Rare Book Monthly

Articles - August - 2009 Issue

USF: Collecting Dust

Gleeson

Civil Unrest


By Bruce McKinney

Ten years ago the changing functionality of libraries was, to many, already clear. Libraries would become electronic information gatherers and redistributors and their relationship to the printed word atrophy and decline. Libraries, the repository of books, would become the repository of information. The book, as storage and redistribution element, would be replaced by the database and, in time, the full text search. Libraries, the stodgy backwater of the intellectual revolution, would soon become its Omaha Beach. Five years ago sixty percent of librarians we surveyed, when asked whether the primary focus of the library was to provide information or provide books, stipulated information over books. This past year, in answer to the same question, information now held a 70 - 30 edge. A few years hence it will be 80%, then 90%.

Fast forward to The University of San Francisco in the spring of 2009 where change, reality and economic imperative recently converged on the Fulton Street campus of this Jesuit University. In May, for the second time in less than 3 years, material housed in the Donohue Rare Book Room was sold to raise cash. The first sale was of a painting removed from the rare book room walls that Bonhams & Butterfields sold at auction in December 2006 for $900,000. In returning to the auction rooms recently to again raise funds, this time to sell Durer prints, the university stepped into a minefield of anger and anxiety that has been building for some time. For those who predicted the decline of the traditional library a decade ago and long since decamped to the once-thought-to-be-safe confines of the rare book room, in the recent sale of printed material they see siege engines in the University's approach.

The reaction of three of the five communities intertwined with the rare book room has been one of almost absolute disgust and opprobrium. Staff and faculty, donors and volunteer support, and rare book dealers all feel betrayed because they believe such material is to be appreciated, treasured and absolutely retained. The other communities, the students and public, do not seem to much care.

What are the arguments?

Bill Reese, the distinguished American bookdealer, frames the issue for traditionalists this way.

"The sale of material from the Gleeson Library is a tragedy of the first order and a perfect example of what can happen when bottom-line philistines in administration find ways to squeeze money out of collections built up by the devoted effort of many people over a long period of time."

He then goes on to add,

"When an institution takes a collection in trust, there is a moral obligation involved. Just because donors were too trusting to think that their trust would be violated doesn't make it morally right, even if it is legally so."

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>19th Century Shop’s Catalog 170 Great Books and Photos. Please inquire for a copy.</b>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Exodus 10:10 to 16:15. Complete Biblical scroll sheet in Hebrew, a Torah scroll panel. Middle East, ca. 10th or 11th century.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Copernicus Refuted. (Astronomy.). Scientific manuscript of a course of studies at Collège de la Trinité, Lyon. 1660s.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Israel’s War of Independence and the Early Days of the IDF. 58 photographs presented to Israel Ber, IDF officer and later convicted spy.
    <b>19th Century Shop’s Catalog 170 Great Books and Photos. Please inquire for a copy.</b>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Early Unpublished Darwin letter on the races of man. Autograph Letter Signed [to Henry Denny]. Down, Kent, June 1, [1844].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Classic Image of American Slavery. Kimball, M. H. <i>Emancipated Slaves</i>. New York: George Hanks, 1863.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> (Underground Railroad.) Scaggs, Isaac. Important Runaway Slave Poster: $500 Reward Ran away, or decoyed from the subscriber…
  • <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Newton. <i>Philosophiae naturalis principia mathematica</i>. London, 1687.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Josephus. <i>De antiquitate Judaica.</i> Lubeck, 1475-76.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Carlerius. <i>Sporta fragmentorum, Sportula fragmentorum</i>. Brussels, 1478-79.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Fridolin. <i>Der Schatzbehalter</i>. Nuremberg, 1491.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Pinder. <i>Der beschlossen gart des rosenkrantz marie</i>. Nuremberg, 1505.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Isidorus Hispalensis. <i>Synonyma de Homine</i>. Nuremberg, 1470-71.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Durer. Sammelband including <i>Underweysung der messing</i>. Nuremberg, 1525-29.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries: Fall 2017 Auction Schedule</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 19: 19th & 20th Century Prints & Drawings</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 28: Printed & Manuscript Americana</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 5: African-American Fine Art</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries: Fall 2017 Auction Schedule</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 17: Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 19:<br>Art & Storytelling: Photographs & Photobooks</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 26: Rare & Important Travel Posters</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries: Fall 2017 Auction Schedule</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 2:<br>Old Master Through Modern Prints</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 7: Autographs</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 14: 19th & 20th Century Literature</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries: Fall 2017 Auction Schedule</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 16: Contemporary Art</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 5:<br>Maps & Atlases, Natural History & Color Plate Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 14: Illustration Art</b>
  • <b>Announcing a new Books for Sale platform hosted by Biblio</b>
    <b>List your books simultaneously on Rare Book Hub and Biblio</b>

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