The most distinguished collection of books housed within Archives and Special Collections, the Herman Muehlstein Rare Book Collection consists of more than 200 rare books and first editions. This collection amassed by Mr. Muehlstein was first given to The University of Akron in 1955. At the time of his death, in accordance with the provisions of his will, the University received the remainder of Mr. Muehlstein’s collection.
The collection includes volumes of international significance. Notable volumes include:
- Eliot’s Indian Bible of 1663,
- William Shakespeare’s Second, Third and Fourth Folios,
- Johannes Fust’s Cicero printed in 1466
- Two first editions of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass
- Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s presentation copy to Robert Browning of Poems before Congress
- An autograph manuscript of Oscar Wilde’s “The Decay of Lying,”
- and several other significant works, many accompanied by unique manuscript materials.
All volumes are included in University Libraries’ online catalog. The entire collection can be browsed by searching for the Muehlstein Collection in UA Libraries Catalog. Archives and Special Collections also holds rare books that are not part of the Muehlstein Collection, including leaves of medieval manuscripts and printed books ranging from the fifteenth century to modern first editions.
Herman Muehlstein, born in 1880, was a prominent New York City industrialist and philanthropist. In 1911, at the age of 31, he successfully created the business, H. Muehlstein & Co., Inc., which helped to shape today’s polymer industry. He is credited for forming alliances that were crucial for providing Allied nations with rubber during World War II. In the 1950’s, then University President Norman P. Auburn met Muehlstein as a result of Auburn’s service as director and president of the Council for Financial Aid to Education, Inc. Over the years, Muehlstein developed both business and personal relationships with University administrators and Board of Directors.
In 1955 Muehlstein made his first gift of rare books and first editions to The University of Akron. At the time of his death seven years later, the University received the remainder of his collection. Muehlstein once commented that he had chosen the University because, “[The University of Akron] meets all my specifications, is up and coming and has an administration and a faculty who are very appreciative of the importance of good books.” In addition to his rare book collection, Muehlstein generously funded numerous student scholarships.