Harold Forbes, retired rare books curator, peruses a book dealer Jim Presgraves donated to WVU Libraries in honor of Forbes as library associate Autumn Summers and work study student Jamie Rood look on.
When Harold M. Forbes retired from West Virginia University as curator of Rare Books in 2013, bookseller Jim Presgraves wanted to pay a proper tribute to his colleague’s long career.
Rather than sending a card, Presgraves, approaching retirement himself, donated a large portion of his inventory at Bookworm and Silverfish Books in Rural Retreat, Virginia, to WVU Libraries in honor of the former Rare Books Curator. Library staff calculate the gift at more than 10,000 books, pamphlets, archives, maps and other materials with a value more than $500,000.
“WVU has been a very good customer over the years, and that was my reward,” said Presgraves, who secured books on West Virginia, Appalachia and other topics for Forbes.
As part of his donation, he requested the Libraries identify 100 books and add special bookplates recognizing Forbes. Rare Books Curator Stewart Plein, who worked with Forbes prior to his retirement, selected books she knew would interest him and invited Forbes back to the Rare Book Room in the West Virginia and Regional History Center to unveil the tribute.
“At first, I thought, ‘What a terrific selection’, and then I was stunned to see my name in the books,” Forbes said. “To receive something like this, something so substantial, it was exceptional. I felt truly honored.”
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