Ronald D. Patkus

Head of Special Collections and College Historian, Adjunct Associate Professor of History on the Frederick Weyerhaeuser Chair
A person wearing a light colored shirt and brown jacket and tie smiles at the camera. They are in a room with wood paneling in the background.

Ronald Patkus is a native of Connecticut. He received a BA from Boston College (1986), an MA and Certificate in Archival Management from the University of Connecticut (1987), an MS in Library Science from Simmons College (1993), and a PhD in History from Boston College (1997). He serves as head of the Archives & Special Collections Library and is the College Historian. A member of the History Department, he also holds the Frederick Weyerhaeuser Endowed Chair in Biblical Literature and Bibliography. He is the Library Liaison to the departments of German Studies and Italian. His teaching and research interests focus on the history of books and printing, and the history of Vassar.

MLS, Simmons College; BA, Boston College; MA, University of Connecticut; PhD, Boston College
At Vassar since 2000


Frederick F. Thompson Library
Box 20
Mon-Fri, 8:30-Noon, 1-5pm

Research and Academic Interests

History of the book
History of private and fine press printing
History of the Bible


MEDS/MRST 220 Medieval and Renaissance Culture
AMST/MEDS 248 The Book in America
MEDS 249 The Book: A Global History
GRST/MEDS 205 Homer’s Odyssey: From Oral Composition to Digital Editions

Selected Publications

Recent Books

The Privately Printed Bible: Private and Fine Press Editions of Biblical Texts in the British Isles and North America, 1892-2000. Oak Knoll Press, 2017.

Shirley Jones and the Red Hen Press. Vassar College, 2013.

Ars Omnia Tuetur: 25 Years of Fine Printing at Thornwillow Press. Thornwillow Press, 2010.

An Administrative History of Vassar College (edited with Elizabeth Daniels). Vassar College, 2004.

Recent Articles

“Distracted Reading and Undergraduate Learning,” Gathering Voices, Fall 2014.

“Biblical Commentary as Reformation Commodity: The Paratext in Luther’s Galatians,” Reformation, Winter 2008.

“The Poet as Teacher: Valda Melngailis at Boston College,” in Kad Dzivosu Otru Reizi (When I Return Again), 2006.

“A Dutch View of the Hudson River Valley: The Travel Accounts of Martinus Cohen Stuart, 1873-74,” Hudson River Valley Review, Spring 2006 (co-authored with Huib Leeuwenberg).

“Vassar College Special Collections,” in Vassar College Encyclopedia, 2005.

“The American Friends of the Anna Amalia Library: An Update,” WESS Newsletter, Spring 2005.

“Musical Migrations: A Case Study of the Teresa Carreno Papers,” RBM: A Journal of Rare Books, Manuscripts, and Cultural Heritage, Spring 2005.

“Rare Books and the Vassar Curriculum,” Vassar Quarterly, Winter 2004.

“Rosalind Howe: Artist, Mapmaker, Preservationist,” Vassar Quarterly, Spring 2002.

“The City in History: Providing Digital Access to Images of Turn-of the Century Boston,” Urban Library Journal, Fall 2001.

“Treasures of Americana,” Vassar Quarterly, Spring 2001.

“Changing the Culture of Libraries: The Role of Core Values,” Library Administration and Management, September 2000 (co-authored with Brendan Rapple).

Recent Exhibition Catalogue Articles

Preface to Elizabeth Bishop’s Postcards,  Fall 2023.

Preface to Beauty out of the Ashes: Printed Works of the Harlem Renaissance, Spring 2023

Preface to Gonzalo Fernandez de Oviedo’s Natural and General History of the Indies, Islands, and Mainland of the Ocean Sea, Fall 2022.

Introduction to Ilse Schreiber-Noll: Nature and Nature Defiled, Spring 2022

“Some Seventeenth Century Dutch Editions of Ovid and His Metamorphoses,” in Changing Forms: Metamorphosis in Myth, Art, and Nature, 1650-1700, 2021.

“Some Rare Editions of Dante in Special Collections,” in Celebrating Dante at Vassar,  Fall 2021.

“An Introduction,” in Work Prints: Eric Lindbloom’s Panoramas of the Hudson Valley,”  Spring 2021.

“The Bannon McHenry James Merrill Collection at Vassar College,” in The Bannon McHenry James Merrill Collection: An Exhibition,”  Spring 2020.

