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About the Library

The Stained Glass Windows in Kent Library

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The Gutenberg press began a communication revolution that facilitated the Reformation, ushered in the Renaissance, and changed forever the way information is disseminated. A recent description compared the societal influence of a center of medieval printing in France to the information technology revolution spawned in Silicon Valley in California today. Printing presses and printers were to that era what computers and computer technology are to the information age today. Printers were scholars, linguists, and craftsmen. Sometimes, they were all three. In the 15th Century, printers with their presses introduced mass communication to Western society and changed forever the future of Western civilization.

Early printer-owner operators protected their workmanship by identifying it with an elaborate design that branded the printed item as one that had the high quality and accuracy for which they wished to be noted. These craftsmen used emblems symbolic of their business location, craft, name, personal experience, or ancestry. These emblems are referred to as “marks” or “colophons.” Colophons were originally put at the end of a publication and served a purpose similar to the title page. With the introduction of the title page, the marks became smaller and were located on that title page.

These artistic and symbolic printer’s colophons (marks) were popular library decorations during the early part of the Twentieth Century. As decorative devices in libraries, they were reproduced in metal, glass, stained glass, wood and plaster.  Printers’ trademarks were painted and carved on ceilings and walls and even reproduced on windows in stained glass in American libraries. Thus, Ms. Sadie Kent, the University’s first full-time librarian (years of full-time service, 1910-1943), chose printers marks for decorations in the new library . Certainly, the printing press made possible libraries for the general population. Ms. Kent selected marks for the windows based on the importance of that printer to the history of printing. Her explanation given to a reporter for the Capaha Arrow at that time explained: “The printers’ marks were placed here to commemorate the beginning of the art of book making, an art upon which this institution is founded.”


The decision was made to imitate the stained glass window treatments at Northwestern's Deering Library (image), Duke University Chapel (additional images), and Yale's Sterling library (additional information). The stained glass artist for these works of art was G. Owen Bonawit (1891-1971) of New York. The Deering Library features 68 window medallions, Yale’s Sterling Library contains 3,301, and Duke University Chapel has 77 of Bonawit’s creations.


G. Owen Bonawit, a native of Brooklyn, studied at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. At the age of 26, he was chosen by the Architectural League of New York to appear in the 1917 Annual Exhibition. After receiving this prestigious recognition, his position as a stained glass artist was secure. He became affiliated with the architect James Gamble Rogers when they collaborated on the remodeling of the Mr. and Mrs. Edward S. Harkness house. After that Rogers was Mr. Harkness’s architect of choice. Bonawit was Roger’s stained glass artisan of choice. When Harkness funded buildings on university campuses, the hiring of Rogers as the architect was often part of the deal. This gave Bonawit many opportunities for commissions in stained glass. According to former Yale librarian, Gay Walker, in her presentation, Brilliance All around: the Stained Glass of Sterling and Its Maker, at the Sterling Memorial Library anniversary celebration, “Bonawit was recognized by his peers as one of the most talented craftsman and artist of his time.”  (The windows in Kent are mentioned on page 12.)  As an artist, he is described by his biographer, Gay Walker in her book, Bonawit, Stained Glass, and Yale as being "well respected in his field . . . shy and modest."


For Bonawit’s stained glass work, he used two methods for his designs. One method was to create glass designs with colored glass as in Duke Chapel. The second method was used for much of his secular work. For this technique, Bonawit used a medieval method that combined deep brown paint with silver stain to produce a range of golden tones when fired to the glass. The designs were outlined or washed in dark brown paint, which was made of ground glass and a flux. Yellow and gold colors were produced by applying silver oxide or chloride stain to the back of the panels in varying concentrations and by firing the glass. The brown paint wash used to shade figures was modeled by "stickwork," a medieval technique in which fine highlights are made by delicate scratching to remove the wash. This “stickwork” is evident in many of the panels Bonawit completed for Kent Library.

