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Wilson Library hosts 2nd annual public display of Rare Books Collection

The books in Wilson Library not only contain history — they are history.

And on Tuesday at the Rare Book Collection, they had a chance to escape their glass encasing and breathe.

At the second annual public display of the collection’s recent additions, Claudia Funke, curator of Rare Books, spoke about the universality of rare books.

“These books were created as books for everyone,” she said. “Through the lens of time, they’ve become rare books for everyone.”

In her speech, Funke highlighted several of the collection’s newest editions.

Those include a collection of 1,700 William Wordsworth volumes assembled and donated by UNC professor Mark L. Reed III, literary papers from Jose Maria Vargas Vila, the most widely read Colombian author of the 20th century, and highlights from more than 200 titles of 19th century French literature.

“Our books are well known and have very strong holdings in English literature and poetry,” Funke said.

Funke said one of her favorite additions to the collection is the French translation of Goethe’s “Faust,” with lithographs by Eugène Delacroix.

“After acquiring our French romantic collection, we had the opportunity to enhance it by purchasing one of the greatest illustrated books of all time,” said Funke. “It is a very beautiful thing.”

Betty Manning, a UNC alumna and Chapel Hill resident, said she came to the exhibition for inspiration for a book she’s writing.

“They are jewels to preserve our civilization and our culture,” she said. “They tell us where we came from.”

Senior Chima Ohadugha said he decided to come after seeing the event advertised on Facebook.

“It’s important to see how people in the past thought,” he said.

Others, including Chapel Hill Public Library librarian Molly Cameron, said they attended for more sentimental purposes.

“My mother was a librarian who collected Sherlock Holmes material back when it was not a collectible subject,” Cameron said. “It was such a pleasure for her.”

At the end of her speech, Funke announced that the Rare Book Collection will be starting a blog that should go live as early as next week.

“We will use it to talk about our collections and keep people updated about our discoveries and new acquisitions,” she said.

The Rare Book Collection is open to any member of the general public interested in viewing its more than 160,000 volumes. Readers must complete a reader application form and present photo ID upon arrival.

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