The American Type Founders Company was initially composed of twenty-three type foundries that joined together in 1892 in order to compete with the new typesetting machines, the Linotype and Monotype. The company grew, and developed branches throughout North America. By 1903, ATF's type manufacturing facilities were consolidated in a new plant in Jersey City. In 1908, under the auspices of Henry Lewis Bullen, ATF began developing a library and museum.
The ATF Library & Museum was to preserve the books and manuscripts that had descended through the various "family trees" of the combined type founding firms. These included the early records of the first successful American foundry, Binny & Ronaldson of Philadelphia. Robert W. Nelson, ATF's president supported the library by giving Bullen money and a free hand to purchase material. Bullen also added his own private collection of printing history materials to the Library.
In addition to serving as a working reference collection for the company, Bullen built the library, "to serve as a model of art and craftsmanship to students of typography...to memorialize or honor predecessors in our profession or printers now living...[and to] enhance the appreciation by the general public of printing as an art and influence." To this end, he bought examples of the great books in printing history.
ATF declared bankruptcy late in 1933, and the Library and Museum was slated for sale. Bullen focused his remaining energies into keeping the collection intact. Thanks to Hellmut Lehmann-Haupt of Columbia's Special Collections, negotiations began that brought the collection to Butler Library on deposit in 1936. Columbia University purchased the collection in 1941. This exhibit celebrates 60 years of the American Type Founders Company Library & Museum at Columbia University