Bonawit made preliminary sketches of the proposed designs for the Southeast library for Ms. Kent to present to the board. The board approved these sketches and the cost. These sketches were also used to illustrate the 1939 dedication booklet. Bonawit did drawings of possible placement for the sketches in some of the windows. Additionally, Bonawit did an architectural rendering of the south elevation of the library with the south reading room windows showing possible placement for the stained glass.

The Bonawit stained glass panes illustrating the history of printing illuminated the windows of the Kent Library reading room from 1939 to 1968. In 1968, the panes were put into walnut frames and displayed on the mezzanine of the renovated library until 2007 when they were removed for safety during library remodeling.


Printers with marks in stained glass country dated* page
Johann Guttenberg German 1450 1
Johann Fust and Peter Schöeffer German 1457 1
William Caxton English 1477 1
Wynkyn de Worde English 1477 1
Erhardus Ratdolt Italian 1476 1
Gerard Leeu Dutch 1477 2
Antoine Vérard French 1485 2
Jacobus de Pfortzheim Swiss 1488 2
Johann Froben Swiss 1491 2
Aldus Manutius Italian 1494 2
Valentin Fernandez Portuguese 1495 2
Petrus Leichtenstein French 1497 3
Andro Myllar Scotch 1508 3
Richard Fawkes English 1509 3
Galliot du Pré French 1512 3
Robert Copeland English 1514 3
Filippo de Giunta Italian 1517 3
John Rastell English 1517 4
Andreas Cratander German 1519 4
Christopher Froschover Swiss 1523 4
Geoffrey Tory French 1525 4
Robert Estienne French 1525 4
Sebastian Gryphe French 1530 4
Theodosius and Josias Rihel German 1535 5
Craft Mueller (Crato Myllus) German 1535 5
Richard Grafton English 1537 5
William Middleton English 1541 5
Jehan de Ghele Flemish 1546 5
Christopher Plantin Flemish 1555 5
Thomas Vautrollier English 1556 6
Guillaume Chaudière French 1566 6
Paul and Anthony Meietos Italian 1570 6
Isaac Elzevir Dutch 1617 6
William Morris English 1891 6
Oxford University Press English 1468- 6
Stephan Daye American 1639 6
Benjamin Franklin American 1730 6
Missouri related panes (12) American   7
*Dates shown are from the date on the art glass which usually represents when the press first printed under that printer's ownership.

Stained glass panes with original locations

Click on image for larger view.

enlargement from photo at left

This stained glass panel carries the signature of the artist. This was the library bookplate based on the college seal and was designed by a member of Southeast's Art Department. The open book on the seal reads, "A library is the heart of the institution it serves," a popular library motto at that time.

Click on image for night view.

Kent Library as it appeared shortly after being dedicated on November 7, 1939.
The arrangement of the 18 1/2" x 24 1/2" stained glass panes depicting printers' marks is visible in the nine north facing 15' tall windows of the original reading room.  Two south facing windows contained three more panes each. These 33 stained glass panes represent 37 early printers beginning with a depiction of Gutenberg and his press. G. Owen Bonawit, a well-known artist of the early 20th Century, collaborated with Miss Kent and the Board of Regents on the designs. This was one of his last major commissions before he closed his stained glass studio in New York in 1941 and went west to do photographic work for the government at Parker Dam.

Click image for close-up view.
This view from inside the reading room was taken from the first west window above the main door of the original library. Click on the window to view a detailed photo of the three printers marks located there. The stained glass window panels are black and sepia accented with sparing touches of gold and red. Thirty-three stained glass panels depicting thirty-seven printers' marks represent European, English, and American printers. The windows themselves are approximately 15 feet tall and weigh one and a half tons. The east and west facing reading room windows were 17 feet tall. The west facing window was located where the library mural is across from the Circulation desk.

