A few weeks ago a little bird came in and told me where I might find a room full of very interesting books. I went and she was right. Many of these beautiful old books turned out to have belonged to the collection of Dr. Floyd Seward Lear, who taught in Rice’s history department from 1925 until his retirement in 1975. (The Woodson, happily, is home to his papers. You can find the guide along with a brief biography here.) For my purposes the best find was the typescript of Dr. Lear’s own 1925 Harvard dissertation, which has one of the best dissertation titles I’ve ever seen: The Early History of Treason. That, it seems to me, is a title that is just begging for a novel to be written around it.
It’s also fairly common in my line of work to discover that the most interesting thing about a bunch of books is what the owners have stashed inside them. Inside many of these were receipts for their purchase, including many bought at the Rice campus store. Here, for example, is a volume he bought on September 24, 1960:
And here’s the receipt—for $5.40.
I very much enjoy the thought of Dr. Lear walking over to the RMC, maybe on a day late enough in September that it was beginning to cool off, and finding himself unable to resist yet another copy of the New Testament in Latin (this one with English on facing pages).
Bonus: I recently came across some pictures taken at Dr. Lear’s retirement reception in Cohen House. Here he is with his student, later his colleague, Katherine Fischer Drew:
I confess that I don’t know who the gentleman at left is, but to his right is historian Frank Vandiver, a woman I expect is Mrs. Lear, historian Andrew Forest Muir and Dr. Lear: