On April 1, the Zimmerman Library at the University of New Mexico campus will hold a celebration officially welcoming the three millionth volume into their collection.
Mike Kelly, director of the Zimmerman’s Center for Southwest Research (CSWR), recently took the Weekly Alibi on a tour of the center to show us some of the rare treasures in its vast underground vaults.
The Zimmerman Library houses some of the world's most relevant pieces of literature, historical documents, manuscripts and other rarities. It is a member of the Association of Research Libraries, a membership organization of the largest research libraries in North America. UNM is recognized internationally for the strength of its Latin American collections. The Center's body of rare materials has been largely donated by collectors and historians, though some are purchased.
The three millionth volume, which will be formally announced during a celebration on April 1, is an extremely rare copy of The Authentic Life of Billy the Kid. It is one of the first printings, circa 1882, and is signed by the author himself, Mr. Pat Garrett, who shot and killed Billy the Kid in the summer of 1881 while serving as the sheriff of Lincoln County, New Mexico.
The inscription simply reads: "Presentation copy. Compliments of The Author.” In an interview for C-SPAN2’s BOOKTV, Mike Kelly states that it is one of the single most important books of Western Americana, and rarest as well. Only six copies are known to exist, three of which are in private collections. The event will feature a brief talk by historian, Larry D. Ball, editor of the New Mexico Historical Review.
Among the other rare gems inside the Zimmerman collections include an 18th century double fore-edge painting book (which reveals tiny hidden paintings on the edges of the pages when fanned), a 17th century child's hornbook (an educational study aid) printed on ivory, an egyptian papyrus from 30 B.C., and a first printing/first issue of Herman Melville's Moby Dick. Of interest to 20th century New Mexico bibliophiles, two of the collection's original manuscripts include Edward Abbey's Fire On The Mountain and Tony Hillerman's first novel, The Blessing Way—both authors were noted New Mexico residents.
The collection is also home to thousands of New Mexico's historic archives such as original architect's drawings and blueprints of all of Albuquerque's most treasured structures, including The KiMo, the Occidental Life Building and nearly all of the historical homes and schools in the city. It includes the archives of John Gaw Meem, who designed Zimmerman Library along with several other notable N.M. structures. They also boast a very rare collection of original Edward Curtis photos, which are considered the finest images ever captured of Native American life during the early 20th century.
"The Tower,” which is a nine-story structure that once housed all of the library's books has remained unchanged since the 1930s, and is rumored to be haunted. The top of the Tower holds, among other things, a collection of 13,000 original posters from all over Latin America representing everything from movies to the Vietnam War, including a series of original silkscreened Cuban posters based on Fidel Castro's famous "La Historia Me Absolverá.”
Nearing the end of the tour, Mike Kelly discussed the significant role the keepers of these treasures plays in our society and our history.
"If these things are lost, history is lost," he explained. "It's our job to preserve them. We are the stewards of the historical record, making sure it's protected and available for future generations."
Kelly emphasized that this material is available to everyone. "In this age, there is so much information out there that is intangible. The accessibility of our collection gives a person the opportunity to read and hold something in their own hands. To see and touch something, and observe how it is produced is a unique experience. It's a connection to history that can't be replicated."
Who: Zimmerman Library Acquires Three Millionth Book
Where: Zimmerman Library West Wing
When: Monday, April 1, 5-7pm
How Much: All seats are taken but there is a waiting list. RSVP 505-277-6401 or firstname.lastname@example.org