Volumes from VIPs | Newberry

Volumes from VIPs

Now, a book is a book. You would, in a perfect world, buy a book because you want it, whether because you want to read it, you want to look at the pictures, or you want one exactly the same size as your grandmother’s copy of Forever Amber because you’ve inherited the chair with the short leg she used to prop up with that book.

There are, of course, other reasons for buying books. The fact that I once blogged in this space about Association Books, books which are interesting because they once belonged to Somebody, explains why you might buy a book you never intend to read. You can read Don Quixote in a paperback if you want, but you might simply want to OWN the first English edition which happens to have William Shakespeare’s name written on the title page. (Shakespeare and Cervantes is a matter for an entirely other blog, but it has been determined that Shakespeare MIGHT have read Don Quixote.)

Little though I like to risk embarrassing people for donating their books, I would like to note that there are certain celebrities whose books will be for sale at the Newberry this July. I am not, I must emphasize, going to name ALL the celebrities who have dropped off books. If you were worried about it, I am not going to spill the beans about how you donated that videocassette with your Middle School’s performance of “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” (until you’ve had a chance to answer my anonymous ransom note.)

I kind of thought we had a celebrity’s books when I ran across all these nice volumes with notes from the publishers. These publishers were Chicago institutions and the notes were thank you notes. The Field Museum and the University of Chicago addressed their notes to “Dear Mrs. Mayer”, but the Art Institute’s letters were to “Dear Buddy”. Several of the notes added information: “The paintings you leant us for the exhibition are on pages x, y, and z.”

Beatrice “Buddy” Mayer moved on to another plane of existence last October at 97. Over her years she donated to a number of civic charities, but she remains most famous for her art collection, developed with her husband (who bought Picassos and Matisses from Picasso and Matisse personally). Her father was also a noted art collector (and I have sold signed copies of books about HIS collection.) A sale of some of her paintings is coming up in a few months, and some expert has stated flatly that one of them is expected to realize about fifty million dollars. If you would like something of hers at a slightly more reasonable price, come check out OUR selection in July.

Erminie Wheeler-Voegelin is famous for more than just her difficult name. The first woman to receive an advanced degree in anthropology from Yale, she spent her life reading—and writing—books about the native inhabitants of the North American continent. Her papers came to the Newberry after her death, some thirty years ago, but her collection of books had to wait until someone had time to compare them against the Newberry’s already substantial holdings. So this year we will be offering not only her copies of the books she wrote (which the Newberry bought as they were published) but a number of books she bought for study. These included books both common and rare, so you will need to check the Collector’s section for a number of these. She wrote her name in most of these (books in a campus office have a way of wandering) so you will have proof that these once belonged to a Celebrity.

AND we will be offering more books and CDs and such from the collection of Nathalie Alberts. She has also donated to a number of civic institutions, but she did more for the Newberry than Buddy (who was a contributor but not on the grand scale) and has more of her papers in the Newberry collection than Erminie. I am not in a position to say it is her MAIN claim to fame, but she is the person who kept telling Dr. Towner, head of the Newberry, “If you want to make money, you ought to hold an annual Book Fair.” She did this often enough that finally the Newberry said “Okay, go ahead and hold a Book Fair”, thinking that if she tried it once, she’d see it didn’t make any money and they’d be done with the silly idea.

Of the three ladies mentioned, only Nathalie is still living, so I am using this opportunity to thank her for the books and cassettes as well as for the silly idea. YOU can thank her by coming in July and buying stuff.

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