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Alumnus donates Victorian Literature to the Libraries

Portrait of Alfred Barcan in his home library

Lehigh University’s Libraries has received an extensive gift of Victorian literature and related reference material from alumnus Alfred J. Barcan, ‘53, and his wife Deborah. The collection is housed in Special Collections and will soon be available for use by scholars at Lehigh and beyond.

Over the course of four decades, the Barcans amassed a large collection of rare books. Building the collection was a labor of love that took them all over the world. While their passion for the golden age of British book illustration influenced most of their acquisitions, the Barcans collected on a diverse range of topics including literature, technology, travel, and design.

The collection, which numbers well over 1,000 books, includes first editions of some of the works of Jules Verne, Mark Twain, Wilkie Collins, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Anthony Trollope, and A.A. Milne, among others. The diversity of the collection is reflected by a significant number of works on:

  • the history of technology
  • historical travel guides and business directories, including Valentine’s Manual of the Old New York
  • Andrew Lang’s Color Fairy Books
  • Lehigh’s own President Drinker’s Tunneling, explosive compounds, and rock drills
  • Works of William Morris, Christina Rossetti, and Walter Crane
  • In addition, reference works focusing on pre-Raphaelite art and design provide insight into the illustrations and bindings of the period.

    To introduce this collection to the Lehigh community and to honor the Barcans for their generous gift, Special Collections will prepare an exhibit of highlights from the collection. Please watch for details regarding the exhibit, scheduled to open in Linderman Library in August 2016.

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