6000 rare books from US collector’s estate

An Oamaru bookseller has inherited thousands of rare adventure books from  an American private collector which he intends to use to create a one-of-a-kind library.

Adventure Books owner Bill Nye has inherited a vast — more than  6000 books — collection of rare adventure books, memorabilia and ephemera from Jack Newton, of Massachusetts, who died on August 21 last year.

At the beginning of June, Mr Nye will fly to Boston to oversee the packing of the collection before it is shipped to New Zealand in a   container.And by the time it arrives, Mr Nye’s historic Harbour St bookstore will have been converted — a mezzanine will have been added — to house a "research area and display and exhibition".

Adventure Books owner Bill Nye, of Oamaru, has received a donation of 6000 rare  books from the...
Adventure Books owner Bill Nye, of Oamaru, has received a donation of 6000 rare books from the late American collector Jack Newton. Photo: Hamish MacLean

"Jack and I together are going to have a display of some really far out books, beautiful books," Mr Nye said.

"I feel really lucky — and privileged — to have the collection. I want it to travel on into the future."

Mr Newton’s obituary in The Boston Globe  noted Mr Newton had an "extensive" collection of mountaineering books — but Mr Nye took a step further when describing the collection it had taken Mr Newton 50 years to compile.

"They are beautiful, I mean excellent. It’s a world-class collection," Mr Nye said.

After three years of correspondence, Mr Nye met Mr Newton when he was in North America for his daughter’s wedding and he was invited  to Boston.

Mr Newton had known he was dying and had offered the collection to several Ivy League American universities, but his offers had been refused.

Then a New Hampshire university, Plymouth State University, agreed to care for the books — but that deal fell through after the leadership at the university changed. The story had already been on the front page of the local newspaper.

"It was not only embarrassing, but Jack told me he sat down on his bed and cried," he said.

"He really wanted a good destiny for his books.

"I was kind of the last choice."

Those of Mr Newton’s books that were not to be a part of the library would be sold through Mr Nye’s store and the sales would support a non-profit trust set up so Mr Nye’s three children, as well as Mr Newton’s widow Anne, could continue to care for the collection into the future.

hamish.maclean@odt.co.nz

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