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Rare book collection worth $300 million largest gift ever to Princeton

Three generations of book collectors put together exceptional $300-million collection

A remarkable collection of rare books valued at $300 million has been donated to Princeton, the university announced Tuesday. The collection is the largest gift ever received by the university.

The gift was made by William H. Scheide, a philanthropist who died in November at age 100. Scheide graduated from Princeton in 1936.

Scheide inherited his passion for book collecting from his father, John Hinsdale Scheide (Princeton class of 1896), who had inherited it from his father, William Taylor Scheide. Grandfather Scheide began collecting books when he was 18, in 1865.

By the time of William H. Scheide's death last year, the collection included a Gutenberg Bible, Shakespeare's first, second, third and fourth folios; the original printing of the Declaration of Independence; George Washington's 1754 "Journal," his first appearance in print; Paul Revere's "Bloody Massacre" engraving from March 1770; autographed items from Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant; early accounts of voyages to the New World; and autographed music manuscripts of Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Schubert and Wagner.

Originally the books were housed in a library in Titusville, Penn., the Scheides' hometown. In the 1950s, after both his mother and father had died, William H. Scheide transferred the collection to the Scheide Library within the Firestone Library at Princeton, retaining private ownership. The collection has now been gifted to Princeton.

"Through Bill Scheide's generosity, one of the greatest collections of rare books and manuscripts in the world today will have a permanent home here," Princeton President Christopher L. Eisgruber said in a statement. "It will stand as a defining collection for Firestone Library and Princeton University."

The Scheide Library at Princeton includes rugs, furniture and busts from the original library in Titusville.

"This collection is the fulfillment of the dreams of three generations of Scheide book men," Scheide's wife, Judy McCartin Scheide, said in a statement. "Having it reside permanently at Princeton is a testament to the joy Bill took in sharing the books, papers, manuscripts, letters, music and posters with others -- those were some of his happiest times. He loved showing people -- especially young people who had never seen anything like this before -- the collection, letting them touch the books and experience what he called 'the wow factor.'"

Book news and more; I'm @paperhaus on Twitter

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