Ask Abe: Memorial Library

What was the first book in Memorial Library?

Abe

Memorial Library has a long — and somewhat fraught — history, and when it opened on July 27, 1953, the arrival of the first book cause for celebration. (Fraught: the UW had begged for 20 years to get the funds to build a new library, and even after the legislature agreed, construction was delayed first by a steel shortage and then an accident that caused the framework to collapse.) The day the shelves opened to receive, the UW’s leaders lined up to watch retired librarian Laurence Burke 1901 haul in that first volume: a copy of the Coverdale Bible, printed in 1535 — the first complete bible published in English. Though this is one of the library’s older books, it had only been in the UW’s possession since 1946, having been acquired as part of the Thordarson Collection of rare books. Today, the UW Libraries have the 12th-largest research collection in North America, with more than 10 million volumes, including that Coverdale Bible. If you’re curious to see it, its call number is Thordarson T 278, but you can’t check it out. Rare books are non-circulating. You’ll have to go to the special collections room on Memorial Library’s ninth floor. We just hope they didn’t make old Mr. Burke climb all those stairs …