|The library marked the
occasion with great poetry, acquiring a 1,200-piece William Butler
Yeats collection containing rare works and other materials relating to
the late-19th and early-20th century Irish poet. The John Wesley and
Anna Hodgin Hanes Foundation of Winston-Salem provided the funds to
purchase the extensive collection, continuing its unprecedented
tradition of funding each of the library’s millionth volume
The Yeats collection, touted by book
dealers as one of the best such collections in existence, was unveiled
in a public ceremony Feb. 11 in Wilson Library. F. Borden Hanes Jr.,
representing the Hanes foundation, presented Interim Chancellor
William O. McCoy with the ceremonial five millionth volume, a rare
1895-printed first edition of Yeats’s collected poems entitled
Poems. The materials will be showcased in the library’s rare book
exhibit area through May 31.
The library acquired the collection
through a network of University faculty and alumni. Alumnus, former
English department chair and Yeats scholar George Harper spent 30
years amassing the collection, obtaining some of the rarest materials
from his friend Michael Yeats, the poet’s son. Concerned with the
collection’s future safekeeping, Harper decided to leave it with an
academic institution. He contacted a friend in Carolina’s English
department and began the discussions that would lead to his donation
of part of the collection with the rest being purchased with Hanes
family foundation funds.
"This is a splendid collection
that adds a great deal to the research value of our holdings,"
said Joe Hewitt, associate provost for university libraries. "And
it’s something that could never have happened for Carolina without
the generosity of the Hanes family. It’s a perfect example of the
levels of distinction and excellence that can be achieved through
The Yeats collection builds on the
strength of the library’s 20th century Irish literature holdings and
establishes the University as a major international resource for its
study. As the permanent home to Yeats, George Bernard Shaw, James
Joyce, Samuel Beckett and Seamus Heaney collections, Carolina offers
rich resources for scholarly researchers as well as literary
enthusiasts. With Yeats being taught at all levels at the University,
the collection is likely to touch students from a variety of programs.
Charles McNamara, the University’s
curator of rare books, says the collection will be accessible to the
public and used as a teaching tool for students. "Yeats was often
dissatisfied with his writing and has scratched over his work in some
editions," he said. "Imagine an undergraduate creative
writing student opening one of these editions and realizing that even
the masters have to struggle with their gift. That’s an education
you just will not get from a regular textbook."
Accessibility is an important
consideration for Frank Hanes, trustee of the Hanes family foundation,
who graduated from the University before going on to a career as a
businessman, journalist, novelist and poet. "These books are rare
treasures, but they are treasures meant to be used and shared,"
he said. "The more people and young minds that great literature
can touch, the better."
The Hanes family’s steadfast support
for the library began in 1928 when the family donated the funds to
purchase a collection of 15th century books that would form the
foundation for the University’s rare book collection. "It’s
difficult to talk about rare books at Carolina without talking about
the Hanes family," McNamara said. "They were there in the
beginning, and they have been with us every step of the way."
— Kyle York ’94
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