One in a Million
Book Donation Marks Libraries' Millionth Volume
By Adriana Ercolano
Acquiring one million print volumes in a library is cause enough for celebration, but George Mason's symbolic millionth volume, which is actually a collection of rare and historic books and autographs of classical musicians, really gives cause to raise the roof. The collection has been donated by Daniele Struppa, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, from his personal library.
"We are delighted and honored to receive this remarkable gift of rare and early imprints, as well as the autographed memorabilia of leading figures in classical music, from Dean Struppa," says John Zenelis, university librarian. "This is a significant gift by any measure: It is not only an extraordinary and valuable collection of books and other materials in its own right, but it also has immense symbolic value for the university and its libraries."
The George Mason University library system has developed rapidly, especially during the past decade, reaching the one-million-volumes milestone this past academic year. "It is especially gratifying to be able to commemorate this historic occasion through the extreme generosity of our own faculty member and dean," notes Zenelis.
Struppa, a professor of mathematics, collected the books over 20 years, mostly in Italy and France. With the exception of one volume, all the books are about mathematics, primarily geometry. The works include Euclid's Evclidis Elementorvm Libri XV (1627) and Clavius's Aritmetica Practtica (1671). Perhaps the most notable book in the collection is the Roman poet Juvenal's Satires (1515). It is the earliest imprint in the collection, and the quality of its printing, paper, and woodcuts is outstanding, says Paul Koda, librarian for Special Collections and Archives.
The library will exhibit the collection, in conjunction with Struppa's formal presentation of the millionth volume, in April 2003. Many of the books are currently undergoing professional restoration, which involves actually disassembling some of the volumes and washing the pages with an aqueous solution or with enzymes. Minor physical imperfections such as worm holes or centuries-old soiling caused by handling will also be corrected by hand mending or through a process called leaf-casting.
"We want these books to be used and usable," says Koda. "The library is very sensitive to the need that its entire collection be accessible for study and instruction in some form or another."
Struppa, who came to the university in 1989, says, "I feel the university is now my home. I like to have the books to look at, and I can still look at them in the library where they'll be well taken care of. I don't lose anything and other people gain."
Struppa says he collected these particular books because "mathematics is one of my great passions, and I enjoy reading about the fundamental ideas when they first originated. It's interesting to see these ideas at the beginning, before they evolved over hundreds of years." He selected the Satires text because Juvenal was one of Struppa's favorite authors when he was a student.
Reflecting another of his interests, Struppa also donated several letters, autographed pictures, and other memorabilia of important classical music figures. One item is a long handwritten and signed letter of Arrigo Boito, author of the opera Mefistofele as well as many librettos for Giuseppe Verdi. "The letter is particularly interesting," says Struppa, "because it deals with the creation of a collection of autographs of the great writer Stendhal. I found intriguing the idea of collecting a manuscript that talks about collecting."
The books and classical music manuscripts and memorabilia will form the Daniele C. Struppa Collection of Rare Books and Manuscripts and will be housed at the Fenwick Library. During the coming academic year, the libraries will be sponsoring a number of events to mark this important gift.
For further information, visit the libraries' web site at library.gmu.edu.
Upcoming Library Events
Saturday and Sunday, October 5 and 6