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Nietz Old Textbook Collection @ Archives & Special Collections: Home

An introduction to and description of John A. Nietz's collection of American textbooks dating from colonial days to around 1900

Using the Collection

The Nietz Old Textbook Collection is kept in the library's storage facility.  To recall materials from the storage facility:

  •  You will need your Pitt Account username and password.
  • While the books do not circulate, requested materials will be sent to Archives & Special Collections for use in one of our reading rooms.
  • Non-Pitt-affiliated researchers can send an email to Archives & Special Collections staff and request items be recalled for use in the reading room.
  • When the requested materials arrive, researchers will receive an email notifying them that the titles are available. 
  • For complete information about the process and procedures to use Archives & Special Collections materials, visit our webpage.

Guide Creator

The Nietz Old Textbook Collection was completed by Nick Clements, Graduate Student Employee, Archives & Special Collections and overseen by Jennifer Needham, archivist, Archives & Special Collections.

The Nietz Old Textbook Collection

The Nietz Old Textbook Collection comprises nearly 20,000 volumes of early American textbooks spanning the late eighteenth century through the early twentieth century. Most were published in the United States, while some early examples were brought from Europe and used in the US. They cover a wide range of topics, from spellers to arithmetics and physiologies.

This guide is intended as an introduction to the collection using the description of it in Nietz's own book, Old Textbooks. It provides an introduction to each type of book as described by Nietz himself, as well as representative examples from the collection. Please refer to the searchable bibliography or general catalog search to see if a book is included in the collection.


The founder of the Nietz Old Textbook Collection, the late Professor Emeritus John A. Nietz, was born near Toledo, Ohio in 1888. He earned an A.B. degree at Ohio Northern University in 1914, his M.A. at Ohio State University in 1919, and a Ph.D. in Education at the University of Chicago in 1933. During his stay at the University of Chicago, Nietz studied under the famous philosopher and educational theorist, John Dewey. He spent much of his career at the University of Pittsburgh teaching as a Professor of Education in the Foundation of Education Department. Nietz died in 1970.

When Nietz retired in 1957, he donated his collection of 9,000 volumes to the University. Since then, it has grown to over 16,000 volumes, primarily through gift accessions. This extremely rich resource is the second or third largest collection of early American textbooks in the country. It is currently maintained by Archives & Special Collections.  

Related Nietz Items

The first two books below were written by Nietz about his collection and are available online from Pitt's Digital Research Library. The third is the finding aid for Nietz's papers, part of the University Archives.

Digital Library Collection

Contact Us

Archives & Special Collections

A&SC at Hillman Library

3960 Forbes Avenue

Pittsburgh, PA 15260

Phone: 412-648-8190


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