Skip to main content
Grolier Club Exhibitions

Written Impressions. Writing: Manuscripts as Forerunners and Adjuncts to Printing.


“Messenger” tablet. 

Cuneiform tablet, Sumer, Third Dynasty of Ur (ca. 2112-2004 BCE), probably dating to the reign of King Shu-Suen, ca. 2037-2029 BCE.


“Administrative” tablet. 

Cuneiform tablet, Sumer, Third dynasty of Ur (ca. 2112-2004 BCE); Year 9 of King Amar-Suen of Ur, ca. 2046-2038 BCE.


These two cuneiform tablets are by far the oldest objects in the Grolier Club Library. Cuneiform is one of the earliest systems of writing, invented by the Sumerians in ancient Mesopotamia in the late fourth millennium BCE. It was largely replaced by the Phoenician alphabet in the first millennium BCE and was extinct by the second century CE.  

The tablet on the left is a typical example of a “messenger” tablet, giving an account of rations for various foodstuffs (beer, bread, onions, oil, and potash) transported between cities by an envoy for the royal administration. The tablet on the right is an administrative record of several plant products received by an official, and the amount of oil derived from them. 

In 2012, these two tablets were translated for the Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative (CDLI), a joint project of UCLA, the University of Oxford, and the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin.  

Gift of Kit Currie, 2005. 


Feder und Stichel: Alphabete und Schriftblätter in zeitgemäßer Darstellung; geschrieben von Hermann Zapf; in Metallgeschnitten von August Rosenberger.

Frankfurt am Main: D. Stempel, 1949. 


Feder und Stichel (“Pen and Graver”) is a writing manual designed by the great German type designer and calligrapher Hermann Zapf for the Stempel type foundry. Although the work was not published until 1949, Zapf designed the scripts in 1939-1941, and Stempel’s punchcutter, August Rosenberger, engraved them into metal plates during the war, at times taking his graver into the air-raid shelter. Zapf’s iconic Palatino type first appeared in the introduction to this work. This is one of only 80 copies produced for the 1949 first edition, all on Japanese paper. 

Purchased in 2014 with Grolier Club Library Harper Funds.   

Written Impressions. Writing: Manuscripts as Forerunners and Adjuncts to Printing.