Professor gives rare texts to Rutgers

Princeton resident Karl Morrison’s donation valued at $100,000.

By: Jeff Milgram
   A Princeton resident who teaches in the Rutgers University history department’s medieval studies program said "thank you" to the state university with a special gift — 10 rare books and manuscripts.
   The objects, which spanned the 12th through the 18th centuries, including some of the earliest ever printed, will make up a significant addition to the university library’s Special Collection and University Archives, said the head of the collection.
   Karl Morrison, Lessing Professor of History and Poetics, who has taught at Rutgers for 16 years, recently presented the university with the volumes and manuscripts, valued at $100,000.
   "Rutgers University and its library system opened up opportunities that I never dreamed of in my walk of life. The time seemed right to say ‘thank you,’" Professor Morrison said.
   Among the books is a copy of a 15th-century folio written by Johann Mentelin. Published in Strasbourg, Germany, before 1470, the folio is the first printed work of anti-Semitic commentary on the Bible.
   But that was not his favorite. His favorite is a miniature edition of the poem "The Art of Love" by Andrea Chenier, the hero of an opera by Umberto Giordano.
   "They cut off his head in the revolution," Professor Morrison said of Chenier. "I was very fond of that (poem)."
   Professor Morrison acquired the objects during his research into medieval history.
   "I have always thought that — after the people who make it up — a university’s most valuable resource is its library," said Professor Morrison, who lives in Princeton Township.
   "This is one of the finest gifts we have ever received," said Ron Becker, head of the Special Collections and University Archives. "It significantly adds to our growing collection of early printed works, which we showcased in a 1998 exhibition ‘The First 100 Years of Printing.’"
The books may be viewed on request during regular library hours in the New Jersey Reading Room of Special Collections and University Archives. For more information, call (732) 932-7006.