Southeast Missouri State University student publication

Rare Book Room opens its doors to public

Tuesday, October 9, 2018
The Rare Book Room inside Kent Library opened its doors for a special open house Oct. 2 - 3. The room has two large collections, the William Faulkner and Charles Harrison collections, and holds over 10,000 pieces.
Photo by Madison Stuerman

Normally kept shut, the Rare Book Room in Kent Library opened its doors on Oct. 2 and 3 for a special open house event to the public.

The room is home to two large collections, the William Faulkner and Charles Harrison collections. The room holds over ten thousand pieces including manuscripts, first-edition books, photographs and other rare materials.

“Most of the pieces in here are donated by two larger donors, we have some smaller collections as well, but that’s mostly it,” special collections and archives librarian Roxanne Dunn said.

Normally closed to the public, the Rare Book Room holds special events for alumni, class tours and conference groups throughout the year. This marked the first time the library has held an event like this, with hope to continue in the future.

“This is kind of new, something we’re trying to see how it goes over, what kind of attendance we could get,” Dunn said. “We offered it twice this week to see if we could get people to come in.”

The room had multiple written pieces displayed on the table while everything else was kept on the shelves. This includes a manuscript written in the 13th century, making it one of the oldest pieces in the collection. The specialty librarians were informed about the pieces of the collection and were able to answer questions for the visitors in the room.

“I like how they had books already set out and had really good knowledge about it,” freshman Savannah Lively said. “How they engaged, for example, the oldest book in the 1300s I like how there was someone there who actually knew about it and willing to talk about it.”

These books are not just everyday copies you would find in a regular library section. They are rare for multiple reasons such as being limited edition, first trade editions, autographed and inscribed copies and for the number of copies printed.

The librarians pulled from the shelves to admire some of the rarer titles including a copy of “Pylon” that has a special silver cover. It is one of about three hundred copies printed in this unique condition. Another book pulled by the librarians was a copy of “Doctor Martino” that Faulkner signed for his stepdaughter Victoria.

Other titles such as a first editions of “Moby Dick,” “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” and “A Christmas Carol” can also be found on the shelves. Due to their rare nature, the books are only available for use in the library, for more information about the rare book room contact Kent Library at kentlibrary@semo.edu.

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