University of Oregon

Major Collection of Historic, Rare Books Donated to UO Libraries

Gift from Eugene residents Gordon and Sherry Paine will significantly enrich UO's holdings of rare books.

Sherry and Gordon Paine, residents of Eugene, Oregon, and long-time participants in the Oregon Bach Festival (OBF), have donated a personal collection of historic, rare books to the University of Oregon and University of Oregon Libraries. 

Decades of singing Bach and studying with former OBF artistic director Helmuth Rilling guided the Paines to the intersection of theology, history, music, and the German language—the foundations of their amazing book collection. Over many years, the Paines 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.

The collection is extensive, and plans are to transfer it in sections to the University of Oregon Libraries' Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) over the next several years. 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, historically significant theologians and writers.

“The generosity of Gordon and Sherry Paine 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 (SCUA), 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.”

Gordon Paine is Professor Emeritus and former Chair of the Music Department at California State University, Fullerton. Sherry Paine is also a musician, a fine singer who made her career in speech-language pathology. The Paines have been involved with Helmuth Rilling and the UO’s OBF since 1974, but this deep, personal connection was not the ultimate motivation for their gift: It was inspired by a recent exhibit produced by the UO Libraries’ SCUA department.

As Gordon explained, “I learned last summer that the UO Libraries planned to present an exhibit of rare books and authentic period materials to mark the quincentennial (500th) anniversary of the Reformation, and we offered several of our volumes for inclusion. After seeing the quality of the exhibition and meeting the outstanding professionals entrusted with the Special Collections, I told Sherry 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 the Paine Collection with as much care and love as we put into building it.”  

As the library accessions the collection over time, we intend to prioritize the cataloging of each portion so that it be made readily accessible to scholars and UO faculty teaching on the subjects and events covered. The collection will be preserved in the SCUA’s new temperature- and humidity- controlled stacks, a major renovation project that was completed in 2017.

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