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Gathered Leaves: Manuscript Fragments from Tisch Library Special Collections

Beginnings: Walter Welch, Class of 1928

Passionate about books and bibliographic history, Walter F. Welch, Jr. (Class of '28) began donating a collection of rare books to Tufts University in 1953. Over more than a decade, he gave his alma mater ten Medieval and Renaissance manuscripts (codices), dozens of early printed books, manuscript and printed book fragments, examples of fine bindings, literary first editions, fine press books of his own lifetime, and booksellers catalogs, as well as books and periodicals about book arts and the history of writing and publishing. Welch's aim was to provide Tufts students with examples tracing the history of books and bookbinding from the Medieval codex through the development of fine press publishing in the latter 19th and early 20th Centuries; and in so doing, to pass down his literary enthusiasm to succeeding generations of Tufts graduates.

On June 4, 1954, Welch despatched two folders to Medford containing individual leaves of Medieval manuscripts, early printed books, and modern fine press books. Among these was a leaf from a Cambridge Bible, originally sold by book collector, professor, and notorious biblioclast, Otto F. Ege (1888-1951). While it is likely that Welch also donated a complete portfolio assembled by Ege, research in the library's records cannot confirm it. The fragments Welch donated in 1954 follow a historical theme similar to Ege's portfolios, representative of a mode of collecting fragments popular among collectors in the middle decades of the 20th Century.