With this exhibition we honor the memory of James M. Wells, longtime custodian of the John M. Wing Foundation on the History of Printing at the Newberry Library. During his 34-year career at the Newberry (1951-1984), Wells served not only as curator of the history of printing collection but also as head of acquisitions, and eventually vice president and the first George Amos Poole III Curator of Rare Books.
Born in West Virginia, Wells studied at Northwestern and Columbia universities. After serving as a linguist in the army during World War II, he resumed studies at Columbia and spent the largest part of 1948-1951 in London, researching a dissertation (never completed) on the English Fine Press movement. He came to the Newberry in 1951 on a trial basis and remained until he retired in 1984. In later years he was a voracious reader and a dedicated supporter of library friends groups around Chicago and of the Arts Club of Chicago.