“The Turgenev Library at Vassar,” in Ivan Turgenev and His Library,  Spring 2019.

“Vassar College Student Handbooks,” in Universal Collection, ed. Mary-Kay Lombino and Elizabeth Nogrady, Fall 2016.

“Shakespeare in Special Collections,” in Shakespeare at Vassar, Fall 2016.

“The Age of Alice: Fairy Tales, Fantasy, and Nonsense in Victorian England,” in The Age of Alice: Fairy Tales, Fantasy, and Nonsense in Victorian England, Spring 2015.

“The Nuremberg Chronicle: Background, Production, Legacy,” in Never Before Has Your Like Been Printed: The Nuremberg Chronicle of 1493, Fall 2014.

“Foreword,” in The Architect’s Library, Spring 2014.

“Mary McCarthy and Vassar,” in Mary McCarthy and Vassar, Spring 2012.

Preface to From the Archive: Discovering Elizabeth Bishop, Fall 2011.

“Building a Repository of Artists’ Books from the Women’s Studio Workshop,” Hand, Voice & Vision: Artists’ Books from the Women’s Studio Workshop, Fall 2010.

Preface to Mark Twain and Huckleberry Finn, Spring 2010.

Preface to Poetry on the Hudson, Fall, 2009.

“Collecting and Studying Dickensiana at Vassar,” in Charles Dickens in the Marketplace, Spring 2009.

“The Robert Owen Collection in the Vassar College Library,” in Robert Owen and the Delicious Dream of the Future, Fall 2008.

“Vassar’s John Burroughs Collection: A Window on Burroughs and Whitman,” in Walt Whitman and John Burroughs, Literary Comrades, Spring 2008.

“Rare Maps and Atlases in the Vassar College Library, in Mapping America: 500 Years of Cartographic Depictions, Spring 2007.

“Examining Shaw in 2006,” in Bernard Shaw, Portraits and Portrayals, Fall 2006.

“Works Relating to Samuel Johnson in the Vassar College Library,” in Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary: Sources and Editions, Fall 2005.

“The Morris and Adele Bergeren Albert Einstein Collection at Vassar College,” in Albert Einstein: Life and Letters, Spring 2005.

“The Elizabeth Bishop Papers at Vassar College: A Brief History,” in Elizabeth Bishop: A Growing Legacy, Fall 2004.

“Aspects of the Publishing History of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, 1851-1900,” in Uncle Tom’s Cabin in Print: The Collection of Mary C. Schlosser, Spring 2004.

“Primary Sources for the Study of Teresa Carreno,” in Teresa Carreno: Walkure of the Piano, Fall 2003.

“The Incunabula Collection,” in Incunabula in the Vassar College Library ,” Spring 2003.

“Adding to the Legacy,” in Mary McCarthy: Adding to the Legacy, Fall 2001.

“Introduction,” in Treasures of Americana, Spring 2001.

Recent Presentations

“Collecting for Undergraduates: Nicholas B. Scheetz and the Bibliotheca Scheetziana,” RGME Conference, March 2023.

“The Strength and Fragility of Libraries,” Matthew Vassar Reading Club, February, 2021.

Chagall’s Bible,” Vassar at the Bibliotheque Nationale, July 2019.

“Building a Collection of pre-1600 Manuscripts for a Liberal Arts College: the Example of Vassar College,” RGME Symposium, April 2019.

Vassar’s Turgenev Library,” radio interview on the Library Café, March 2019.

The Privately Printed Bible,” radio interview on the Library Café, May 2018.

The Privately Printed Bible,” Vassar College, March 2018.

“Survey on Reading at Liberal Arts Colleges,” Liberal Arts Consortium for Online Learning,” June 2017.

“Private Presses and the Bible,” Grabhorn Institute, March 2017.

The Works of William Hogarth: The Intriguing History of Sierra College’s Rarest Book,” Sierra College, October 2016.

“Researching Private and Fine Press Bibles,” Oak Knoll Fest XIX, October 2016.

“Thornwillow Press at Thirty,” The Grolier Club, September 2015.

“The Saint John’s Bible and Vassar College,” SENYLRC Annual Meeting, 2015.

“The Roosevelts and Vassar College,” Eleanor Roosevelt House, June 2015.

“The Printing of the Nuremberg Chronicle, 1493,” Marist College, 2015.

