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Thank you, Michael Durgin, for sending along the news of Peter Van Wingen's
passing. I copy below Terry Belanger's obituary of Van Wingen, sent to the
ExLibris list, although I imagine that someone else may be copying it here as
well. I was one of the many students that Belanger refers to, who sat in
awestruck admiration in Peter and Alice Schreyer's History of the Book class at
one of Terry Belanger's summer Rare Book Schools, when it was held at Columbia
University. I also planned to stop and see Peter at the Library of Congress in
Spring 1993. When I called, Peter told me it would be shortly after his return
to work from his illness. I suggested that he might have a lot to do right then,
but he insisted, and we had a delightful visit. One of Peter's many gifts was
communicating his love for the book arts; he was a friend to the book artist
within the Library of Congress. I wish I had known him better, but Terry
Belanger conveys the breadth of Peter's accomplishments as well as his generous
spirit, for us all.
>From tb3e@POE.ACC.VIRGINIA.EDU Fri Dec 1 16:36:31 1995
From: Terry Belanger <tb3e@POE.ACC.VIRGINIA.EDU>
Date: Thu, 30 Nov 1995 17:27:36 -0500
Subject: Peter VanWingen
Here follows an obituary for Peter VanWingen, including details
of the service to be held in his memory on December 16th:
Peter Martin VanWingen, an only child, was born in 1947 in Grand
Rapids, Michigan, where he attended public schools, working
summers in a bakery owned by his mother's family. He was
graduated from Hope College in nearby Holland, MI, in 1970.
In 1972, he received an M.Div degree from the New Brunswick
Theological Seminary in New Jersey; but shortly after receiving
this degree he decided to pursue a career in academic
librarianship. He attended the Columbia University School of
Library Service (SLS) in 1972-73 while working part-time in the
university library. He received his master's in library science
At Columbia, he developed an interest in rare book librarian-
ship, and he was one of the original Printers of the Book Arts
Press (BAP), a laboratory for the study of the history of books
and printing. He met his future wife, Rachel Senner, at SLS,
where she, too, was one of the original Printers of the BAP; they
were married in 1974. In that year he co-authored (with John E.
Peters) _The Type Punches at Columbia University_, an inventory
of an uncataloged collection of type punches acquired by Columbia
as part of the Library of the American Type Founders Company.
VanWingen's first professional jobs were at the New York
Public Library, where he worked in the Rare Book Division and
later in the General Reference Division of the Research
Libraries. In 1975, James Mosley invited him to join the staff of
the St Bride Printing Library in London, the English-speaking
world's largest library devoted to the history of printing and
its allied arts.
By 1977, the VanWingens' thoughts were again turning to the
United States. In June of that year, VanWingen flew to Toronto to
attend a rare book conference, but returned to London almost by
the next plane when his first son, Matthew, was born. Not long
after, VanWingen accepted the position of Head of the Reading
Room in the Rare Book and Special Collections Division of the
Library of Congress (LC). The VanWingens' second son, Jacob, was
born in 1979.
VanWingen received several promotions at LC, and on division
chief's J. William Matheson's retirement in 1987 he became acting
chief of the rare book and special collections division, a
position he held until 1990. In 1992, he was appointed the rare
book division's Specialist for the Book Arts and Curator of the
Lessing J. Rosenwald Collection. He was involved with organizing
and mounting a number of important exhibitions during this
period, notably one on the Gehenna Press, which VanWingen saw
through to successful completion despite the onset of the illness
that would eventually result in his death. He was throughout his
career at LC a very visible presence in the division's reading
room, where he will long be fondly remembered by a large number
of grateful readers.
In 1982, he and Stephen Paul Davis were co-authors of the LC
publication, _Standard Citation Forms for Published
Bibliographies and Catalogs Used in Rare Book Cataloging_; a
second edition of this work was published in 1995.
In 1985, he and Alice Schreyer began to co-teach a course in
the history of the book at Rare Book School, an annual summer
institute then located at Columbia University. In the published
1990 evaluation of the course, one of their students noted:
``This is the best library instruction I have ever received.''
The two co-taught their well-attended course annually through
1993. Between 1990 and 1992, VanWingen also taught courses in the
history of the book as an adjunct professor at the library school
of Catholic University.
He was elected to membership in the Grolier Club in 1986, and
he was an active member in a number of professional
organizations. Between 1982 and 1985 he was Secretary of the
Bibliographical Society of America. He was chair of the Rare
Books & Manuscripts Section of the Association of College and
Research Libraries (a division of the American Library Associa-
tion, ALA) in 1989-90, presiding over the Section's 1990 pre-
conference, held in Minneapolis. He wrote a pamphlet intended for
widespread general distribution, _Your Old Books_, and patiently
shepherded its text through the Section's committee hierarchy to
its successful publication by ALA in 1988; a second edition was
published in 1994.
In 1992, he was elected President of the American Printing
History Association, a position he was forced to give up early in
1993, when it was discovered that he had a cancerous brain tumor.
Despite sometimes considerable side- and after-effects from
repeated surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation treatments, he
gallantly continued to work at LC, usually full-time. In the
summer of 1995, the growth spread to a point where it became
untreatable. He became bed-ridden in the fall of 1995, and he
died at home on Sunday, November 26th.
VanWingen was a member of the Hyattsville, Maryland,
Mennonite Church, where there will be a memorial service on
Saturday, December 16th, beginning at 4 pm. The Church is located
at 4217 East-West Hwy (MD State Highway 410) in Hyattsville. The
family has asked that in lieu of flowers, contributions in his
memory may be made to the Peter VanWingen Fund, Rare Book and
Special Collections Division, Library of Congress, Washington, DC
Peter VanWingen was blessed with an unflappable calm and sunny
disposition that made him an admirable friend and colleague. His
temperament balanced intelligence and practicality with a well-
developed sense of humor, and he was unfailingly kind. He was
greatly esteemed within the rare book world.
He was quite possibly the best-liked American rare book
librarian of his generation, as well as one of the most generous.
His loss is a great one.
Terry Belanger : University Professor : University of Virginia
Book Arts Press : 114 Alderman Library : Charlottesville, VA 22903
Tel: 804/924-8851 FAX: 804/924-8824 email: email@example.com
Betty Bright, alias abd = :->
Writer Curator Teacher