MAILED: Sept. 26, 1997|
EAU CLAIRE -- Some of the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire's most valuable treasures can be found in a vault in a temperature-controlled room in McIntyre Library.
The university's 2,800-piece rare book collection is stored in the Special Collections room of the library, said Larry Lynch, UW-Eau Claire archivist.
"We have quite the collection of rare books down here," Lynch said. "I'm not sure if many people know they are here."
To be considered rare, a book must have been published before 1860 in Wisconsin, 1850 in the United States, 1720 in Great Britain or 1500 in Europe.
"No matter what book it is, if it was published before these days, it's considered rare," Lynch said. A book also is considered rare if it's autographed by the author or if it's worth more than $150.
A first-edition, first-printing of Mark Twain's "Huckleberry Finn" is among the rarest of the books, Lynch said. While the book is rare in its own right, it has an added feature - tipped into the front of the book is a handwritten letter from Twain to his publisher dated 1883, two years before the book was published, in which Twain describes completing the manuscript of "Huck Finn." "The letter obviously makes the book very special," Lynch said.
The collection also features extensive sets of Twain, Edith Wharton and John Muir and Eugene O'Neill first editions.
Not all of the books are principally textual, Lynch said. The collection includes several beautifully illustrated books from the 1800s. "I don't know how on earth they could publish books of this color quality over 100 years ago," Lynch said. "It's amazing to me."
A book published in Latin in 1535 is the oldest book in the collection, while Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's "Black Profiles in Courage," autographed by the author, is the newest book in the collection.
"It may not be that old or rare but we consider it worth including because it's signed by him and he spoke on our campus," Lynch said of Abdul-Jabbar's book. "To me, that's certainly worth being added to the collection."
Lynch said the collection contained about a thousand rare books until the L.E. Phillips Memorial Library donated the libraries of two prominant Eau Claire families, the Moons and the Owens, in 1992. The donation added about 1,800 volumes to the collection, Lynch said.
"It was a wonderful gift to the university," Lynch said.
Janice B. Wisner
UW-Eau Claire News Bureau
Updated: Sept. 26, 1997