Brains & beauty

The Heller Rare Book Room houses centuries’ worth of gorgeous books.

No comments

Open a book, and you can easily be transported to worlds familiar and fantastic, populated with characters, creatures, and concepts that expand the imagination and the soul. A serious student will find the knowledge of the universe—from algebra to zoology—waiting to be discovered between the covers of a weighty volume.

Books are rich fodder for the mind, but they’re often objects of great beauty as well, and the Heller Rare Book Room is a repository of tomes that exhibit both characteristics in abundance. Among the room’s holdings are numerous examples of artistic bookbinding techniques, specialty papers, and gloriously illuminated and illustrated volumes. The Heller Room notably houses the creations of the Eucalyptus Press, founded by Rosalind Keep at Mills College in 1932, and three dozen books from William Morris’ Kelmscott Press, including the 1893 masterpiece The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer, illustrated by Edward Burne-Jones (shown at right with Cynthia Taves ’48 and Sue Brund Lamon ’47).

The most recent additions to this assemblage are a number of volumes (shown above) from the collection of Mills Professor Emerita of English Roussel Sargent, including a 1696 edition of Seneca’s Morals by Way of Abstract and works by Jonathan Swift, Ovid, and Anthony Trollope—books that satisfy the pursuit of knowledge and the desire for pleasure equally.

Photo at the top by Dana Davis.