The Lilly also is home to the 30,000 item mechanical puzzles collection donated by Jerry Slocum of Southern California. Portions of the collection are always on exhibit and Silver said “the public is encouraged to work and experience them.”
Our collection has dozens of specialty areas, he said, including the papers and manuscripts of Ian Fleming, the author of the James Bond series. The prolific and wildly successful author was himself a book collector specializing in famous scientific and technology firsts, which are also at the Lilly.
Many other famous literary names such as Ernest Hemingway and Ezra Pound also have substantial representation. Among the most used resources are collections relating to Sylvia Plath and Orson Welles. Along with books, manuscripts, paintings and ephemera there’s some odd stuff too: “We have a lock of Sylvia Plath’s hair and we also have a lock from Edgar Allan Poe.”
Asked about the library’s relationship with dealers, Silver responded that the “Lilly values our long and deep ties to the antiquarian book trade.” He stressed that book dealer David Randall from Scribner’s in New York City, (“who was Mr. Lilly’s principal dealer”) was recruited to become the Lilly’s first librarian in 1956. “We continue to rely on the expertise and knowledge of antiquarian dealers,” he said. “Our best material comes from long term professionals.”
And “Yes,” he said, “the library is still buying” -- with an annual budget for new acquisitions in the $800,000-$900,000 range. Though, as may be imagined with a collection so diverse and deep, purchases are selective. Notwithstanding, “We still read catalogs; we still look at offers.” Not surprisingly top concerns are “condition” and “the fit with what we already have.”
Silver said there is also current interest in annotations, not necessarily by famous people. “Notes,” he said, “give an indication of the thinking of the reader — a sense of contemporary thought.”