Special Collections: The Nietz Old Textbook Collection
363 Hillman Library
3960 Forbes Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15260
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The Nietz Collection at the University of Pittsburgh contains approximately 19,000 primary and secondary schoolbooks, some of which date back to the sixteenth century, most of which were published before 1900. The collection was donated to the ULS in 1957 by Dr. John A. Nietz, Professor of Education in the Foundation of Education Department at the University, and consisted of 9,000 volumes; since then, the ULS Special Collections department has made a concerted effort to expand the collection.
The Nietz Collection is an extraordinarily rich resource for the educational, social, and intellectual history of the United States. The collection is described in the Seventh Edition of the reference volume "Subject Collections" and in "Paradigm: the Journal of the Textbook Colloquium." It is presently the second or third largest historical collection of early American schoolbooks in the country. Other major collections are found at Harvard University, Columbia University, the American Antiquarian Society, and the Library of Congress.
Among the types of schoolbooks represented in the collection are spellers, readers (primers), grammars, arithmetics, geographies, American histories, civil government texts, physiologies, penmanship, art, music, composition, rhetoric, literature, algebra, geometry, natural history (zoologies), botany, natural philosophy (physics), chemistry, Latin, Greek, French, and German. The collection also contains a representative group of nineteenth-century American dictionaries along with a number of letter-writing manuals.
Dr. Nietz wrote two scholarly works based directly on his schoolbook collection, "Old Textbooks (1961" and "the Evolution of American Secondary School Textbooks (1966)." These books remain seminal works for understanding the types and characteristics of early American schoolbooks. Within his two books, Dr. Nietz discusses or cites 1,753 schoolbooks, making his study the most comprehensive for his time. Indeed, his works continue to be cited in most of the subsequent scholarly treatment of early American schoolbooks.
Currently, the Nietz Collection is housed at the University Library System's Library Collection Storage Unit. For instructions on how to use this collection, please see below.
Nietz Digital Collection:
There are also 140 Nietz textbooks that have been scanned. These titles are online and available here.
Requesting Books from the Nietz Collection:
For University of Pittsburgh Users:
The Nietz Collection books are available via the Get it! system on PITTCat
To use Get it!:
- Find the not checked out item in PITTCat+ you want.
- Click the Get it! link in the record. Click Get it! on the next screen and follow the on screen prompts.
For researchers not affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh:
- Please call or email the Special Collections Department if you interested in requesting Nietz books from storage.