Rare Book Monthly

Articles - February - 2010 Issue

Rare Book Library Sells 3,700 Book Collection

Rushu

Rush University, from their website.


By Michael Stillman

It was one of the largest, single owner book sales in recent memory, but it passed by virtually unnoticed. This was not an ordinary sale, as it also involved the extremely touchy issue of library de-accession. We have written about this controversial topic in the past (click here), but this story has a happier ending then those at, say, the University of San Francisco. This collection moved in bulk, all 3,700 volumes, from one library to another. No one, as best we can tell, came out of this transaction unhappy.

The collection in question was the Stanton A. Friedberg, M.D. Rare Book Room collection at Rush University in Chicago. Rush is a medical school, Friedberg a graduate thereof. He had donated his collection of 3,700 books dating back as far as 1500 to Rush. However, the collection has been virtually unused for many years. Rush is more involved in current medical research and issues and does not have a focus on the history of medicine. Fortunately, its neighbor and once affiliated college, the University of Chicago, does. The result was about as perfect a storm as you can get. The University of Chicago is close by, the two universities were affiliated when Friedberg graduated, and Friedberg was also a supporter of the University of Chicago. For a university wishing to de-accession a collection that no longer served it any purpose but to rack up bills, this was a match made in heaven. What's more, the University of Chicago wanted the collection.

As perfect as the arrangement was, the two universities went one more step to make sure the transaction would be as respectful as possible to Mr. Friedberg and his earlier donation. Proceeds of the sale will be used to create an endowment in Friedberg's name "to support scholarly activities" at the Rush Library. Meanwhile, the University of Chicago will name the collection the "Stanton A. Friedberg M.D. Rare Book Collection of Rush University Medical Center at the University of Chicago." Friedberg's name will now be remembered in two places, and anyone from Rush University who should want to see the books will have access at the University of Chicago. One can only think that Mr. Friedberg would be pleased with this solution to the issue his collection was causing Rush University in today's environment.

Terms of the sale were not disclosed.

The issue of libraries needing to de-accession unused, but valuable and gifted books will probably come up with increasing frequency in the years ahead. It is unlikely most will have such a perfect solution, a close-by neighbor who wishes to take on the collection in whole. Still, de-accessioning institutions will need to find ways to complete these transactions in ways that do as little as possible to upset members of their community or the memory (and heirs) of those who made the contributions. Rush University found a perfect solution. Others will probably have to be more creative, but Rush has set a fine example.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Abraham Lincoln, <i>Emancipation Proclamation by the President of the United States,</i> pamphlet, 1862. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Family papers of the distinguished Ruby-Jackson family, Portland, Maine, 1853-1961. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Family papers of the Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens & the persons who served him, 1866-1907. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Autograph book with inscriptions by orators Moses Roper & Peter Williams, 1821-54. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Archive of letters, postcards, and greeting cards sent by Romare Bearden, 1949-87. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b><br>E. Simms Campbell, <i>A Night-Club Map of Harlem,</i> in inaugural issue of Manhattan, 1933. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Papers of the comedian Nipsey Russell, including a letter from MLK, 1929-2000. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Early German-American anti-slavery broadside, <i>Sclaven-Handel,</i> Philadelphia, 1794. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Edmonia Lewis, prominent sculptor, carte-de-visite by Henry Rocher, c. 1866-71. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b><br><i>The Black Panther: Black Community News Service,</i> 44 issues, San Francisco, 1967-1971. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Ernest Withers, <i>I Am A Man, Sanitation Workers Strike,</i> silver print, 1968. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> <i>March For Freedom Now!,</i> poster for the 1960 Republican Convention. $4,000 to $6,000.

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