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Scheide Donation Is Largest in University’s History

on Mittwoch, 04 März 2015. Posted in General Autograph News

Written by: Anne Levin

William Hurd Scheide, the Princeton philanthropist, bibliophile, and musicologist who died at age 100 last November, has left his collection of some 2,500 rare books and manuscripts to his alma mater, Princeton University. The bequest, announced Monday and valued at nearly $300 million, represents the largest donation in the University’s history.
“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 University President Christopher L. Eisgruber in a statement on the University’s website. “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.”

The Scheide Library has been housed in the University’s Firestone Library since 1959, when Mr. Scheide moved his collection from his family home in Titusville, Pennsylvania. Among its treasures are 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 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 autographed 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.

Collecting rare books was a family tradition for Mr. Scheide, whose father and grandfather were both passionate bibliophiles. His grandfather, William Taylor Scheide, began collecting at the age of 18, in 1865. Mr. Scheide’s father continued the collection and built a library at the Titusville home where the younger Mr. Scheide grew up.

Mr. Scheide’s father and grandfather were both oil company executives. His father was an 1896 graduate of Princeton, and Mr. Scheide was a member of the class of 1936. He began his own collection in 1954, by which time he was living in Princeton. The library from Titusville was moved to the University after Mr. Scheide’s mother died. A space was created at Firestone Library for the collection including furniture, statues, rugs, and leaded-glass windowpanes from the room in Titusville.

According to the University website, the Scheide Library will remain intact, and no book or document will be removed from it. The collection is gradually being digitized and made accessible through the website. As part of a major renovation currently underway at the library, the collection will be relocated. “Before his death, Bill reviewed the plans for the new space, which is once again intended to resemble his father’s library,” said Karin Trainer, Princeton University’s Librarian. “In designing the new space, the renovation architects relied on a vintage photograph they found of the Titusville library.”

At Mr. Scheide’s memorial service at Nassau Presbyterian Church last November, his daughter Louise Marshall recalled that there were books in every room of the family’s house on Library Place. Her father was generous in sharing his collection with others, Ms. Marshall said, a statement echoed by others familiar with his enthusiasm for books and manuscripts.

“He was a great collector,” said Ms. Trainer, just after Mr. Scheide’s death. “But what set him apart was that he was a great sharer. He collected with a scholarly passion, but he really wanted other people to be as enthusiastic as he was and understand why they were important. And that’s not true of all collectors.”

While the Scheide library was privately owned, it has always been accessible to patrons of Firestone through its Department of Rare Books and Special Collections. Mr. Scheide continued to build the collection until shortly before his death.

“This collection is the fulfillment of the dreams of three generations of Scheide book men,” said Mr. Scheide’s widow, Judith McCartin Scheide. “Having it reside permanently at Princeton is a testament to the joy Bill took in sharing the books, papers, manuscripts, letters, music, and posters with others — those were some of his happiest times. He loved showing people — especially young people who had never seen anything like this before — the collection, letting them touch the books and experience what he called ‘the wow factor.’”

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