Princeton Receives $300-Million Bequest of Rare Books

Princeton University has received a bequest of some 2,500 rare books and manuscripts from a longtime benefactor who died last fall, the university announced on Monday. The donation, valued at $300-million, is the largest in Princeton’s history.

The donor, William H. Scheide, continued a tradition of collecting started in the 19th century by his grandfather and father. But the private collection has been housed in the university’s Firestone Library, where it is available to researchers and students, since 1959. (Mr. Scheide and his father were both alumni of Princeton.)

Highlights of the collection include a Gutenberg Bible, a first printing of the Declaration of Independence, a run of Shakespeare folio editions, and important autograph manuscripts by Bach, Beethoven, and Mozart.

According to a New York Times obituary of Mr. Scheide published after he died, in November, at age 100, he was known not only as a philanthropist, musicologist, and musician. He was also active in civil rights and was the most generous individual donor in the history of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

Correction (2/15/2015, 3:48 p.m.): This post originally reported incorrectly that Mr. Scheide’s grandfather was a Princeton alumnus. Only Mr. Scheide and his father were alumni of the college. The post has been updated to reflect this correction.

“Through Bill Scheide’s generosity, one of the greatest collections of rare books and manuscripts in the world today will have a permanent home here,” said Princeton President Christopher L. Eisgruber.

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