MSU to receive rare book collection

Staff Writer

MaxxSouth Broadband will donate a rare collection of early Mississippi law books to the Mississippi State University Libraries' Special Collections Department Feb. 5.

The collection is made up of 59 publications that are bound in 45 volumes, making it the largest known number of rare Mississippi Territorial imprints published prior to 1817.

The donations were assembled from the private library of John Robinson Block, publisher of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Toledo Blade. Block amassed the collection over thirty years of cataloging early law books.

"It's been a privilege to form this partnership with MSU," Block said. "I'm pleased that this important collection will have a new home where it can benefit the community and be available for future generations."

The rare books and manuscripts explore early American legal history and its British precedents.

The donated collection of early Mississippi laws rivals the combined holdings of the MSU Law Library and the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.

MaxxSouth and Block Communications are confident they have found the perfect home for the books at MSU. The Special Collections Department holds one of the country's most important collections of rare "Mississippiana," to which MaxxSouth hopes the early Mississippi law collection will be a favorable addition.

"Curating these books and documents has been a very personal endeavor, and I am grateful to find the same devotion in MSU Dean of Libraries' Dean Frances Coleman and Special Collections Rare Book Coordinator Fred Smith," Block said. "This is a gift to the residents of Mississippi and serves as a way to respect the area's rich history."

Block hopes the collection will provide ongoing opportunities for MSU Libraries to engage students and other audiences in the history of government, law and printing in Mississippi.

The collection spans books printed from 1801 to 1898 and includes the scarce first publication of the laws of the Mississippi Territory from 1801, session laws from the territory, the first digest of laws in the territory, Civil War-era imprints along with reconstruction and post reconstruction laws through 1898.

MSU Special Collections officials could not be reached for comment as of Jan. 29.