Wish You Were Here! SFPL's Annual Wit & Humor Exhibition

The San Francisco Public Library presents Innocents Abroad: Travels with the Schmulowitz Collection of Wit & Humor. Reaching into near and far corners of the world, this exhibition draws on a rich collection of materials that represents the book hunting activities of a fervent bibliophile in the first half of the twentieth century. The exhibition opens April 1 and continues through May 31, in the Skylight Gallery, Sixth Floor, Main Library.

Lawyer, bibliophile and humanitarian Nat Schmulowitz took his first grand tour of Europe shortly after World War I. What he saw then and in subsequent trips after World War II is documented in correspondence, scrapbooks, and in the books he acquired along the way. He travelled to the four corners of the earth, searching diligently for humorous materials and combing bookshops wherever he went.

Travel journals, scrapbooks, letters, postcards, and ephemera are on display, partnered with the humor books Nat discovered as he made his way through Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. A shimmering diversity of languages and dialects in the books show the breadth of his travels and his accomplishments representing world humor in this remarkable collection.

On April Fools’ Day, 1947, Mr. Schmulowitz gave ninety-three jest books to the San Francisco Public Library. He faithfully continued to add toward the establishment of what is now considered the world’s largest public collection of wit & humor.

Located in the Book Arts & Special Collections Center, the Schmulowitz Collection of Wit & Humor (SCOWAH) contains more than 22,000 books and 250 periodical titles, electronic media and ephemera, as well as the personal archive of Nat Schmulowitz. The collection reflects the eclectic humor of its founder, whose motto still resonates: “Without humor the world is doomed.” The annual SCOWAH exhibition, which opens every April Fools’ Day, is a tribute to Mr. Schmulowitz’s generosity and lifelong interest in the Library.

The Marjorie G. and Carl W. Stern Book Arts & Special Collections Center is also home to the Grabhorn Collection on the History of Printing & the Development of the Book, the Harrison Collection of Calligraphy & Lettering, and the Little Maga/Zine Collection, as well as other special collections.


Making Tracks -- Don’t Forget to Write: Selected Travel Books. A book cover display on the Third Floor, General Collections and Humanities Center Wall Case. April 1 through May 31.

Thursdays at Noon Film Series--Innocents Abroad: Travel Films, featuring Roman Holiday (April 5); Travels With My Aunt (April 12); Last Holiday (April 19). In the Koret Auditorium, 12 noon.

All programs at the Library are Free.
For more information, please call (415) 557-4277.