News Release — July 17, 2001
Major Gift to Ransom Center Library
Dr. William B. Todd and his recently deceased wife Dr. Ann Bowden have given the Ransom Center three important collections of books from their library, including a prize binding collection, a Sir Walter Scott collection, and a James Boswell collection. The collections are a precious addition to the Ransom Center's famous collections, as well as a symbol of the culmination of interests and influence of two esteemed scholars, each with ties to the Ransom Center.
Dr. Todd is the Mildred Caldwell and Baine Perkins Kerr Centennial Chair Emeritus in English History and Culture at The University of Texas at Austin, while Dr. Bowden served the Austin Public Libraries for over twenty years and, prior to that, was the first librarian of the Ransom Center when it opened in 1957. Both Todd and Bowden worked as researchers at the Ransom Center and were instrumental in helping the Center acquire the Gutenberg Bible in 1978. The couple's scholarship in British literature and interest in rare books led to their amassing an impressive collection of material, from which all scholars will now benefit.
The William B. Todd Collection of Prize Bindings, assembled over fifty years and containing almost 1,000 volumes, is, according to Ransom Center head librarian Richard Oram, "a visually stunning collection that is literally incomparable and will be extremely useful to scholars working in the history of the book." Prize bindings were used on books presented to students for academic achievement and traditionally have the school's heraldic arms and motto embossed on the front cover and a certificate inside. Most of the bindings in the Todd Collection are British, and the earliest examples date from the late seventeenth century.
The husband and wife pair, Dr. Todd and Dr. Bowden, also gave the Center their large collection of first and early editions of works by Sir Walter Scott, the early nineteenth-century Scottish novelist and author of Ivanhoe. The number of these editions indicates that Scott was a best-selling author in both Britain and America. The couple assembled the Scott collection for their research on Sir Walter Scott: a Bibliographical History, 1796-1832(1998). Ransom Center Director Thomas F. Staley commented that "the Todds' gift of the Sir Walter Scott collection, when combined with existing holdings at Texas, immediately puts us in elite company among the principal British and American libraries with important Scott holdings."
The third part of the gift is a collection of fifty-four different editions of James Boswell's Life of Samuel Johnson (1791), usually considered to be the best biography in English. Todd and Bowden published a related article, "Scott's Commentary on The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides with Samuel Johnson" in Studies in Bibliography in 1995. Through their work, Todd and Bowden have provided a rich collection of ideas and insights for today's scholars, as well as access for future scholars to deliver new meaning to the materials.