Texas A&M University Libraries today acquired its five millionth volume, a rare first-edition of J.R.R. Tolkien’s 1937 classic The Hobbit—a gift from award-winning “Game of Thrones” author George R.R. Martin.
“Over the last two decades the A&M Libraries has become one of the top 10 publicly-supported research libraries in this country [Association of Research Libraries (ARL) ranking] and this five millionth volume symbolizes that maturity as well as the depth our collections,” says David Carlson, dean of University Libraries.
Only 1,500 published first-editions of The Hobbit exist. The volume features a striking dust jacket complete with the publisher’s hand-corrected spelling error on the inside flap. The first-edition will be shelved in Cushing alongside an array of later editions including the first American edition (1938) and the second British edition (1951).
The Tolkien volume was funded by and presented to the university at a ceremony in Rudder Auditorium by Martin, whose “A Song of Ice and Fire” book series is the basis for a hit HBO show.
The volume of The Hobbit was donated to the Cushing Memorial Library and Archives’ Science Fiction and Fantasy Research Collection, one of the largest of its kind in the world, which houses Martin’s personal collection of manuscripts, books and associated memorabilia.
Martin has past noted that he chose Texas A&M to store his personal collection due to its top-of-the-line library facilities and archival systems. “We’re especially pleased that George R.R. Martin has been such a faithful supporter and now benefactor of our collections. He entrusts us with his legacy and we are honored by it,” Carlson notes.
Martin forged a relationship with the university after he began attending AggieCon science fiction conventions sometime in the 1970s. “During one of those visits, I was given a tour of the special collections and saw not only the books and manuscripts and other items that were on deposit there but also the physical facility itself which was very impressive,” he says, adding that when it was time to put his personal papers on deposit, he thought of Texas A&M.
He went on to note he considers Cushing’s Sci-Fi and Fantasy collection to be among the top three nationwide and the top 10 in the world.
University Libraries is a longtime member of the ARL and is ranked by the organization in its Top 20 nationwide [19th in the 2013 overall investment index among the 115 ARL institutions]. And, adds Carlson, the Libraries are ranked No. 1 out of all Southeastern Conference schools.
“Extraordinary collections and a focus on customer service” are just some of what sets University Libraries apart from all others, Carlson says. In addition, he notes, are the Library staff’s devoted efforts to transfer printed materials to electronic format, providing unprecedented access to library materials.
“Every day, thousands of articles are viewed or downloaded by our faculty and students seeking information of high quality and research,” says Carlson. “Every day, thousands of students come to the library for a place where they can focus on their research and work with other students on group projects.”
Carlson points out recent efforts by University Libraries to make education more accessible to everyone. “We are working with faculty and students to bring down the cost of textbooks and increase the visibility of faculty research through the deposit of their research-based articles in our open-access repository, OAKTrust.”
University Libraries is also working to establish a pre-eminent Preservation and Conservation Lab “so that our legacy collection and the archives of Aggie history will be maintained and preserved for future generations,” Carlson notes.
Today’s five millionth volume celebration carries on a tradition of academic libraries, which mark millionth milestones with the acquisition of special volumes.
University Libraries acquired its one millionth volume in 1976, coinciding with Texas A&M’s centennial. The millionth volume was C.C. Slaughter’s Prose and poetry of the livestock industry of the United States (1905),donated by Mary Frances “Chan” Driscoll, Sterling C. Evans ’21, and Sara & John Lindsey ’44. At the time, the book was considered to be the biggest and rarest book in the historiography of the cattle trade
The two millionth volume was A voyage to the islands Madera, Barbados, Nieves, S. Christophers and Jamaica (1707-25) by Sir Hans Sloane, one of the first and most important natural histories of the new world. The two-volume set, acquired in 1992, was a gift from the aforementioned Lindseys and Driscoll, and Eugene Butler in honor of Sterling C. Evans ’21.
For its three millionth volume in 2004, the Libraries received Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass (1855) from the Lindseys, in its original green cloth binding and including the firststate of the engraved frontispiece portrait of Whitman.
And the four millionth volume, acquired in 2008, was Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote de la Mancha, parts I and II (1617), also a gift from the Lindseys, an extremely rare work as it’s the earliest complete Quixote edition still obtainable; no other American university owns a complete copy — even the copies at the Library of Congress and the British Library are incomplete.