Elbin Library Houses Lovely Antiques
Many readers know that my day job is public relations work for West Liberty University. Over the past three years that I’ve worked on the hilltop, I’ve been pleased to learn that the Paul N. Elbin Library is a great resource for books, technology and learning.
I didn’t know until recently, though, it’s also great for antiques.
The Nelle M. Krise Rare Book Room is quite a treat! The room is on the second floor of the library and includes an antique slant front desk and other furniture, antique silver and glassware, paintings, photographs and rare books. There’s also old German Hummels, English Wedgwood and Italian ceramics on display.
Named for a past West Liberty president who served for 35 years, Paul N. Elbin, the Elbin Library is the heart of academics at the university. Its inventory includes more than 150,000 items in print, audio and video formats; plus two special collections -The Henry Lash Sheet Music Collection and the Nelle M. Krise Rare Books Collection.
An English professor for 40 years, Krise was an enthusiastic collector of books. A popular professor, Krise Residential Hall is named after her. Colerain resident Henry Lash was one of her pupils and friends.
“The Krise room contains gifts from two families,” explained library director Cheryl Harshman. “Nelle Krise gave the valuable collection of books that have to do with the history of the written word. The other treasures in the room are things bequeathed through the estate of Dr. Paul Elbin and his wife, Helen. The Elbins’ monetary gift continues to support the library today.”
When Mrs. Elbin died, there was an auction, and the West Liberty Foundation purchased some special items so that these personal keepsakes could be kept on display for historic reasons, according to Harshman.
Items include Mrs. Elbin’s antique opera glasses, her mink stole, fine silver serving pieces, silverware, elegant glassware and furniture. These antiques serve as a point of pride for Hilltoppers who visit the library during Homecoming and throughout the year.
Many alumni still remember Professor Krise who, together with former West Liberty librarian June Flynn, hosted many holiday parties and literature events.
“The Krise Room has been on display for perhaps 15 years. This is important history related to the institution and to the people who lived here for many years and gave their lives to the university and to its mission of higher education,” Harshman said.
The rare books include an amazing 15th-century illuminated Book of Hours, a beautiful Dutch manuscript. I was thrilled to view it. The Gothic lettering and elaborate gold decorations are vivid and precious. In an age when people struggle to write even their name in cursive, the handwritten manuscript on vellum seems almost unimaginable.
A complete book, the Book of Hours would have been made as a prayer book and status symbol – only a rich person could even hope to own this type of book. The leather cover on the exterior of the book dates to the 16th or 17th century, according to Harshman.
Other rarities in the Krise Collection include a tiny piece of Egyptian papyrus that dates to 30 B.C. and is a primitive writing sample showing hieroglyphics on paper made from Nile River reed. It was formerly owned by William Randolph Hearst.
The Krise room also houses a small cuneiform writing tablet that is actually a receipt for sheep and goats. About the size of a postage stamp, this (baby) Babylonian tablet dates to 2350 B.C.! It’s kept in a small jewel case.
The many treasures tracing the history of the book is a perfect accent to the Elbin Library, and they will travel to nearby Oglebay Institute when Elbin Library lends them to the Museums of Oglebay Institute for a May 2016 traveling exhibit called, “The First Folio, The Book that Gave Us Shakespeare.” This American Library Association exhibit marks the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death and includes a 1623 original edition of the playwright’s first published collection.
“We are thrilled to work with Oglebay Institute on this important exhibit. It will be fabulous,” Harshman said.
Meanwhile, stop by the Elbin Library on the West Liberty University campus soon and ask to see the Krise Room or view it on flickr.com.
For comments or suggestions on local treasures to be featured in Antique of the Week, Maureen Zambito can be reached via email at: zambitomaureen @hotmail.com or by writing in care of this newspaper.