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Robert T. Aitchison Collection of Rare Books

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Detail of Blaeu's America
Atlas of America, Blaeu, 1662
Robert Aitchison loved books. His interests also encompassed cartography, history, fine painting and business, and they all played a large part in his life. Aitchison was an inquiring person, and did not stop searching until his death in 1964. He had just finished the compilation for his thirty-eighth map, "Paths of the Roman Alphabet," and was on his way to dinner when he succumbed to a heart attack in the driveway of his home in Wichita.

Aitchison was born in 1887 in Columbus, Kansas, the son of Clarence and Mollie Aitchison. His career in art began after he attended the Academy of Fine Art in Chicago for a couple of years. Newspapers, in his youth, did not use photographic illustration, which gave him the opportunity to work for the Chicago Tribune as an illustrator. While on assignment interviewing President Taft in San Antonio, Texas, he decided to settle there, began cartooning for the San Antonio Express, and started a commercial art studio on the side. He returned to his home town to marry Mary Cheshire, his eighth grade sweetheart.

In 1920 the Aitchisons moved to Wichita, where it was his job to establish a creative department for the McCormick-Armstrong Company, a printing firm that employed Aitchison for the next forty years. These were years of inspiration to printers and help for hundreds of young artists.

Robert Aitchison was an active man who served as president of the Kansas State Historical Society, and a judge on the American Institute of Graphic Arts 50 Books Show. He also held membership for years in the Grolier Club, The Typophiles, Historic Wichita, the Wichita Art Association, the Artists Guild and the Wichita Art Museum. He was a founder of the Wichita Bibliophiles and cofounder of the Wichita Art Association and the Artists Guild. He served on the boards of many organizations and was an officer and major stockholder in the McCormick-Armstrong Company. Detail of Milton's Aeropagitica
First leaf of The Doves Press 1907 printing of John Milton's Areopagitica.

Detail of Hapsburg Genealogy Detail of Hapsburg Genealogy Aitchison's collecting interests were primarily in the works of the early printers, letterform history, fine bindings and woodcut artists. He also had a passion for fine maps. His own maps,"A History of Printing in Europe" and "A History of Printing in America," hang in printing offices all over the world. His state historical maps for the Mentholatum Company were widely distributed to schools throughout the United States.
Title page and first leaf of Hapsburg Genealogy, Jacob Mennel, J. Wörlin, 1522.

Detail of Exodus in Cherokee
Detail of Biblical Book of Exodus translated and printed in the Cherokee language, Park Hill, 1853.
The works that Robert T. Aitchison collected can be used for research and enjoyment. This collection at Special Collections in Ablah Library at Wichita State University represents his dearest possessions: old and rare books.

The collection includes thirteen incunabula, 115 titles from the sixteenth century, a fine manuscript from the eleventh century, examples of most of the fine early printers and showings from woodcut artists, and many pieces from the early presses in the United States.

Printed Charm of Empress Shotoku
Printed Charm Scroll of Empress Shotoku.  Japanese, 770 A.D.


With special thanks to Carnot Brennan, Susan Kraft, Kitty Adams and Frances Kentling.

Images in this digital exhibit may be in the public domain or under copyright which is protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S. Code). Images in the public domain are made available for use in research, instruction and private study. Copyrighted materials may be used for research, instruction, and private study under the provisions of Fair Use, outlined in section 107 of copyright law. Publication, commercial use, or reproduction of a copyrighted image that does not fall under the provisions of Fair Use or the accompanying data requires prior written permission from the copyright holder. User assumes all responsibility for obtaining the necessary permission to publish (including in digital format) from the copyright holder. If publishing this image in print, electronically or on a website, for research, instruction or private study, please use the citation "Courtesy of Special Collections and University Archives, Wichita State University Libraries" and inform us of your use at For other uses of materials, see Statement on Use and Reproductions,

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