According to an email from Gay Walker, former Yale librarian and G. Owen Bonawit scholar, Bonawit probably accompanied the windows to Cape Girardeau and did the installation work himself since at that time he was in the process of disbanding his studio and no longer had any artisans employed.
Kent library viewed from the southwest corner during the 1968 remodeling. Three stained glass window panels depicting printers' marks were in the back (south) facing Reading Room window. The west end window held six stained glass panels. The east end and southeast Reading Room windows also held stained glass panels. The east end depicted scenes relating to Mark Twain and the southeast window contained three more printers' marks panes. This snap shot was made about 1968 when the library expansion was being done. There are architectural renderings done by G. Owen Bonawit of the south side of the library. These drawings are housed in Special Collections and Archives along with an original photograph of the south view of the library which contained the stacks.
One of three stained glass printers' marks located in the original Kent Library reading room southwest corner window.

Click for larger view of this stained glass panel.

The translucent stained-glass panels are much lighter and brighter than depicted in this particular stained glass photo.
 Johann Gutenberg (ca. 1400-1468) shown taking a proof from the first printing press. This stained glass picture is based on painting by L. G. Ferris. It is not a printer's mark. Gutenberg invented movable single letter metal type. Movable  type was first used in Mainz, Germany in 1450. Special Collections and Archives has a facsimile of the 641 unnumbered page Gutenberg Bible, the first work of this press. The Library of Congress owns a first edition of this Bible. This stained glass pane was located in the southwest window of the original Kent Library reading room.
Johann Fust,
a goldsmith, loaned Gutenberg money for his press. Gutenberg could not repay the loan, and Fust took over the press. In the lower half of the stained glass pane is the first printer's mark developed by Johann Fust and his son-in-law, Peter Schöeffer, who worked as a printer for Gutenberg. They were the first to use a mark. This mark is two shields with printers' rules. It is usually done in red. Schöeffer is the first to record the place, date of printing and name of printer in his books. This mark is still used today as the emblem of the International Association of Printing House Craftsmen.

Click for larger view of this stained glass panel.

Caxton's and de Worde's marks share a stained glass panel because like Gutenberg and Fust, Caxton's business successor was de Worde. This stained glass panel shared a place in the southwest window of the original reading room of Kent Library.
William Caxton (c. 1415~1422 – c. March 1491), described as a translator and a publisher, is credited with being the first printer in England. He printed nearly all English literature available to him then. He is the third in date order whose mark is executed by Bonawit in stained glass for  Kent Library. Caxton's press produced the first book printed in the English language. "Caxton's chief aim was to print for English scholars and students the best literature. . .

Wynkyn de Worde
(died (1534/35) worked for Caxton, England's first printer. Then he took over Caxton's business upon Caxton's death. Worde was not a translator or a scholar. He was interested in the commerce of printing. He was the first in England to use italic type(1524). During his career, de Worde used nine variations of his mark.

"William Caxton." Encyclopaedia Britannica. Encyclopaedia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2013. Web. 05 Nov. 2013. <>.
"Wynkyn de Worde." Encyclopaedia Britannica. Encyclopaedia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2013. Web. 05 Nov. 2013. <>

Click for larger view of this stained glass panel.

Click for view of illustration.

Erhardus Ratdolt (1442-1528), born in Augsburg in 1447 and died in Augsburg in 1527, not an Italian by birth, Ratdolt was one of the earliest if not the first Venetian printer.

Listed are some of Ratdolt's "firsts:"
   used gold colored ink
   reproduced mathematical figures in his edition of Euclid in 1482
    printed books mainly of mathematics and astronomy
    used colored astronomical diagrams
    first nudes printed
    used ornamental borders on the printed pages
    earliest example of title page in 1476

His mark shows Mercury holding entwined serpents. The star indicates a planet.

First publisher of Euclid


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Stained Glass . . .continued on page 2




Researched and written by Linda Zimmer


Kent, Sadie T. with introduction by Parker, Dr. W.W. sketches by Bonawit, G. Owen. The Dedication of the New Library Building November 7, 1939. Cape Girardeau, Mo. 1939.


The original Kent library building photographs used on these pages are housed in Kent Library Special Collections and Archives. The digital scans done by Archives of the original library photographs were of such quality that the pictures could be enlarged so that original locations of the stained glass panes could be discerned. The stained glass window photos were taken by David Glick or were digital copies the library held.

updated 11/05/2013 by Linda Zimmer