William “Bill” Nightingale ’53, a 65-year active Yale alumnus, recently donated his collection of over 300 cartoon books to the Beinecke Rare Books and Manuscripts Library.
The Beinecke Library has a long history of interesting and important humor books, from tales from the âFacetiaeâ by Poggio Bracciolini (in a manuscript from Lombardy circa 1450), to the âAmours de M. Vieux Boisâ by Rodolphe TÃ¶pffer (printed in Geneva in 1839) and âCold Fusionâ (published by McSweeney’s in San Francisco in 2008 and attributed to âDr. and Mr. Doris Haggis-on-Wheyâ).
The archival collections are also rich in wit and humor, with highlights such as the Helen E. Hokinson cartoons for The New Yorker, comprising 15 boxes with over 340 cartoons, cover designs and concept sketches. in ink, pencil, watercolor, pencil and charcoal on paper which were created by Hokinson magazine between 1926 and 1949. These were donated to the library in 1980 by his longtime collaborator James Reid Parker, who was trustee of his estate, as well as nine boxes of Parker papers, many documenting his work with Hokinson, donated in 1998 to the Beinecke Library by Mr. and Mrs. Kenneth Nesheim.
The Hokinson and Reid papers are part of a substantial and growing body of collections and archives of the American literary and performing arts, with other notable ones such as the Saul Steinberg papers, the Garry Trudeau papers and the film and television collections such as the Steven H. Scheuer Collection of Television Program Scripts and the African American Television Scripts, both of which document many well-known sitcom programs.
“Research interest in American humorous writing continues to grow as historians and literary critics cite the impact of comedy, cartoons and other entertainment on the fabric of American life, âsays Timothy Young, curator of modern books and manuscripts. âThe Beinecke Library’s collections of humor-related writings continue to grow. We own many magazines, essay books, and comics – and recently added articles from such brilliant minds as Tom Davis and David Rakoff. The William Nightingale Yale 1953 Cartoon Book Collection accumulates our collections documenting the world of sophisticated 20th century comics with great flair.
The Nightingale Collection presents a first impression of “Parade” by Peter Arno, first published in 1929, and includes works from the 20th century to later years. The books in the Nightingale collection serve as a scientific accompaniment to the other collections in the library, allowing researchers to consult its printed works as well as the serials held by the Beinecke Library and the archives of the artists and writers concerned. For example, the Nightingale collection includes four cartoon books by Hokinson, from the first edition of “When Were You Built” (1948), to the posthumous publication “There are Ladies Present” (1952), which complement his articles and allow readers to view his sketches alongside later published versions. âMy collection includes the great cartoonists who made the New Yorker home from 1930 to 2000 and set the standard for cartoons in the United States,â says Nightingale.
“My interest in cartoon books started when I picked up the Peter Arno and Charles Adams volumes from my parents’ library when I was in grades 7 and 8. It continued at a slow pace until I got to college, âhe recalls. âMy desire to collect was stimulated by my need to search for the missing volumes of my favorite designers. As a cartoonist myself, I enjoyed publishing my drawings in my high school newspaper, and at Yale I became an illustrator for the Yale Daily News, thanks to my classmates Bill Donaldson and Jim Thomson, who ran the News, and to Gaddis Smith, the next president of the year. I was also a cartoonist for the Fort Dix Post, where I contributed to weekly gag and sports cartoons.
Nightingale has had a long career in advertising and media. Trained at the McCann / Erickson advertising agency, he was media director at three agencies and is currently President of Media Strategy at Cason Nightingale. He donated his books to stimulate the continued growth of comic book humor in the library’s collections in the hope that his books will have both academic and personal benefit for current and future generations of students. . “My goal was to get Yale students to recognize the value of humor in their lives and to be able to pick up a volume to take a break from their studies at the library,” notes the former student.
“Alumni have played a vital role in building the Yale Library’s collections from the early 18th century to the present day, âsaid Beinecke Library Director Edwin C. Schroeder. “Bill Nightingale’s gift from his cartoon book collection is suitable for Yale, given our long-standing interest in comedy and cartoons – and his gift is a lot of fun, too.”