Mortimer Rare Book Room History

Louis H. Silver

In 1964 the Newberry Library in Chicago paid an astounding $2,750,000 for 800 rare books and manuscripts belonging to the late Louis H. Silver. Ten years earlier, 50 of those books—literature, philosophy, history, and science from the 15th to the 19th centuries—were on loan for an exhibition in Neilson Library. Silver’s connection to Smith was his daughters, Loretta Silver Lipton, class of 1952, and Carol Silver, class of 1955. The choicest items in Silver’s collection were purchased by the Newberry, but Silver and his family were generous to Smith. In 1956, the college received a modest collection of English 18th- and 19th-century first editions and an immense 13th-century manuscript bible. The bible is written in Latin on 460 leaves of vellum in a compact hand in black, red, and blue ink, with many decorated initial letters, such as the one shown here at the start of the Book of Job.

In 1957, a substantial collection of Silver’s early American children’s books also was presented to the Rare Book Room. College Librarian Margaret Johnson noted that these books established “a solid basis for a real collection of children’s books in the Smith College Library.” This popular grammar textbook, for boys, includes signatures by several 18th-century owners, James Barrett, Ebenezer Wright, and Caleb Rice, who claimed ownership many times on this page and five others at the front and back of the volume.

Biblia sacra. Germany, 13th century. MS 241

N. Bailey. English and Latine Exercises for School-Boys. Fifth edition. Boston: Printed for T. Fleet, 1720.
The children’s book collection was significantly expanded again in the 1960s with gifts from
Marjorie B. Menden, class of 1930.

biblia sacra-web.jpg


permalinks for books:
biblia sacra: