William Pyle Philips Collection
The capstone of the Philips collection of rare books is the four folios of William Shakespeare's plays, beginning with a beautiful copy of the first folio (1623). Many of the volumes relate to Shakespeare and the English Renaissance, but there are also volumes from other cultures, as well as from science. The first edition of the Royal Version of the King James Bible (1611) is sometimes called the "only literary masterpiece ever to have been produced by a committee." The Philips copy of John Milton's Paradise Lost (1667), an example of the first issue of the first edition, is one of the classics of English literature. The Foligno printing of Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy (1472), written in the vernacular, "is a classic of world stature." The revolutionary book published by Nicolaus Copernicus in 1543 declaring that the sun, not the earth was at the center of the universe, created a storm in his day. More than a century later Isaac Newton, in his Principia (1687), announced the universal law of gravitation. The first English edition of Leo Africanus' Geographical historie of Africa (1600) was consulted by Shakespeare when he wrote the play Othello. The Spanish literary masterpiece, Don Quixote by Cervantes (1605, 1615), is another example of superb titles from the non-English world. French classics include Montaigne's Essays (1603), and Moliere's Les oeuvres (1682). Recently a copy of the Koran, translated into English in 1649, has been added to the collection. There are presently 108 items in the Philips collection, for William Pyle Philips, class of 1902, left funds to be used to add "rare books which the college would not otherwise buy." Elsewhere he specified that such titles should be comparable to the 58 in his original gift in 1951.