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Rare Books Donated to Library

Springfield-Greene County Library workers recently got a pleasant surprise when sorting thru a box of donated books. KSMU’s Michele Skalicky has more…

During library hours recently at the Brentwood Branch Library, someone came in and dropped off a box filled with books that they no longer wanted. Jane McWilliams is a member of Friends of the Library…

"People just bring boxes or sacks of books to the checkout desk and give them to the library employees, and they put them in the storage room."

Volunteer Regina Cummins sorted through the books later in the day to re-box them for Friends of the Library to pick up. As she was going through them, she noticed some small, leather-bound books and called over the branch manager and the reference librarian to have a look. McWilliams did further research and determined that they had found a treasure…

"Theobald is the editor. It's The Works of Shakespeare. He gathered all of Shakespeare's work, and it's an eight-volume set."

The books, written in 1773, are estimated to be worth between 1500 and 2400 dollars. McWilliams learned something about their history…

"He wrote these because Alexander Pope had written a set earlier, and Theobald thought that Alexander Pope had strayed too far from the actual language of Shakespeare, so he wanted to make that correction."

Friends of the Library could find only two sets for sale in the world: in London and in Stockholm. It’s believed only five universities or colleges worldwide have the sets.Another treasure in the box was a rare 1774 volume of John Bell’s Poems Written by Shakespeare, estimated to be worth between 700 to 1700 dollars.McWilliams says they don’t know who donated the books, but she’s pretty sure they didn’t know what they were giving away…

"I'm sure that someone was cleaning out a house and had no idea. We just feel so fortunate that they were given to a library branch. They could have gone anywhere else and maybe not been discovered."

The library will donate the books to Meyer Library at Missouri State University for their Special Collections. Dave Richards, associate professor of library science at MSU and head of the Special Collections department, says the donation will allow students to have a glimpse into the past…

"These volumes are excellent examples of the book-making technique of the 1770s, and it's gonna be fascinating for the students to be able to utilize these in their courses."

Friends of the Library will donate the books to MSU Wednesday Nov. 17 at 4 pm during a reception at the Brentwood Branch Library. The public is invited to attend and see the books as well as listen to a talk about Theobald, the books and Shakespeare.For KSMU News, I’m Michele Skalicky.