Rare Books & Archives
When I see a collection of books, I see knowledge. I see history. I see an intellectual economy. I see more than just the paper and ink printed within date ranges exhibiting design, book binding, and print technique. Rather, I see the undeniable truths that are founded in thought and cherished by those that seek to dig deeper into knowing about life. Special editions are highly sought after in any book collection. Pictures are painted with words on theory and life experiences. Rare books and paper archives define the knowledge retention of a society.
Most people are unaware of the vast collection of archival material, photographs, and novels that the Center of the West houses. Here in this little northwestern corner of Wyoming, in the heart of the Wild West, there is a collection of knowledge that would rival many research libraries of western history and culture in the United States.
McCracken Research Library Archives
There are more than 30,000 books, 1 million photographs, and 15,000 plus cubic feet of archival materials (3 miles) of intellectual wealth. With a collection such as this, our McCracken Research Library staff often get this question: which one is the oldest book? There it is-a fundamental question. One that is at the core of many people’s curiosity as they stand in the lower level lounge peering through the glass doors into the rare books reading and research room.
Most people want to pin a value on any collection based on its age. If it is considered vintage or ancient or rare it is valuable based on human measure. No, it is not the paper and materials that the book is created on so much as the information it leaves for generations to come from the initial penning by the author; that is what makes it valuable in my mind’s eye.
Did the concepts spark revolution? Did the author bring to life that which was not attainable by many during the time period in which the book was published? Lots of intellectual wealth is based on the access people did or did not have to the same experiences. The invention of the printing press revolutionized how the mass population accessed knowledge. Throughout time, as the printing press was refined, the number of copies per book increased exponentially. The older the book the more valuable because the fewer copies that were able to be mass produced.
The oldest book in the McCracken Research Library?
“The Gentleman’s Recreation” by Nicholas Cox.
Published and printed in 1721.
This is just one rare book of many filled with information and adventure on how gentlemen in the early 18th century approached different disciplines of outdoor recreation. This narrative includes subjects such as hawking, hunting, fowling and fishing. Yes, the focus is based within the United Kingdom, but here in the American West we enjoy the same outdoor recreation. This lends to its importance to American Western history. Outdoor recreation was a fundamental social past time a part of everyday life for the gentry in English social circles. This past time carried over to the colonies and into the founding of a new nation. The incentive of having this rare book in our collection is it exhibits how humanity interacts with natural resources. It is a book discussing sporting tradition, techniques, and human/nature interactions that are then mirrored in presentation in the Draper Natural History Museum here at the Center. Check out the Draper’s web page here at centerofthewest.org/our-museums/yellowstone/.
In the grand scheme of rare book dating history, this choice book is “not very old”. In the history of the United States, however; we are looking at a piece of published literature that is older than our founding. We declared our independence in 1776 and the peace treaty to establish our borders happened in 1783. In most recent history, this piece of literature tucked away is a gem for the McCracken Research Library.
Start your Research here!
Search the archives for different books on our website and see what other treasures you find here tucked away in our extensive research library online. This online research archive is a tool for people to utilize. Curiosity can be satisfied by taking time to look through the extensive collection online. Both fiction and non-fiction – rare books, photographs, and periodicals are housed in the McCracken Research Library to embody all things historically relevant to the American West. Scholarship and study are encouraged at the Center of the West to further individual and corporate education. If you have an interest in research and specifically in western culture as it pertains to art, cultural relevance, historical significance, and object collection, then the McCracken’s online archive is a must start to hone your interest list.
With easy accessibility with point and click links on the internet you can start your search today!