University of Rochester Library Bulletin: Edward G. Miner

Volume XI · Autumn 1955 · Number 1
Edward G. Miner

The University Library lost a staunch friend, a wise counselor, and a generous benefactor when Mr. Edward G. Miner died on October 10. Through the forty-five years that followed his election to the Board of Trustees of the University in 1910, he kept the needs of the Library constantly in mind and helped immeasurably to promote its growth. In the year that he joined the University family as a Trustee, the Library occupied part of Sibley Hall, had a collection of fifty thousand volumes, and circulated a little over six thousand volumes. Today the Library holdings have increased twelvefold and the circulation is sixty times as great. This change from a small college library to a university library brought many and varied problems. Mr. Miner was always eager to consult with the Librarian about them, and his knowledge of books and buildings and of the principles of good business management aided greatly in their solution. As Chairman of the University Library Committee from 1931 to 1954, he continued to render invaluable service by his wise leadership, keen interest, and strong support.

The task of building the Library's collections to serve the expanding University was one which appealed to Mr. Miner greatly. At the time of the Greater University Campaign, Mr. Miner gave ten thousand dollars as an endowed fund, the income from which is used for the purchase of books on history for the Library. In the twenty years since this gift was received we have added hundreds of important works on history, so that now anyone using the history collection is certain to find among the books he consults many bearing the Edward G. Miner bookplate.

His experience as a book collector gave him an excellent background for helping in this important phase of the Library's work. He always  watched the announcements of new scholarly publications and frequently recommended the acquisition of such books, often offering to present them to the Library if they had not already been purchased. When new fields of investigation came to his notice, he would suggest a careful check of the Library's holdings in those fields to be sure it was keeping up with recent developments.

Mr. Miner's own collecting interests resulted in many valuable additions to the Library's collections. A trip to South America in 1918 aroused his interest in yellow fever and he began collecting books and pamphlets on that subject. Shortly after the establishment of the Medical Library he made his first gift to that Library of forty-one volumes on yellow fever. He continued to purchase new material for the collection as it became available. As a result, the Medical Library now has over six hundred items in its yellow fever collection, the outstanding collection on this subject in the United States. In permanent recognition of his service to the Medical Library, it now is called the Edward G. Miner Library of the School of Medicine and Dentistry.

His own enjoyment of the American writers of the New England school led Mr. Miner to collect first editions and manuscripts of several of the outstanding nineteenth-century authors, among them James Russell Lowell, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and John Greenleaf Whittier. These, too, he presented to the Library, greatly strengthening its Treasure Room collection of American literature. His interest was not limited to American writers, for there are a number of early editions of the works of well-known English authors in the Treasure Room that were originally in Mr. Miner's own collection. His friendship with Mr. R. B. Adam resulted in the loan of the famous R. B. Adam Collection of Johnsoniana, which we were privileged to have in our Library for twelve years.

One of the earlier gifts received from Mr. Miner demonstrated his keen interest in history. Shortly after the close of the first World War he presented a collection of ephemeral material on the war, including a complete file of the Gazette des Ardennes, published in French by the Germans during their occupation of France. While his own travels and study gave him a broad outlook on history, he was most interested in the history of the United States, and collected many rare items of Americana as a result. Many scarce publications on the Civil War and on the history of New York State and of Illinois are now a part of our Library because he first purchased them for his own collection. One of the subjects that he pursued with great enjoyment was the history of Mormonism in New York State. In his first years in Rochester he talked with people who had known Joseph Smith or had heard about him from those who had known him, and he collected all the printed material he could get on the beginnings of Mormonism. These personal reminiscences and printed sources he later used for a paper which he read before the Pundits, part of which we were privileged to print in this Bulletin. The scarce books and pamphlets on Mormonism are now in the Local History Collection, where many other gifts from Mr. Miner are located, including the set of engravings of waterfalls by Thomas Davies. These eighteenth-century engravings are of especial interest to us because three of them are scenes showing the Genesee River.

When the plans for a new library building were being drawn in the 1920's, we were indeed fortunate that Mr. Miner was a member of the Board of Trustees and that he and President Rhees and Mr. Gilchrist were able to convince the Board that the Library should be the center of the new campus, its bookstack tower dominating the scene and reminding all visitors to the campus of the importance of books in an institution devoted to learning and research. He also helped to plan the new building for the Sibley Music Library, which was completed when he was Chairman of the Board of Trustees and Chairman of the University Library Committee.

Mr. Miner had a great vision of the future of the University Library. That vision included a large main building for the general collections, a special building for the Music Library, and another for the Medical Library, with distinguished collections of rare books and manuscripts in all three. He often mentioned his gratification that part of that vision had been realized in the building of the Sibley Music Library and part of Rush Rhees Library. He also frequently expressed his hope that the Medical Library could soon have an adequate building, and that Rush Rhees Library could be completed. Our acquisition of several important collections of historical manuscripts pleased him greatly, and he was proud of the rare books and manuscripts on music and medicine that we now have; but he hoped that these collections could be greatly increased. We who had the privilege of working closely with him know what a truly great contribution he made to the Library, and we shall always hold fast to the vision that he had of the future of the University Library.