The J.B. Lippincott Company Records

Founded in Philadelphia in 1836 by Joshua B. Lippincott, J. B. Lippincott Company developed into one of the premier publishing houses in 1800s America. The publishers began by selling Bibles and then successfully expanded into trade books, which were published for a general audience. In the 1900s, the company expanded production of its successful line of medical and nursing books and journals. Today, the Lippincott imprint continues through a line of medical publications under Dutch-based Wolters Kluwer. 

 

The Historical Society of Pennsylvania houses the company’s records from 1833-1998. The collection includes letterpress books and scrapbooks of incoming and outgoing correspondence documenting the business operations between the Philadelphia office and its London agents between 1875 and 1936. It also contains the original watercolors of medical illustrations for Lippincott’s medical publications of the early 20th century.

In late 2019, HSP embarked on a multi-year project to arrange, describe, and preserve the J.B. Lippincott Company records. The 150 linear-foot archival collection was in physical disrepair, and while highly sought for its research value, the records were difficult to handle and access by patrons and staff alike. Now that the collections have been fully inventoried and arranged, the descriptive information in the new finding aid (available both online and onsite) will improve discovery and assist researchers using the records. Further, new housing, mold removal, spine repair, and a new home in one of HSP’s state of the art collection storage vaults ensure the collection’s longevity. The J.B. Lippincott Records, combined with a number of related collections, make HSP one of the richest repositories for studying the history of publishing in America.

Curiosities from the Lippincott Collection was on view at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania from April 11 through April 28. This display celebrated the completion of this multi-year project to preserve and process the 93 boxes and 768 volumes of this important collection. The online companion to the display is available here.

Publishing Home and Abroad, from Lippincott to Today was a virtual event hosted on April 27 at 1 PM (EST). Our speakers shared an understanding of the importance of the firm 150 years ago in establishing American publishing interests; they also discussed medical publishing today, and the importance of diverse representation in medical illustrations.

The Speakers:

Lisa McAllister, Vice-President, Professional Publishing with the Health Learning, Research & Practice business at Wolters Kluwer, 

currently leads content teams for Medical Education and Practice, Wolters Kluwer Spanish Language program, and AudioDigest Continuing Medical Education. 

Chidiebere Ibe, B.Sc., is a medical student and a Nigerian professional medical illustrator among the few in Africa. He is the Creative Director at the Association of Future African Neurosurgeons (AFAN), Young Continental Association of African Neurosurgical Societies (YCAANS), and Creative Director and Chief Medical Illustrator of the Journal of Global Neurosurgery. He is also a medical illustrator at International Centre for Genetic Diseases-Harvard Medical School. Chidiebere Ibe is passionate about contemporary illustrations of Black patients and has been acclaimed globally for creating a Black fetus illustration that went viral on social media in 2021. He hopes to pursue a career in pediatric neurosurgery.

Michael Winship, professor emeritus of University of Texas at Austin, is a bibliographer and historian of the book, with special expertise in publishing and book trade history in the United States before 1940, who has published extensively on American literary publishing. 

Processing and conservation of the J.B. Lippincott Company records were made possible through the generous support of the National Archives’ National Historical Publications and Records Commission, the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation, and Wolters Kluwer.