THIRD IN THE NATION Trials and Techniques of Getting Rare Books AUSTIN When the metropolitan Museum of Art purchased the Rembrandt “Philosopher” for $2,300,000 recently, The Metropolitan didn’t know just how fortunate it was to get the painting at all, even at that price. A group of well-heeled Texans for some time mulled over whether or not to buy the paintingfor the University of Texas. “They decided not to,” Chancellor Harry H. Ransom said this week, “not beca use they couldn’t raise the money but because they decided it would be unwise to take the state into that cut-throat Instead, these Texans decided to keep on doing their throat-cutting in the just as competitive rare books market. They are among the group known as “friends of the U.T. library.” And good friends they are. This week in Dallas they decided to increase their contributions from the present seven to three ratio to a nine to one ratio, meaning that for every one dollar of library funds contributed by the state, they will chip in nine dollars. p ECA USE of this kind of gene rosity, the University of Texas library, which was all but moribund for thirty years \(1928 to runners, especially in rare books acquisiticns. In Princeton University Library’s last annual ranking, Texas was ranked third in the nation, behind Yale and California, in the amount spent for books. This is for all books, not just rare books, but the ranking would probably hold true for the latter as well. U.T.’s book budget has been running at about one million dollars a year. Gifts of rare books are worth five times that. For bringing the University of Texas library, and especially the rare books portion of it, to this level, much of the credit must go to Ransom, for when it comes to the heart of education, books and teachers, Ransom shows a real genius for mooching money to buy the first and in face-to-face persuasion in recruiting the latter. Some say that if he had to do without one of the two, he would do without the teachers. He is downright bugs on books, and he is in fact one of the few chancellors of a major university who WHOP , 15065\(RIOE a th e d o or bC pie lo unge we reserve the right to serve anyone 2610b guadalupe gr 7-0218 IVVVVVVINSIVIIWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWA” MARTIN ELFANT Sun Life of Canada Houston, Texas CA 4-0686 personally engages in the battle for the rare books. Chancellor William Tolley of Syracuse University is another. Texas has the money, but sometimes it takes more than money. Sometimes it takes persuasion, and Ransom will fly anywhere in the country to work on a potential donor. Recently he flew to New York and, in a morning’s warm conversation, convinced one of the nation’s leading w r it e r s \(whose name Ransom asked us not to mention, for fear of queercountry would put his manuscripts to better use than Texas. He got them. But Ransom said his toughest job of persuasion was in getting the Bible and songbook collection from Travis McBee. McBee was a Baptist, his wife a Methodist. They couldn’t agree which denominational school to leave their collection with. Into this vacuum of decision stepped Ransom, who persuaded them that there am more practicing Baptists and Methodists at the University of Texas than at any denominational school. He got the collectiona victory that only residents of the Bible belt, with its ingrown suspicion of state universities as gardens of atheism, can fully savor. PROBABLY the University of Texas’ most notable aquisition this year was all the papers of C. P. Snow. The U.T. rare books operation goes in heavily for the moderns. It also goes in heavily for Texana, Southwestern material, and the literature of science. Ransom says that when it comes to bidding on items in any of these fields, the wealthy “friends” will back him almost without limit. In the summer of 1960, the library friends showed what they were willing to do when they purchased in London auction the E. M. Forster manuscripts for Passage to India at $16,000the highest price paid for a modern manuscript up to that time. At the same sale, they bought a manuscript of T. S. Eliot’s “The Wasteland” for $7,000. “The Wasteland” manuscript wasn’t even the original. \(Concerning this kind of price, there was the following quote in a recent copy of the Antiquarian Bookman “So anxious are dealers and collectors for a little ink of the poet, that writers are complaining they see their private letters on the auction block almost as soon as they mail them . . . One of London’s leading manuscript dealers, Bertram Rota, says that before the war, a manuscript by a writer like Evelyn Waugh might have fetched $125; today a Waugh man uscript brings All was not extravangance, however. Thanks to a fine bit of detective work by U.T. rare books librarian Mrs. Ann Bowden, “The Wasteland” manuscript has become worth even more than was paid for it. Mrs. Bowden found that Eliot had inserted a line not found in any published version of the poem. In the passage: And if it rains, a closed car at four. And we shall play a game of chess \(The ivory men make company Pressing lidless eyes and wait ing for a knock upon the door. The “new” line is the third, about the ivory men. Mrs. Bowden wrote Eliot; he replied that the line was in the original manu script, somehow was left out of the published version, and in re copying it. he remembered the line and stuck it back in. It is this kind of lucky discovert’ that makes rare book collecting something more than the wholesale venture it has become on the university level. Incidentally. practically everyone in rare books at U.T. is touchy about the question of prices paid. Ransom, Dr. Warren Roberts, director of the Humanities Research Center, and Mrs. Bowden all had “forgotten” what they paid for the Forster and the Eliot. \(The prices are easily discoverable in auction sale records Roberts said that as a matter of policy he and his colleagues do not discuss prices, adding teasily: “Put a price tag on all these items and what image would Texas have!” Many of the “friends” are motivated by sentiment. The late Dean H. T. Parlin years ago taught undergraduate English courses. He had taught Passage to India and “Wasteland” the year they came out and he left such an impression on his students that one of his wealthy exstudents put up the money for the Forster manuscript and a number of his exes went together AUSTIN Once upon a time, when it was said of a writer that he belonged to a certain group, or “school,” one could safely assume that he and his fellows exercised a similar literary style or viewpoint, or followed a common leader, or sought a common goal. This is no longer true. Nowadays a writer may be dumped into a “school” or group for any number of reasons, none necessarily related to what he puts on paper. For example: 1.British writers under forty are “Angry Young Men.” 2.A writer who lives in New York or California and is under forty and wears a beard is a beatnik. 