Library of Congress Comic Book Collection
The Library of Congress Comic Book Collection is “probably the largest in the United States”
The library was established in 1800 and is the oldest federal cultural institution in the USA. It is the largest library in the world, by shelf space and number of books.
It holds 144 million items, including 33 million books, more than 63 million manuscripts, the world's largest collection of legal materials, films, maps, sheet music and sound recordings.
The Library has acquired comic books through copyright deposit for more than 60 years with some titles dating from the 1930s, although the collection is mostly comprehensive from 1950 onward.
As of May 2009, the library reported that the collection consisted of 6,000 titles, with approximately 100,000 pieces and estimated growth of approximately 200 issues per month.
The collection is primarily composed of the original print books and includes colour microfiche of several early comic books, such as Wonder Woman, Superman, and Action Comics.
According to the website, comics in the collection are selected based “quality of text and graphic depiction; significance of the artist, writer, or publisher; originality of story or main character; the title's popularity as reflected in circulation statistics or media attention; representation of new ideas or social trends”.
The collection covers a wide range of subject matter including western, science fiction, detective, adventure, war, romance, horror, and humour.
The website states that the library often acquires missing titles and issues “in order to create a comprehensive record of the Platinum, Golden, and Silver Ages of U.S. comic book publishing”. Action Comics, Archie, Detective Comics, Tarzan, and Wonder Woman are among those with fairly complete runs.
The rapid deterioration of the paper and the value of some items mean full access to the comic book collection is restricted to researchers, although many are available to view via an online catalogue.