May 28, 2022

Northwestern University Completes Digitization of 16th Century Library

From the Northwestern University Library:

It was a “coup de bibliothèque” for this fledgling college of fewer than 300 students on the wooded shores of Lake Michigan. In 1870, “North Western University” as it was often still called, purchased one of the great private book collections of Germany, the library of Johannes Schulze (1786–1869), a recently deceased senior official in the Prussian ministry of religion and culture, friend and companion to Goethe, Hegel, Schopenhauer, and Leopold von Ranke. Schulze was a fanatical collector of rare books, especially relating to Greek and Roman antiquity. Upon its arrival in Evanston, shipped out just before the outbreak of war between Prussia and France, Schulze’s collection was renamed the “Greenleaf Library,” honoring Luther T. Greenleaf (1821–1886), the Northwestern trustee who made the acquisition possible through a generous gift of real estate to the university. The whole story of this acquisition makes for exciting reading: it is online here.

Using its Kirtas scanner, Northwestern University Library has now digitized 288 of the 314 16th century imprints in what we now call the “Schulze-Greenleaf Library,” allowing scholars of the early years of European printing—as well as the curious general public—to examine each book page by page, in full color, and in very high resolution. Every page has been reproduced, as well as bindings, endpapers, and all blank pages. A reading-glass-like tool allows readers to look at individual features of every book in great detail.


This new resource is now accessible through Northwestern’s Digitized Collections Portal. Records and links to each item in the collection are contained in NUcat and WorldCat, making the books of this new digital library discoverable by those who know nothing of the Prussian scholar Johannes Schulze, the Evanston philanthropist Luther Greenleaf, or of the library that now bears both their names.

Read the Complete Announcement

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.