Big Donations for Special Collections

In the past few days, two rather large donations to rare book repositories were announced. On Friday, the University of Pennsylvania's Rare Book & Manuscript Library (home to 250,000 rare books, as well as the Michael Zinman collection and the Gotham Book Mart collection) announced a $4.25 million donation toward the renovation of the library. According to Penn's press release, "The gift will support the first phase of a $15 million expansion project whereby the collection, study, and curatorial facilities on the sixth floor of the Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center will be transformed into a new Special Collections Center. The redesigned Center will play to the strengths of the rare book library's teaching and digitization program. The Center will encourage the use of special collections in both research and in the curriculum; a fully equipped and staffed conservation suite will ensure continued effective stewardship of Penn's rare book and manuscript collection."

And just in time to celebrate Washington's birthday, Mount Vernon announced a tremendous gift. The Donald W. Reynolds Foundation, a regular supporter of the historic site, has pledged $38 million to construct a George Washington Library at Mount Vernon. From the press release: "Construction of the 45,000 square foot facility, which will be named the Fred. W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington, is expected to begin in early 2011, with a completion date in 2012." Currently Mount Vernon holds 45 books from Washington's original library, as well as 450 letters and manuscripts in his hand, and about 1,500 additional eighteenth-century books and documents. Seems like they have a bit of buying to do -- book dealers, take note.