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The Rare Book Collection consists of items chosen for inclusion because of their age, rarity, aura, and physical beauty. Some of the works located in the L. R. Benes Rare Book Room date back to the beginning of the 20th century, including a 1900 edition of Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman.
Our rare and limited-edition works include books published by distinguished small presses, such as Ezra Pound’s The Pisan Cantos, published by New Directions in 1948; Allen Ginsberg’s Howl, published by City Lights Books in 1956; and Denise Levertov’s Embroideries, published by Black Sparrow Press in 1969. Many are books which have garnered an “aura” and are well known as central or significant in the poetry tradition, such as Ezra Pound’s Drafts & Fragments of Cantos CX-CXV11, 1969; Richard Wilbur’s Poems 1943-1956, Faber & Faber, 1957 – his first collected works; and Marianne Moore’s Collected Poems, Faber & Faber, 1951.
The L.R. Benes Rare Book Room also houses fine examples of work from the mimeo tradition--including work printed by d.a. levy, Diane DiPrima and LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka's The Floating Bear, and a copy of Ferret addressed by Michael McClure to Philip Whalen--and 21st-century work inspired by that tradition from publishers such as Cuneiform Press and The Brother in Elysium.
Other books serve as examples of beautiful bookmaking and are unusual because of their size, shape, or material composition. These works are often artist-made books or collaborative projects between writers, artists, and publishers. Some of our holdings include Alberto Rios's Inside Chance, a sculptural book published by Picnic Press; Kenneth Patchen’s When We Were Here Together, published by New Directions with a cover hand-painted by the author (1 of 75 copies); Lyn Hejinian and Ray Di Palma’s Chartings, published by Chax Press (1 of 80 copies); and Dean Young’s hand-printed Original Monkey, published by Iowa City's Empyrean Press. Some artist's books found here are unique editions, meaning that the copy found at the Poetry Center is the only one produced.
A list of Rare Book Room holdings, updated annually, may be found here.