A generous dose of Esther Price chocolates stilled my beating heart after seeing some exceptional rare books in the University of Dayton’s Roesch Library First Floor Gallery.
Carefully cradled, propped up or resting flat in their temporary home, the 49 books were the star attractions of Imprints and Impressions: Milestones in Human Progress. University of Dayton faculty selected rare and near-priceless first editions, manuscripts, galley proofs, papyri and illustrations important to the arts, sciences, history, education, literature and music. The works were on loan from the rare book collection of Stuart Rose, a Dayton-area businessman who started his collection of more than 2,000 rare books in 1992 with a first-edition Tarzan by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Since then, he has focused on collecting first editions of important, life-changing books.
Armed with an insightful handlist, I roamed the room and longed for those days I spent as a Special Collections librarian browsing shelves in dark aisles, rooting through musty boxes and retrieving treasures from a chilly vault. Here are a few of my favorite finds in the exhibition.
Visiting Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Weimar home and Auerbachs Keller in Leipzig this past September led me to track down the first edition of Goethe’s Faust, printed in Leipzig in 1790. I found it keeping company with the Second Folio of William Shakespeare’s work.
A portfolio of signed illustrations by Salvador Dalí for a 1969 edition of Alice in Wonderland rested above one of only five copies of the first edition of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice that are still in the original boards.
The same case also included other notables, such as the first Dutch and American editions of Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, as well as the first British and American editions of Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
A copy of Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, printed in London circa 1492, was once in the collection of J. Pierpont Morgan.
The first publication of Euclid’s Elements of Geometry, printed in Venice in 1482, was nearby.The distinctive musical melody of Ludwig von Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, Opus 67 ran through my head after seeing the first edition of the full score. That was quickly replaced by “How Ya Gonna Keep ’em Down on the Farm (After They’ve Seen Paree?),” as I studied the first German edition of Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front, together with the corrected galley proofs for it in the author’s hand.
J.R.R. Tolkien’s page proofs of the first edition of The Lord of the Rings, with his final additions, corrections and deletions, were enclosed in a binding by Don Glaister, an acclaimed book binder and conservator, with a signed presentation inscription.
On September 29, author Nicholas Basbanes gave a lecture titled “Common Bond: Thoughts on a World Awash in Paper, and the Fellowship of Books” to open the exhibit. Watch a recording of it here.
Basbanes is the author of nine works about the history and culture of books, including A Gentle Madness: Bibliophiles, Bibliomanes, and the Eternal Passion for Books; Patience & Fortitude: A Roving Chronicle of Book People, Book Places, and Book Culture; Among the Gently Mad: Perspectives and Strategies for the Book-Hunter of the 21st Century; and On Paper: The Everything of Its Two Thousand Year History. As the parent of Sweet Briar College alumna and librarian Nicole Basbanes Claire, he sponsors an annual student book collecting contest at Sweet Briar that focuses on how well a book collection meets a young collector’s purpose for the collection, how it meets her interests, and her goals for its future development.
Imprints and Impressions: Milestones in Human Progress may be over, but you can still enjoy an online version of it here.
Next, Roesch Library will host its annual display of nativity scenes. And Now the World will feature more than 100 creches, original nativities created in a contest by Dayton-area Catholic and Christian school students; and a Provençal French village built around 150 Provençal nativity figures. The exhibit runs from November 29, 2014 through January 25, 2015. Read about my visit to see last year’s exhibit here.