Early Friends leaders John William Rogers, Blanche Lefkowitz, Leon Harris, Jr., and Ruth Morgan consult with assistant director Violet Hayden and library director Cleora Clanton (L to R) about a petition urging support for the Dallas Public Library, 1951
The Dallas Public Library’s Fine Books collection was established shortly after the formation of the Friends of the Dallas Public Library in 1950. Among the Friends were scholars, writers and artists who respected mankind’s attempts to chronicle ideas through the recorded word, and felt that developing a collection of finely produced and highly significant volumes would provide Library users with access to the best books of all ages. They believed that a great library requires fine and original editions to stir the imagination and evoke the historic times that produced them.
Early support for the Fine Books collection came from leaders of the Friends, including Mr. and Mrs. Eugene McDermott, Leon A. Harris, Jr., Mr. and Mrs. Cecil Green, Virginia Lazenby O’Hara, Mr. and Mrs. S. T. Harris, Mr. and Mrs. Frederick M. Mayer, Erin Bain Jones (Mrs. John Leddy-Jones), Lon Tinkle, Rabbi Levi Olan, and the Stanley Marcus family.
The collection was first housed in a rare book room honoring Edna Rowe, an influential English teacher and author, at the old downtown library at Commerce and Harwood. Through a generous bequest from Mrs. Virginia Lazenby O’Hara, whose family established the Dr. Pepper Company, a fine books area was included when the J. Erik Jonsson Central Library opened in 1982.
Today, the Dallas Public Library’s Fine Books collection numbers over 2,750 volumes donated by Dallas citizens or purchased with endowment or gift funds. No tax revenues are used to acquire books for the collection. Fine Books holdings focus on three areas:
- History of Printing and the Book
- The History of Ideas - particularly those that have exerted major influence on Western civilization
- Fine Printing - the Art of the Book
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