Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections and University Archives

Way & Williams Publishers Collection

Began in 1975-1976 with the gift of ten books from former Walter Clinton Jackson Library Director, Charles Adams. Twenty-one of the books, and the scrapbook, were gifts of John M. Williams. Frank L. Baum's Mother Goose in Prose, was a gift of Chauncey L. Williams V in 1977. One box of materials gift of Joe Kraus, a former librarian in Illinois, who wrote the definitive bibliography of Way & Williams, A history of Way & Williams : with a bibliography of their publications, 1895-1898 (Philadelphia : MacManus, 1984). Other gifts came from Will Dailey, Michael Patrick Hearn, Donald and Emily Huntley, Robert Maloney, Mrs. H.H. Williams and Robert Williams. One letter, William Edgar Fisher to W. Irving Way, purchased for collection in 2004 from David J. Holmes Autographs. Consult Way & Williams files in Office of the Librarian collection for more detailed information concerning donations and provenance. Many of the books were purchased for the collection.


Way & Williams, Publishers was officially established in 1895-Washington Irving Way, a bibliophile, native of Canada and former railroad executive, and Chauncey Williams, a Wisconsin native reared in England and a former advertiser-the firm had its predecessor in W. Irving Way and Company, a small publishing-bookselling company begun by Way in 1892. The new firm designated itself "Way and Williams, Publishers, Importers, and Booksellers."

Joining fifty-three other publishing firms in Chicago also but determined to be unique, Irving Way and Chauncey Williams shared a vision of producing finely printed books in limited editions. Although the firm lasted for only three years (1895-1898) and produced only sixty-six books, many of its titles are visually impressive and represent the work of some of the major artists and book designers of the period. There was a heavy emphasis on British imports among the earlier titles, but gradually the emphasis shifted to American writers; and many prominent authors saw their books breathe life with a Way & Williams imprint. The firm published both well-known and relatively obscure authors, many of them from the Chicago literary scene. Among the better-known writers represented by the firm were Kate Chopin, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Allen White, Octave Thanet (Alice French), Edgar Lee Masters, and L. Frank Baum; and their works were often shown to advantage by the artistic input of Bruce Rogers, Maxfield Parrish, Will Bradley, and Frank Hazenplug, among others.

In December 1896, Chauncey Williams became the sole owner of the firm, although the name of Way & Williams remained. Irving Way subsequently reestablished his old firm, W. Irving Way, Publisher and Seller of Books.

The collection contains first and later printings and editions of nearly the total output of this small but important Chicago literary publishing firm. Purchases continue to be made for items in the collection. Consult online catalog or shelf list file located in Special Collections Staff Area for listing of all cataloged books. The book collection is supplemented with original art work by Maxfield Parrish, Will Bradley, Frank Hazenplug, J.C. Leyendecker as well as correspondence and other materials which shed light on the firm's brief but brilliant contributions to American letters.

Manuscript Collection

Finding aid for the Way and Williams manuscript collection (MSS 237)