Two books, donated from the personal Mark Twain Collection of Duane and Eunice Bietz, brother and sister-in-law to university president Gordon Bietz, have added significant value to McKee Library.
The first piece is Twain’s personal copy of his work, The $30,000 Bequest, a comic short story collection. This “gem” as Joe Mocnik, director of libraries, calls it, contains handwritten annotations and corrections by Twain.
The second piece, Liber Scriptorum, or “book of writers,” contains the original signatures of more than 138 historical figures, including Mark Twain, Theodore Roosevelt, Andrew Carnegie, William Dean Howells, and Henry Van Dyke. Originally published in 1891, the intended purpose for the book was to raise money for a meeting place for the Author’s Club of New York. Each contributor submitted a piece and then personally signed 251 copies, printed on handmade Danish paper. The library’s copy is the 153rd book printed out of the total 251.
“These are the rarest and probably the most valuable items Southern and the library have acquired,” says Mocnik, referring to both The $30,000 Bequest and Liber Scriptorum.
These books, along with the other items in the Mark Twain Collection, were collected by the donors over a period of several decades, and are part of a series of donations that started in 2009.
After moving to a smaller home, Duane and Eunice decided to donate the several-hundred-piece collection so it could be used for educational and research purposes.
“We are very pleased that the collection seems to have received a favorable response, and there are still many books that will be coming in the future,” says Duane. “Only about two-fifths of the collection has been transferred at present.”