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The Enduring Legacy of Rare Gifts

by Michelle McCoy 2/20/2013 10:06:00 AM

Front cover, The Fox's ProphecyEver wondered how DePaul came to possess a prodigious 4500 books related to Napoleon Bonaparte or why there are approximately 900 titles on 19th-century fox hunting, horse racing and other gentlemen’s leisurely pursuits? A new exhibit in Special Collections & Archives called, The Enduring Legacy of Rare Gifts, chronicles DePaul’s acquisition of significant book collections and highlights the contributions made by notable donors over the last 90 years.

The first major donation to the DePaul libraries dates to the 1927 when the Illinois Chapter of the American-Irish Historical Society no longer had enough space to house their Irish-related titles. Diverse riches were added over the ensuing decades including the Napoleonic book collection of Otto A. Lempke, the Sporting Collection of Stuyvesant Peabody, the African American collections born from the foresight of Professor Gilbert Sims Derr and the Charles Dickens collection of Samuel Bradford.
Gay's Fables, donated by Abel Berland.
By 1975, DePaul University Libraries owned approximately 7,000 volumes that were considered “special” by virtue of their rareness, value or format. The result of both judicious purchases and of gifts from individuals who often had deep associations with the university, these titles formed the basis of the rare book collections at DePaul. With support and encouragement from alumnus, DePaul board trustee, noted Chicago rare book collector and donor, Abel E. Berland, the first Department of Special Collections was born on the fourth floor of the Schmitt Academic Center to organize these rare volumes, improve awareness and accessibility to these volumes and foster better long-term preservation. With the completion of the new John T. Richardson Library in 1992, Special Collections & Archives had its own department designed with climate-controlled stacks and a reading room, named in honor of donor and longtime champion of Special Collections, Abel E. Berland.

Throughout the years, there have been more contributions by individuals than can possibly be named in one exhibit. Of significance are the many faculty members, alumni, staff members and other DePaul affiliated groups that continue to offer generous gifts in support of the academic mission of the university. Each contribution continues to serve current and future generations of students and researchers and form an enduring legacy.

Today, Special Collections contains almost 17,000 volumes of rare books. This exhibit highlights a selection of core collections and contributors, many of which have been made by those closest to the academic mission of the university that have shaped DePaul’s Special Collections.


This exhibit is hosted in conjunction with the Richardson Library’s exhibit, The Way of Wisdom: Building DePaul University Libraries, to highlight the history and future of its mission and will run through spring quarter.

For additional information, please contact Special Collections at: archives@depaul.edu.

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