University of Oregon

Major Collection of Historic, Rare Books Donated to UO Libraries

Gift from anonymous donors will significantly enrich UO's holding in Special Collections

When UO Libraries’ anonymous donors learned last summer that the UO Libraries was planning to mount an exhibit of authentic period materials to mark the quincentennial anniversary of the Reformation, the avid book collectors were eager to loan several of their own volumes to the display. The Word Made Print exhibit was such a success that it inspired them to make the arrangement permanent—and bigger!

Over many years, our benefactors assembled some 550 works ranging from first and other early editions of Martin Luther and his circle, to the last German-language Bibles printed in the United States. Other works in the trove of historic volumes range from a 1599 Lutheran hymnal, to one produced in New York during the Second World War for Wehrmacht prisoners interned here.

“After seeing the quality of the exhibition and meeting the outstanding professionals entrusted with the Special Collections, I told my partner how impressed I was. She suggested that the UO Libraries would be an ideal permanent home for our books. Our decision was made. We know that the Libraries will preserve our collection with as much care and love as we put into building it.”  

Plans are to transfer the collection in sections to the University of Oregon Libraries’ Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) over the next several years. Accessioning the collection in portions, over time will best allow the library to prioritize cataloging the materials and making them readily accessible to scholars. The collection will be preserved in the Special Collections’ new temperature- and humidity- controlled stacks, a major renovation project that was completed in 2017.

This year, the UO Libraries will accession the first group of 50 titles from the collection, including works by Martin Luther, Johannes Dietenberger, Tobias Lohner, S.J., Johann Nicolaus Weislinger, Philip Melanchthon, and other seminal scholars and theologians.

“The generosity is astounding, and will allow us to preserve and make accessible this precious cache of rare books for generations to come,” said Adriene Lim, dean of libraries and Philip H. Knight Chair. “We are thrilled and thankful to be entrusted with this unique collection reflecting the history of printing and the Reformation, two events which were so closely entwined.”

David de Lorenzo, Giustina Director of Special Collections and University Archives added: 

“The scope and historical importance of these works are extraordinary. The works will enrich our current collections, which already contain early printing in Europe as especially seen in our Burgess, Homer, and Quayle collections. Together, these rare books will become a powerful resource in support of research and scholarship, especially in the disciplines of Medieval and Renaissance Studies, Germanic Studies, and Classics.”

 

 

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