I spent my whole day yesterday at the Houston Metropolitan Research Center in the downtown library. With the cheerful help of the staff I quickly found what I had come for, some materials in the West University Place Collection. Then, since it was pouring rain, I decided to stick around and see if I might find something else to keep me busy. I wound up immersed in the papers of Leopold Meyer, a prominent Houston businessman and philanthropist. Much to my surprise there was a thick file labeled “Rice University and Fondren Library.” Inside was something wonderful.
Mr. Meyer was a lover of rare books and had amassed a large collection of books, letters, and manuscripts. At some point he decided to give much of this collection away and the method he chose was unusual. He gave them to Fondren not as is common”in memory of” friends and relatives who had died but rather “as an expression of affection” for people still living. There are pages and pages of these, with volumes given in honor of George Brown and Norman Hackerman and dozens more:
The effect this had on those so honored was powerful and they responded with beautiful letters of thanks. Here’s a typical one, this from Harry Battlestein:
I nearly wept from the cumulative effect of all these letters and if I’d been in the Woodson instead of the public library I would have. The first thing I did when I got to work today was to see if I could locate any of these volumes. It was almost laughably easy–once you start looking, you find Mr. Meyer’s bookplate all over the rare books collection. Here’s the one he gave in honor of Bob Hope:
And here’s his lovely bookplate:
Extra Bonus: I was really drawn to that bookplate and as I examined it noticed the artist’s name–Furth. Hertha Furth was an Austrian painter and illustrator who lived much of her life in New York. I found her basic biography here. But for something really astonishing, check out this excerpt from a memoir called Ten Dollars in My Pocket: The American Education of a Holocaust Survivor by Elizabeth Welt Trahan.