The Colophon Collection of Moderns

An exhibit hosted by

DeGolyer Library
Southern Methodist University
September 20 through November 17, 1995

Collection History by Michael Hazel     Collection Reflections by Decherd Turner

The Colophon Collection of Moderns

From the exhibit catalogue foreward by Michael Hazel

In the fall of 1970, the Friends of the SMU Libraries (originally called Colophon) was organized with a goal "to provide opportunities through which Associates may become acquainted with each other and with the resources of the University library system; to share enthusiasm for learning, books, prints, and related materials; and to establish Southern Methodist University's libraries as centers of cultural activities, enriching the whole community."

The following year the acquisitions committee, chaired by Rabbi Levi Olan, recommended that the FRiends should adopt as a central project the identification and collection of books published in 1950 and thereafter "which are judged to be definitive in establishing the contours of the spirit-soul-mind of man." a concluding date of 1975 was subsequently established, and the list of authors included was revised and expanded several times. This collection has come to be known as the "Colophon Collection of Moderns" and is unique in the country in its scope.

Reflections on the Colophon Collection of Moderns

From the exhibit catalogue preface by Decherd Turner

When the decision was made in 1972 to build the Colophon Collection of Moderns, I was asked to start pulling the collection together. We were concerned to get on with the task, for by 1972, some of the early writers had already entered into the rank of the beatified--well on their way to canonization. That meant that prices were rising, and the sooner the purchases were made, the greater distance our money would carry us.

One of the great pleasures in working on this project was the frequent conferences with Rabbi Levi Olan about whether to include this writer or another. Rabbi Olan at times expressed a restrained dubiety about some of my choices. Were he with us today, it would be fun to show him the number of Pulitzer and National Book Award winners in our Collection. Marshall Terry and Jim Early were generous with their aid and suggestions. In later years other Colophon colleagues continued the development of the collection, altering the contours in keeping with further directions from the Colophon Acquisitions Committee. The results? A verbal journey through one of the most tempestuous and productive periods of our national life. . . .

I am deeply proud of the Colphon Collection of Moderns. It is worth being old today to have lived during a quarter-century of the greatest societal change in our history. The Collection reflects the trauma of change--its tears, its fears, its cheers!

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