November 26, 2020

Princeton University Bequeathed Rare Book Collection Worth $300 Million, Largest Gift in School’s History

From Princeton U.

Musician, musicologist, bibliophile and philanthropist William H. Scheide, a 1936 Princeton University alumnus who died in November at age 100, has left his extraordinary collection of some 2,500 rare printed books and manuscripts to Princeton University. With an expected appraised value of nearly $300 million, it is the largest gift in the University’s history.

The Scheide Library has been housed in Princeton’s Firestone Library since 1959, when Scheide moved the collection from his hometown of Titusville, Pennsylvania. It holds the first six printed editions of the Bible, starting with the 1455 Gutenberg Bible, the earliest substantial European printed book; the original printing of the Declaration of Independence; Beethoven’s autograph (in his own handwriting) music sketchbook for 1815-16, the only outside Europe; Shakespeare’s first, second, third and fourth folios; significant autograph music manuscripts of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert and Wagner; a lengthy autograph speech by Abraham Lincoln from 1856 on the problems of slavery; and Gen. Ulysses S. Grant’s original letter and telegram copy books from the last weeks of the Civil War.

“Through Bill Scheide’s generosity, one of the greatest collections of rare books and manuscripts in the world today will have a permanent home here,” said Princeton President Christopher L. Eisgruber. “It will stand as a defining collection for Firestone Library and Princeton University. I cannot imagine a more marvelous collection to serve as the heart of our library. We are grateful for Bill Scheide’s everlasting dedication to Princeton and his commitment to sharing his breathtaking collection with scholars and students for generations to come.”

Although privately owned, the collection has been accessible to patrons of the University’s library through Firestone’s Department of Rare Books and Special Collections.

“Bill’s generosity was legendary,” said University Librarian Karin Trainer. “He was likewise generous with his library.” She said that the Scheide Library’s “true value” is the support it provides for the University’s academic programs.

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Trainer said that the Scheide Library will remain intact as a distinct collection.

“It will continue to be housed together, and no book or document will be removed from it,” Trainer said. “We have gradually been digitizing selections from the Scheide collection, including the Gutenberg Bible, and making them available through the University’s website. We intend to continue that work to share this incredible collection worldwide.

“As part of the major renovation now underway in Firestone Library, the Scheide Library will be relocated,” she added. “Before his death, Bill reviewed the plans for the new space, which is once again intended to resemble his father’s library. In designing the new space, the renovation architects relied on a vintage photograph they found of the Titusville library.”

MUCH More About the Collection, Future Plans, and William H. Scheide in the Complete Princeton University Announcement

Visit the Scheide Library Web Page (via Princeton U. Librsry Rare Books and Special Collections Web Site)

About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.

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