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Anderson University gets children’s book donation

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Thousands of volumes of classic children’s books will become part of Anderson University’s permanent collection through a donation from an alumna who is an avid collector.

Elizabeth York is donating more than 6,000 rare and first-edition children’s books, a collection worth about $1 million, for a new children’s literature wing at the university’s Nicholson Library.

The collection includes first-edition printings from 18th- and 19th-century authors, poets and illustrators such as Beatrix Potter, A.A. Milne, J.M. Barrie and Rudyard Kipling.

The donation, to be publicly announced Oct. 2, makes the children’s collection at the private Christian university one of the most prestigious in the Midwest. The Lilly Library at Indiana University has more than 10,000 children’s books, most obtained through donations.

Marilyn Courtot, who runs the Children’s Literature Comprehensive Database (http://www.childrenslit.com) in Washington, D.C., says the collection will appeal to children’s literature specialists eager to see the original books.

“When you look at a reproduction, it’s never the same,” she said.

Some of the books will be displayed on a rotating basis and in special exhibits, while others will be available upon request.

York and her husband, James, are longtime university benefactors. They donated millions of dollars to help build housing for seminary students and a new recital hall and have established two endowed scholarships.

York told The Indianapolis Star that she began her collection with first-edition books by 18th- and 19th-century illustrators Randolph Caldecott, Edmund Dulac, Arthur Rackham, Howard Pyle and Jessie Wilcox Smith. York liked their colorful, detailed illustrations.

“They illustrated the classics,” she said.

She also has a 1926 signed copy of Robert Frost’s “New Hampshire,” more than 250 Mother Goose books, 350 pop-up books and more than 300 Christmas books — including a first edition of “Cajun Night Before Christmas,” in which Santa arrives in the bayou on a flatboat pulled by eight alligators.

The collection also includes children’s readers illustrated by Andy Warhol and rare American Indian children’s books published by the U.S. Indian Service in the 1940s.

Courtot said such finds can be a treasure for anyone wanting to study different cultures, time periods and techniques used to teach values to children.

“Teachers will have a unique opportunity to see how things have progressed from the moral issue focus of children’s books to what we have today,” she said. “Children were seen to be little minds that needed to be formed.”

Information from: The Indianapolis Star, http://www.indystar.com

© 2009 Associated Press. Displayed by permission. All rights reserved.

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