A Room of Our Own: Celebrating Fifty Years in the Mortimer Rare Book Room

An exhibition on view in the Book Arts Gallery, Neilson, Level 3, through Feb. 10, 2013.

Painted and sculpted book cover for Timothy Ely's unique artists book, Graphocephela (1996)

50th Anniversary Celebration: October 12, 2012
4:30-5:30 pm 50th Anniversary Celebration
Book Arts Gallery, Neilson Level 3
Exhibition: September 4, 2012 - February 10, 2013
Book Arts Gallery,
Neilson Level 3
A Room of Our Own: An Exhibition celebrating fifty years in the Mortimer Rare Book Room

Neilson Library has been enlarged and modified a number of times since its opening in 1909. Rare books—items needing special care and handling—were first identified and removed from the general stacks in the 1940s. The first Rare Book Room was an office in the library with a curator’s desk and small reading table, with an additional shelving area enclosed with a metal grille. In the fall of 1962 the rare book department moved from room 32 to its present location in spacious and well-appointed quarters in the new James Mandeville Hills wing in the northwest corner of Neilson Library. Additional space for collections storage has been added, and the reading room has been refurnished, but the Mortimer Rare Book Room (named in 1994 in honor of Ruth Mortimer, class of 1953) has stood the test of time.

This exhibition celebrates fifty years in our current location. On display are books, manuscripts, and photographs documenting the state of rare books at Smith before 1962; plans for the new addition; and the four curators. The rare book collections have grown largely through donations—many of them from alumnae—and purchases (endowed funds were established starting in the 1970s). Some of our generous donors also are highlighted. A number of framed posters from exhibitions during the past twenty years on a variety of topics are on display around the perimeter of the gallery.

Mortimer Rare Book Room in 1962 The rare book reading room on October 15, 1962
The Good Girl cover
The Good Girl, a children's book printed in Northampton, MA in 1841
A dance pattern from The Royal Portuguez
A dance pattern from The Royal Portuguez (London 1709)
[click on image to enlarge]
Dorothy King, first curator of rare books from 1946-1974 Dorothy King, first curator of rare books from 1946-1974


Barbara Blumenthal
Rare Book Specialist
(413) 586-2906