Welcome to

The Princeton University Library Cartoon Collection

An Online Exhibition Curated by Henry Martin, Class of 1948

For many years the renowned cartoonist Henry Martin has been an expert advisor and a generous donor to the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University Library. He has guided the growth of our collections and supported our attempts to make them better known. In 1996 we asked him to explore our holdings of humorous art and to choose his favorite examples for this online exhibition. These are his selections, each accompanied with his commentary (in italics), explaining how they achieve their comic effects and recounting some of the cartoonist's tricks of the trade. Few cartoonists have been as successful in this demanding trade as Mr. Martin, who was a regular contributor to The New Yorker from 1964 until his retirement in 1995. His work has appeared in a number of distinguished anthologies and in three uproarious collections, All Those in Favor (1969), Yak! Yak! Yak! Blah! Blah! Blah! (1977), and Good News/Bad News (1977). We are very grateful for his advice and his numerous gifts to the Graphic Arts Collection, some of which are displayed here. He has also drawn the original artwork for the home page, with vignettes identifying different portions of the exhibit.

Humorous art has roots reaching back to the early days of civilization and was practiced in all parts of the civilized world, even in ancient Egypt. Like other art forms, it challenged the skills of professional artists, who spent some easy and many difficult days solving the problems of their craft. "Life's Darkest Moment" gives us a behind-the-scenes view of this creative process as seen by one of its contemporary practitioners, H. T. Webster. Two of America's most articulate humorists were E. B. White and James Thurber, who were friends and colleagues at The New Yorker magazine, where they shared an office. "Humor," remarked Thurber, "is emotional chaos remembered in tranquility," and E. B. White observed, "Humor can be dissected, as a frog can, but the thing died in the process and the innards are discouraging to any but the pure scientific mind." I often think of these two when I am studying cartoons and have come to appreciate their sound advice. So, I will not perform any dissections here, but will present a sampling of comic art along with my views on its methods and its mission. 

The web site has been designed by Adriana Popescu, Special Collections Assistant in the Visual Materials Division, as part of an independent study project in the School of Communication, Information and Library Studies at Rutgers University. Permission to reproduce these images has been kindly granted by The New Yorker Magazine, Inc., Warner Bros., Newspaper Enterprise Association, Inc., King Features Syndicate, Rube Goldberg Incorporated, Princeton Tiger Magazine, Mr. William Hewison, Mr. Michael Witte and Mr. Henry Martin. We would appreciate information about any images that we have not been able to identify or acknowledge properly. Please contact  jmellby@princeton.edu.