Penn Libraries

The Penn Libraries Acquires Three Collections from Bookbinder and Angler, S.A. Neff, Jr.

The Penn Libraries is pleased to announce the acquisition of three distinct, but related collections from S.A. Neff, Jr., a bibliophile and angler turned bookbinder extraordinaire, and his wife Sue. The three collections are: the Neff Collection of Angling Bindings; the Neff Angling Library; and the Neff Woodblock Collection. The Neff Collections are important resources in the history of books and bookbinding as an art form as well as examples of six centuries of angling literature.

Mr. Neff was in the process of looking for a home for his piscatorial bindings when an acquaintance suggested he speak with the curators at the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books, and Manuscripts at the University of Pennsylvania Libraries.         A visit to the Neff residence in Sewickley, neffbinding_300Pennsylvania quickly made it clear that his angling library also deserved to be given an institutional home. The Penn Libraries is deeply appreciative and excited to have reached an agreement with the Neffs that will bring the collections to the Penn Libraries over the next decade. In conjunction with the gift, there are plans for a 2019 exhibition highlighting the angling bindings and three publications: an exhibition catalogue, an annotated catalogue of the library, and a limited edition volume on the piscatorial woodblocks.

The Neff Angling Library, with approximately 3,000 volumes on angling dating from 1554, comprises a wide variety of works on fly fishing, with an emphasis on all aspects of trout fishing. The library includes multiple editions of Izaak Walton’s classic, The Complete Angler, numerous books documenting the traditions of angling in England, Ireland, Scotland, and North America, as well as natural histories of those places and books containing actual flies. There are two sub-collections: one of late nineteenth and early twentieth century books for young sportsmen, and another of travel guides for anglers from that same period.

The Neff Woodblock Collection consists of thirty-four early nineteenth century wood engraved blocks of fish and fishing scenes by the English engravers: James Marsh, Henry White, and Mr. Austin.

The Neff Collection of Angling Bindings at present is a group of over forty sets, consisting of one to three bindings in a decorative box or container. Some bindings include related angling artifacts, such as—antique reels, flies, and photographs created by Neff for his favorite authors. As Mr. Neff continues to produce bindings, more titles will be intermittently added to the collection.

To learn more about S.A. Neff, Jr. and his collections, join the Penn Libraries on Saturday, November 5, from 10:30 am to 1 pm, for a screening of the documentary film, The Bibliophile as Bookbinder: The Angling Bindings of S.A. Neff, Jr., followed by a demonstration of his techniques for decorating leather, in an event co-sponsored by the Kislak Center and the Philadelphia Center for the Book. To register for this event, please visit


About the Penn Libraries
The Penn Libraries serve the world-class faculty and students of Penn’s 12 schools. The Libraries’ collections comprise more than 7 million volumes, over 100,000 journals, some 2 million digitized images, and extraordinary rare and unique materials that document the intellectual and cultural experience of ancient and modern civilizations. Through our collaborative relationships, we supplement Penn’s great local collections with physical access to the Center for Research Libraries (approximately 5 million items), the combined holdings of the Ivies (more than 70 million volumes), and exclusive electronic access to some 2 million public domain titles in the HathiTrust. Today, the Libraries play an instrumental role in developing new technologies for information discovery and dissemination and are noted for groundbreaking work in digital library design.  To learn more about the Penn Libraries, visit



About the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts

The Kislak Center is a vibrant space that brings together people, technology and unique content.  Located on the top floor of the Van Pelt-Dietrich Library, it was redesigned in 2013 to allow several different groups to interact with objects of study simultaneously, increasing the use of primary resources in the University’s curriculum and access to the Libraries’ resources for the larger scholarly community.  Today the Kislak Center encompasses the Annenberg Rare Book and Manuscript Library, the Furness Memorial Shakespeare Library, the Edgar Fahs Smith Memorial Collection and the Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies. To learn more about the Kislak Center, visit


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