“Vassar Students and Reading Today,” Liberal Arts Consortium for Online Learning, Fall 2014.

“Old Space, New Space: Retrofitting the Vassar College Archives & Special Collections Library,” RBMS, June 2014.

“Vassar Bibles, Vassar Stories,” Bible Project at Vassar, May, 2013.

“Vassar’s Millionth Volume,” Vassar Reunion Presentation, June 2012.

“The Art of the King James Bible,” Poughkeepsie Public Library, May 2012.

"The King James Bible and English Arts and Crafts Printing," Vassar Victorian Studies Gathering, January 2012.

“Books in Joos van Cleve’s ‘St. Jerome’s Study’,” Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center’s Kaleidoscope Lecture Series, October 2011.

“The Observant Eye: Isaac Newton’s Principia in Print, 1687-1760,” Vassar London Club, May 2011.

“The Paratext in Luther’s Galatians,” Sixteenth Century Studies Conference, Fall 2008.

“Hudson River Valley Heritage: Elements of our History,” SENYLRC Annual Meeting, June 2006.

“John Burroughs and Vassar College,” Sharp Eyes IV Conference, June 2006.

“Research Libraries in East Germany since Reunification,” ALA Germanists Discussion Group, June 2005.

“The Duchess Anna Amalia Library,” Yale University Library Presentation, April 2005.

“Developing a Digital Union Catalog: the Example of Hudson Valley Heritage,” MARAC, Fall 2004.

“Musical Migrations: A Case Study of the Teresa Carreno Papers,” RBMS Preconference, June 2004.

“A Regional Digitization Plan: the Case of Hudson Valley Heritage, ENY-ACRL, Spring 2004.

“Digitizing Historical Photographs: Issues and Practice,” Vassar College Media Cloisters Workshop, Fall 2001.

Grants, Fellowships, Honors, Awards

Vassar College Research Committee Grant for The Privately Printed Bible in Western Europe, 2020.

Bridwell Library Fellowship (Southern Methodist University), 2016, 2019.

Tatlock Fund for Strategic Faculty Research, 2014-2016.

Katharine Kyes Leab & Daniel J. Leab American Book Prices Current Exhibition Award, 2014.

Vassar Ford Scholarship for “The Mark of the Renaissance Printer: a Digital Humanities Project based on Printer’s Marks in the Windows in the Vassar College Library,” 2013.

Vassar College Research Committee Grant for “Shirley Jones and the Red Hen Press,” 2010.

Vassar College Research Committee Grant for “Biblical Commentary as Reformation Commodity,” 2008.

Katharine Kyes Leab & Daniel J. Leab American Book Prices Current Exhibition Award, 2007.

Vassar College Research Committee Grant for “Biblical Commentary as Reformation Commodity.”

National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Seminar on “The Reformation of the Book, 1450-1700.”

Checkpoint Charlie Foundation (Berlin, Germany) Project Subsidy for German-American Student Exchange “The Holocaust and Modern Memory,” 2005.

Katharine Kyes Leab & Daniel J. Leab American Book Prices Current Exhibition Award, 2005.

Initiative Fortbildung Tour of German Libraries, 2003.

In the Media

Assistant Professor of Chemistry Krystle McLaughlin sitting at a table in front of microphones

Students, administrators, alums, and others in the Vassar community enjoyed a plethora of events in observation of Black History Month, included  exhibitions, a panel on STEM-related fields, a dinner, and an update of the Buildings and Belonging project, focused on the history of African Americans on campus.

Ronald Patkus standing at a table in the Vassar Library with book shelves behind him.

For nearly 40 years, Vassar has had a College Historian to help research and document our institutional history—the most recent being Colton Johnson, Professor Emeritus of English and former Dean of Studies and Dean of the College. As Ronald Patkus, Adjunct Associate Professor of History on the Frederick Weyerhaeuser Chair and Associate Director of the Libraries for Special Collections assumes the role, he promises to take an unflinching look at Vassar’s past.

Vassar Has Some New Medieval Treasures

Vassar alumna Diana Pearson ’78 has donated more than 80 manuscripts and other material from her late husband’s rare book and manuscript collection to Special Collections at Thompson Library. Some students in a medieval history class spent an hour viewing one of the manuscripts, and more students and scholars will benefit from the generous donation in the future.


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