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Grand Rapids in 1856

Scene of early Grand Rapids viewed from the...

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More Than 1,000 Furniture Books

The Grand Rapids Public Library, in 1916, contained one of the notable collections on furniture and interior decoration in the United States. At that time it had more books on furniture than the Library of Congress, the largest library in the country and one of the largest in the world.

As an aid to the intelligent purchase of books on the subject of furniture, the library board appointed, in 1904, an advisory committee of furniture designers to work with the librarian and the book committee in the selection of material to purchase.

Members of the committee at that time were: A. W. Hompe of Royal Furniture Co., the late D. W. Kendall and the late Adrien Margantin. On the death of Mr. Kendall, Henry J. New of Nelson-Matter Co. was appointed in his place, and after the death of Mr. Margantin, Henry W. Frome, editor of Good Furniture, was appointed.

Largest Purchase

The first great purchase on furniture was everything relating to it in the exhibition of the French book trade at the International Exposition at St. Louis in 1904. This was the largest purchase ever made at one time, and it immediately attracted wide attention. When other institutions at the close of the exposition endeavored to get this collection, it was discovered that it had already been secured for Grand Rapids. Ten years earlier, in 1894, a start had been made in buying fine books on furniture for the library.

Type of Books

Books in the library’s furniture collection include technical books on glues, paints, stains, varnishes, woodworking machinery and other subjects closely related to the manufacture of furniture. There are a number of books on Colonial furniture, church furniture, and books on the furniture of great buildings, such as Windsor Castle, French palaces, and the castles of Berlin and Potsdam. Most of the books deal with the furniture of England, Germany and France, but there are special books on the furniture of Belgium, Spain, the Tyrol, Flanders, Russia, Scotland, Ireland, and Holland.

The library has endeavored to get, first of all, the standard works of the great designers such as the Adams, Chippendale, Hepplewhite and Sheraton. It has been the custom of the library for many years to display twice a year some of the recent things it has added to its collection in connection with the semi-annual furniture exhibitions.

In 2014 the library’s Furniture Collection housed over four thousand books.

Excerpted from the Grand Rapids Herald, January 14, 1916, p. 7.

Posted 12/3/2014

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