Valuable Print Collection Gift to PTS
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
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
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.