Harry Ransom Center

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The Harry Ransom Center is an archive, library and museum at the University of Texas at Austin, specializing in the collection of literary and cultural artifacts from the United States and Europe for the purpose of advancing the study of the arts and humanities. The Ransom Center houses 36 million literary manuscripts, 1 million rare books, 5 million photographs, and more than 100,000 works of art. The Center has a reading room for scholars and galleries which display rotating exhibitions of works and objects from the collections.

Notable possessions

The two most prominent possessions in the Ransom Center's collections are a Gutenberg Bible[1][2] (one of only 21 complete copies known to exist) and Nicéphore Niépce's View from the Window at Le Gras, the first successful permanent photograph from nature. Both of these objects are on permanent display in the main lobby.

Beyond these, the Center houses many culturally important documents and artifacts. Particular strengths include modern literature, performing arts,[3] and photography.[4] Besides the Gutenberg Bible and the photograph, notable holdings include:



Theatre and film


  • Two paintings by Frida Kahlo: Self Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird and Still Life (with Parrot and Fruit)
  • A complete set of Picasso's Vollard Suite
  • A she-wolf statue carved in stone and coated with gold leaf (now worn off) by Eric Gill, creator of Gill Sans
  • Busts of various writers (on display in the lobby and reading room)
  • Large holdings in art by writers and portraits of literary figures
  • Facsimile of the piano suite Gaspard de la nuit composed by Maurice Ravel

History of the Center

Harry Ransom founded the Humanities Research Center in 1957 with the ambition of expanding the rare books and manuscript holdings of the University of Texas. He acquired the Edward Alexander Parsons Collection,[5] the T. Edward Hanley Collection,[6] and the Norman Bel Geddes Collection.[7][8]

Ransom himself was the official director of the Center for only the years 1958 to 1961, but he directed and presided over a period of great expansion in the collections until his resignation in 1971 as Chancellor of the University of Texas System. The Center moved into its current building in 1972.

F. Warren Roberts was the official director from 1961 to 1976 and acquired the Helmut Gernsheim Collection of photographs, the archives of D. H. Lawrence, John Steinbeck, and Evelyn Waugh, and in 1968 the Carlton Lake Collection.[9]

After Roberts's tenure, John Payne and then Carlton Lake served as interim directors from 1976 to 1980. It was during this time (in 1978) that the Center acquired its complete copy of the Gutenberg Bible.

In 1980, the Center hired Decherd Turner as director. Turner acquired the Giorgio Uzielli Collection of Aldine editions,[10] the Anne Sexton archive, the Robert Lee Wolff Collection of 19th-century fiction, the Pforzheimer Collection,[11] the David O. Selznick archive, the Gloria Swanson archive, and the Ernest Lehman Collection.[12] Upon Decherd Turner's retirement in 1988, Thomas F. Staley became director of the Center.[13] Staley has acquired the Woodward and Bernstein Watergate Papers,[14] a copy of the Plantin Polyglot Bible, and more than 100 literary archives. In September 2013, Stephen Enniss was appointed director of the Ransom Center. Enniss was formerly the Head Librarian of the Folger Shakespeare Library.[15]

See also


  1. Gutenberg Bible, permanent exhibit at HRC
  2. Luxist.com: The World of Rare Books: The Gutenberg Bible, First and Most Valuable
  3. Performing Arts - Harry Ransom Center
  4. Photography - Harry Ransom Center
  5. Edward Alexander Parsons Collection
  6. T. Edward Hanley Library
  7. Normal Bel Geddes Theater and Industrial Design Papers
  8. Lewis, Anne S. (September 10, 2012). "Normal Bel Geddes, Harry Ransom Center, Future Perfect exhibition". Wall Street Journal.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. Carlton Lake brief bio from "New Directions" Carlton Lake (1915–2006) was the Paris art critic for the Christian Science Monitor.
  10. Aldine Press Giorgio Uzielli was a New York stockbroker and book collector, born in Florence, Italy. After a 1982 visit to the Harry Ransom Center, he wrote into his will a bequest to the Center of his 287 books printed by the Aldine Press in Venice in the 15th and 16th centuries. Uzielli's gift was appraised at about $2 million.
  11. Carl H. Pforzheimer Library
  12. Ernest Lehman Collection
  13. Director Thomas F. Staley: Major Acquisitions and Achievements
  14. Woodward and Bernstein Watergate Papers
  15. "Stephen Enniss appointed new director of Ransom Center", Harry Ransom Center.
  16. "Thomas James Wise: An Inventory of His Collection at the Harry Ransom Center" (PDF). The University of Texas at Austin, Harry Ransom Center. Retrieved February 11, 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>


External links

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