March 29th, 2011
By Alicia Elkin
The Daily Athenaeum
March 29, 2011
More than 600 books by renowned science fiction writer Isaac Asimov were donated to the West Virginia University Wise Library’s Rare Book Collection.
WVU alumnus Larry Shaver contacted WVU in 2003 to ask if they were interested in the books he had collected by Asimov. Over the years Shaver has donated more than 600 books and more than 50 other items such as games, audio recordings, videos and wall charts, said Harold Forbes, WVU’s rare books curator.
Shaver said he began collecting the books when he was in high school with his first purchase of “The Fountain Trilogy.”
“I was intrigued by the covers mostly I must admit, but once I had read them, I was hooked,” Shaver said.
Shaver later purchased several of Asimov’s works from dealers in Australia.
After 25 years of collecting Asimov works, he ended up with more than 175 books. He then decided to upgrade his collection and started seriously collecting by seeking better editions and signed copies.
One particular book Shaver purchased was a signed first-edition of “I, Robot,” which cost him $1,000 and a signed “Lucky Starr” series for around $4,000.
Shaver has found many rare and signed editions of books written by Asimov. However, there are about 20 titles in the recognized list of Asimov’s works that he has not found.
“I keep looking, though,” he said. “This past fall for example, I was able to obtain 54 essays that had only appeared in American Airlines in-flight magazine around 30 years ago.”
Once his obsession became too large for him to take care of, Shaver decided to donate his Asimov collection to WVU, which took the entire collection unseen. Then, the
collection included more than 600 books.
When WVU asked Shaver what restrictions he had for the collection, he replied only the collection be kept together.
“I could not have been more pleased with the extraordinary work the library staff had done to not only make the collection available, but also in the restoration efforts they’ve made to the books themselves,” he said. “That collection truly belongs to WVU Libraries, not me.”
The Asimov collection, which now includes 38 signed editions, belongs to WVU and is under the care of Forbes, who has worked in the rare books room for 38 years.
When a student wants to view an Asimov book, or other rare book, they must make an appointment with Forbes. He ensures they receive a lesson on how to handle the collection.
The rare books room has rules such as no pens, cameras or scanning equipment to ensure the preservation of the books, he said.
“It’s expanded the period of time that is covered in the rare books room,” Forbes said. “Asimov added the 20th century … we deliberately expanded into science and science fiction.”