3.All clean-shaven French writers are of the “New Wave.” 4.Writers who grew up in the Southern section of the United States are stuffed immediately and uncomfortably into a catagorical sack with William Faulkner and Erskine Caldwell. THOSE WRITERS who find themselves plunked into categories 1, 2, or 3 can look forward to the time when they will be catalogued for more valid2br, at least, differentreasons. The English and French will someday pass the age of forty and a beard can be shaved away. This deceptively uncomplicated statement promises freedom to all except the writer who happened to be born in the South. He’s stuck. Faulkner and Caldwell are prime examples. Not only are they always called “Southern Writers,” but cocktail party critics insist on using their names together as they would a pair of dancers, ova shortstop and his teammate at second base. It’s high time we put a stop to this guilt-by-association literary propaganda. A good way to begin is by shattering the baseless and put up the money for the Eliot, in his honor. IN THE SAME vein, Stark Young \(author of So Red the Rose, of his students has given an endowment of close to one-half million dollars for purchasing and housing books in his honor. There are gimmick ways of persuading authors to give or sell their works. One way is to invite them to lecture and, while they are here. give them the rush act. One of the small portions of the loosening-up flattery is to greet the visitor with a modest display of the works which the University already possesses and suggest with gentlemanly deference that the University wishes it could expand the display. There are other ways of loosening them up. Erle Stanley Gardner admitted that his being made an honorary captain in the Texas Rangers had something to do with persuading him to donate his great collectionincluding all of his secret plot methodsto the University of Texas rare books library. And -then there is the matter of generous appraisals for tax purposes. It is generally accepted that this practice goes on, although Ransom, Roberts, and Mrs. Bowden all insist that the University of Texas most certainly does not imply this enticement. Ransom said all appraising is done by an “independent, third party.” rurnor that the. people of Faulkner and Caldwell have something in common beyond the irrelevant fact that they usually are set in the same general area. The two writers approach man’s problems from totally different philosophical positions and deal with them with totally different literary styles. Consider how each man depicts a class of people known as “poor white trash.” Caldwell draws these unfortunates as slapstick comedians, no more human than Al Capp’s ridiculouS Dogpatchers, completely lacking Western man’s inherent drive to imitate his economic peers. They have neither respect for, nor fear of, religious and social restrictions man ordinarily imposes upon himself and his neighbors. In contrast to Caldwell’s performing monkeys, Faulkner’s people are committed to the struggle to see and be seen and are extremely aware of the rules of that struggle. They are so aware of the rules, in fact, that when one breaks a rule he usually destroys himself somehow because of it. THE GREATEST mistake, how ever, made by those who try to squeeze Faulkner and Caldwell into the same “school” is taking Caldwell too seriously and Faulkner too lightly. When Tobacco Road was revived off-Broadway not long ago, New York Herald Tribune drama critic Walter Kerr wrote: “I suppose Tobacco Road has something of a reputation for being vulgar. But the true vulgarity of the occasion does not consist in the popeyed leering that goes on across fence-posts or in the ardor ‘horses up’ a male in the middle of a sermon. What is genuinely coarse about Jack Kirkland’s adaptation of Erskine Caldwell’s novel is its pretense to seriousness. “There are odd little document But how “independent” is the third-party appraiser? For example, the Erle Stanley Gardner collection was appraised by Lew David Feldman of the House of El Dieff, Inc. And how independent of the University of Texas is El Dieff? In an editorial last summer the London Times Literary Supplement wrote of, the “prevalent assumption that ‘bought by El Dieff’ means ‘sold to Texas.’ ” In other words, Feldman is U.T.’s agent. Other examples of “independent appraisers” could be given. THERE IS MORE to rare books collecting than collecting rare books. Ransom saysthough he declines to name the collection-that in one recent acquisition, they got not only the autb,or’s books but the skin of a Kodiac hear he had shot. Roberts tells of a collector who recently died and willed his rare books collection to the U.T. library; he also willed his ashes. Asked where the ashes are today, Roberts replied, “Damned if I know. All I know is, they aren’t in this office.” Ransom says the library has been offered collections of authors’ eye-glasses and authors’ walking sticks and other oddities collections, but these have been for sale, so the University turned them down. The University might have taken them as a gift. “Collecting isn’t all for stern research,” Ransom says. “There is humanity in it too. We would be delighted to have one of Hemingway’s fishing rods.” B.S. ary: gestures; here a bd , thert ,k that seem to ask some sort of sympathy for the downtrodden, the underprivileged, the inbred, the unlucky. At the same time, the downtrodden, the unlucky are being held up to view for our ribald delectation as though they were the delicious last dregs of third-rate vaudeville.” Caldwell laughs at his characters. Faulkner suffers with them, and when they are ablelaughs with them. John Cullen, an aged Mississippi farmer and woodsman who has hunted with Faulkner for many years, says in a book called Old Times in the Faulkner Country: “Faulkner’s treatment of Mink Snopes in The Mansion proves again that he understands and in many ways admires what some people call poor whites. “No group of people on earth has more of that kind of fierce independence than the poor, backwoods, uneducated people of Mississippi . . . Faulkner did a wonderful job in creating a person like Mink, especially in de
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