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PCA 202: Introduction to Art History - Special Collections Tour

Books in Special Collections

The department of Special Collections, Rare Books, and University Archives at Butler University holds several books that are rare due to age, the number printed, research interest, and collection. This page includes a selection of the department's rare books. Each item includes a citation with a link to the catalog record and photos of select pages with links to a large-format photo; text that is on a photographed page--excluding large paragraphs--is included in a photo's description; it is highly encouraged that you pull up the large-format photo in a new tab and read all of the text for historical context to the book. 

To search the library's catalog for materials held by Special Collections, see the search box in the left sidebar. 

For more information on books held in Special Collections, visit our website: 

Webber, John (1808). Views in the South Seas. (William F. Charters South Seas Collection)

More Information on the William F. Charters South Seas Collection

William F. Charters collected books on the history and cultures of the South Seas, South Seas islands, and the regions’ Indigenous Peoples. Upon his death in 1931, he donated his book collection to Butler University. Special Collections continues to add books to an addition of the collection to support research in this collecting area.

Collection Summary Written by Gisela Schlülter Terrell, Rare Books and Special Collections Librarian, 1980—1994

“William F. Charters spent his adult working life in Indianapolis. In 1924, he read Frederick O’Brien’s White Shadows in the South Seas, and was deeply moved by the author’s praise for passing native civilizations. Book collecting was a fashionable activity of the age, and Charters responded to O’Brien’s plea to help preserve the irreplaceable records of South Pacific peoples and cultures, especially since they themselves kept few or no written records. With great vigor and in short time, he built a collection, mostly of English and American works or translations into English, that would preserve early written records and accounts of civilizations and cultures that were quickly changing, often disintegrating under the influence of traders, empire builders, missionaries, and foreign administrators.

In 1931, shortly before his death, Charters gave his collection of some 2,000 volumes to Butler University, with certain conditions. Since then, the collection has grown to more than 3,000 titles and has been fully cataloged. Recent scholarly material has been added in order to keep alive and increase the collection’s research value. Books and serials range from early circumnavigators’ and explorers’ accounts to later and current studies in anthropology, ethnology, socioeconomics, government, history, literature, music, the arts, natural history, and other fields.

The collection includes such bibliophilic gems as a first edition of William Bligh’s A Voyage to the South Seas (1792) and the early scientific memoirs and bulletins of the famous Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum. There are examples of early printing presses used in the Pacific Islands, missionary reports, and literary and biographical accounts of life in the South Seas.”

For more historical context on the Charter's rare books collection, please read this introduction to the collection written by Butler University Emeritus Professor George Geib. 

Scott, Walter (1855). Marmion, a Tale of Flodden Field.


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