collections

Broadsides, Prints & Posters

Broadsides are single-sided printed sheets whose content is primarily or exclusively textual. They vary greatly in size, from proclamations 100 cm. high to diminutive sheets of song or verse. Many bear illustrations or other graphic embellishments. For most of their history, from the sixteenth to nineteenth century, they were a form of ephemera, intended for temporary public display, dissemination, or sale. The content of broadsides is various. They may be political or legal pronouncements; statements of warning in times of emergency; instruments of protest; forms of musical or literary entertainment; or advertisements. In the twentieth century broadsides became a preferred format of many small presses, especially for the publication of poetry.

Most broadsides in RBSC are held together in a dedicated location ("Special Collections Broadsides") and are searchable in the Hesburgh Libraries online catalog. Some items are associated with individual manuscript or ephemera collections and are housed accordingly. Collections with substantial broadside components include the Robert Creeley Ephemera (EPH 5009) and the John Matthias Collection (EPH 5026).

The largest topical collection in Special Collections Broadsides is a group of more than 500 Irish ballads of the 1860s and 70s. Other areas of focus are U.S. history, sports and physical culture, the history of universities, and modern American poetry.

RBSC houses a modest collections of loose prints—wood and steel engravings, etchings, woodcuts, lithographs, mezzotints, and other forms. These are held in a dedicated location ("Special Collections Prints"). A finding aid to these items is currently in preparation. Most notable is an accumulation of more than 100 prints relating to the life and work of the poet Dante, mainly from the nineteenth century. Prints in bound volumes or in portfolios are housed in the rare books collections, and may be accessed through the Libraries’ online catalog. Perhaps the most significant accumulation of prints in RBSC is found within the Eric Gill Collection (MS Gill).

Most of the posters in RBSC are part of broader manuscript or ephemera collections. Particularly notable are the 200-odd items in the Jack Pfefer Wrestling Collection. There are also posters in Gill, and in the various modern poetry collections. A finding aid to the dedicated general poster collection ("Special Collections Posters") is currently in preparation.

Inquiries about broadside, print, and poster holdings in RBSC may be directed to the general departmental email.