Spring 2002
Volume 6 Number 3






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Valuable Print Collection Gift to PTS

Photo: James R. Tanis

James R. Tanis with part of his collection

“We’re going to have one of the largest collections in the country of prints of leading Christian figures,” said William Harris, librarian for archives and special collections, upon James R. Tanis’s gift of his print collection (which also includes woodcuts, etchings, and steel engravings) to the Seminary libraries.

Tanis, who serves as parish associate minister at Valley Forge Presbyterian Church in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, and is director of libraries emeritus and professor emeritus of history at Bryn Mawr College, met Harris through a mutual friend, the Reverend Walter Funk of Oil City, Pennsylvania. That connection led to Tanis’s donation. Harris explains Tanis’s generosity by saying, “He’s a good Presbyterian.”

The collection, which Tanis estimates will eventually consist of between 3,000 and 3,500 prints, contains mostly portraits of Protestant clergy from the early 16th century through the end of the 19th century, though it includes smaller collections of portraits of popes, Catholic clergy, the saints, and 17th-century lord protector of England, Ireland, and Scotland Oliver Cromwell. Original drawings of 16th-century Reformers are also included. Tanis acknowledges that “some of them are prints of real artistic merit; others have absolutely no artistic merit at all, because that wasn’t the criterion of the collection—the subject matter was the criterion.”

A collector since his youth, especially of pictures in books, Tanis came across the contents of his collection in various places, such as secondhand shops, estate sales, bookstores, junk stores, print shops, and auctions. Tanis has researched the history of all the pieces he’s given, and will donate additional pieces as he discovers and records their history.

Parts of the collection will be exhibited in Luce Library by early summer. It will also be put online in connection with PTS’s library catalog.