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The Harold Jantz Collection

The Harold Jantz Collection of German Baroque Literature and German Americana is one of the treasures of the Special Collections Library. Its nearly 10,000 volumes offer fascinating views of German literature and culture during the Baroque period, the literary relations between Germany and America, and a wide range of other topics. The Collection is also noteworthy for the insight it gives into the mind of Harold Jantz, the great scholar and bibliophile.

Harold Jantz (1907-1987) was a native of Elyria, Ohio, who graduated in 1929 from Oberlin College. He earned his PhD from the University of Wisconsin, and went on to a distinguished teaching career at Antioch College, Clark, Princeton, Northwestern, Johns Hopkins and Duke University, as well as the universities in Hamburg and Vienna.

A noted Goethe scholar, and later a pioneer in the study of colonial American verse, Jantz¹s interests took him in many different directions. In a 1979 article about his collection, he wrote, "I lost a lot of time and gained a lot of knowledge because my curiosity was constantly leading me astray and I was never able to stay with the research in hand." This curiosity was a key factor in Jantz¹s success in book collecting. His knack for finding bargains which turned out to be extremely rare, even unique, is nearly legendary. Harold Jantz was not a collector of "high spots," although his collection does include some very well known works in fine editions. Rather, he developed an extraordinarily deep collection which includes the minor works of major authors, the major works of minor authors, and even, in some cases, the minor works of minor authors. Because of its inclusiveness, the Jantz Collection offers scholars the opportunity to form a particularly complete picture of its areas of specialty.

The Baroque literature in the Jantz Collection comprises the largest such resource in the United States. It complements the better-known, but somewhat smaller, collection of Curt von Faber du Faur at Yale University. Together these two collections rival the outstanding holdings of the library at Wolfenbüttel, Germany. The particular strength of this part of the Jantz collection is its many literary works, especially those of "forgotten" authors.

The German Americana in the Jantz Collection is one of the largest known collections of German works published before 1801 that contain references to America. Many of these works are what Jantz termed "hidden Americana," that is, works whose titles give no indication that they contain material relevant to America, but which nonetheless include significant American content. The Jantz Collection also includes a pioneer collection of German Americana from the period 1801-1830, which has been neglected as an area of study before Jantz¹s interest in it. The collection is also strong in later 19th-century materials, including many popular novels about America.

The Duke University Library acquired the main portion of the Baroque literature collection in 1976. This part of the collection was microfilmed by Research Publications in the 1970¹s. The libraries of several universities, including Duke and Johns Hopkins, own copies of the microfilm set. The German Americana, and other materials that Dr. Jantz had collected after the initial transfer, came to Duke after his death. In 1990, Duke and Johns Hopkins received funding from the Department of Education for a joint two-year project to catalog the Jantz Collection. The German Americana and the materials received subsequent to the microfilming project have been catalogued at Duke, while the microfilms of the collections of Baroque literature have been catalogued at Johns Hopkins. This cataloging project is now nearly complete, making the Jantz Collection easily accessible to scholars at Duke and Johns Hopkins, and through OCLC and RLIN, to scholars throughout the world.