Alice and Rollo G. Silver Rare Book Collection
Scope:
The book collections formed by Alice and Rollo G. Silver show impeccable taste and discrimination on both subjects (Walt Whitman, Joseph Conrad), and genres (fine press books).  These libraries supplement the manuscript collections, so that both primary and secondary research may be done at HGARC.

Rollo G. Silver (1909-1989) of Boston, was both a noted book collector and a scholar of U.S. printing, typography, and bibliographical studies of rare books. In addition to writing classic books on these subjects, he also edited volumes of Walt Whitman's letters.

Walt Whitman:

Leaves of Grass (Brooklyn, 1855), written and printed by Whitman himself, was a departure in many ways from the poetry of the era. Five years after its appearance, and with subsequent larger editions being printed, an unsigned review appeared in Boston's Banner of Light 7 (June 2nd, 1860) capturing something of Whitman's unique voice:

"Nobody who has read Whitman's poems, can question his originality. He betrays high culture, even when he seems almost swinishly to spurn it. We think that few writers of our day, if any, whether in prose or verse, have so seized hold of the spirit of things—no matter what, where found, or intertwisted with whatever associations—as this one before us."

Leaves of Grass
, both reviled and praised in its time, has become one of the best-known books of American poetry. Leaves of Grass evolved over multiple editions, so it is important to have multiple editions together to study the transformation of such a literary masterpiece. Additionally, Leaves of Grass is probably the only volume of poetry that was recreated and expanded so many times by its author.  Thus the Silvers' acquisition of many editions is especially useful for study and research.

The rare first edition, first printing of Leaves of Grass is present, as the cornerstone of the collection. In addition to the "Deathbed" edition of 1891/92 and editions printed with embossed covers in Victorian times (something eschewed by Whitman in his own printing of the first edition), there is an extraordinary fine press, folio edition by printers Edwin and Robert Grabhorn of San Francisco, 1930, featuring the woodcut illustrations by renowned artist Valenti Angelo. These books are among the most-requested by Boston University classes held under the auspices of the Gotlieb Center.

Also held are translations and secondary sources about Whitman (of whom Rollo Silver wrote, and also edited his correspondence).  

Joseph Conrad, 1857-1924

Joseph Conrad, noted author born in Ukraine and educated mostly in Poland, wrote in his second language, English. He was a major writer in the early twentieth century, with novels in different genres; featuring historical, espionage, and adventure narratives. Conrad, a former seaman and traveler, explored in his writing many meetings of different cultures, as in his first book Almayer's Folly: A Story of an Eastern River (held in the first British edition, first printing, 1919), Lord Jim, and Heart of Darkness. In Conrad's "Author's Note" to his collected works, he expressed a guiding principle: that his sympathies lie with "...humanity far away" [as we all share the same existence] "...the curse of facts and the blessing of illusions, the bitterness of our wisdom and the deceptive consolation of our folly." (1895).

Rollo G. and Alice Silver understood that collecting an author in numerous editions is important for various types of research. A fine edition of the works of Joseph Conrad, The Concord Edition of the Works of Joseph Conrad (New York, 1923-1928, in 25 volumes) is held, as are first and early editions of Conrad's books, and works about Conrad.

Fine Press Books:

The Silvers chose some of the greatest examples of fine presses to represent book creation at its finest. From an English press, they chose the Golden Cockerel Press's The Canterbury Tales (1929) and Troilus and Criseyde (1927), both illustrated by Eric Gill. From London, they collected books and pamphlets of the notable Nonesuch Press.

From American presses, they chose the unique and extraordinary printer, Dard Hunter of Chillicothe, Ohio. Similar to Joseph Conrad's early life, Hunter was a traveler. His great book, Primitive Papermaking: an Account of a Mexican Sojourn and a Voyage to the Pacific Islands... (1927) was a combined work of book history, ethnography, and fine printing in its production.