A Nonpareil Book Collection

  • Arts & Culture
  • 2015

William Scheide made a gusher of money in Western Pennsylvania’s early oil industry. After he retired he pursued a passionate interest in book collecting. At his death, his son continued to build the collection, as did his grandson. The family eye was good, and the library came to include copies of each of the first six printed editions of the Bible (starting with the 1455 Gutenberg); many early Shakespeare folios; autographed scores and musical sketchbooks by Beethoven, Mozart, Schubert, and Wagner; original letters and speeches from Lincoln, Grant, and others during the Civil War; a manuscript of the Magna Carta; even Emily Dickinson’s recipe for chocolate pudding (and you thought she was an ascetic!).

With the passing of the third generation of bookish Scheides, the library became the property of Princeton University, on whose campus the family even replicated the original Titusville room where the books were housed. Princeton president Christopher Eisgruber described the gift as “one of the greatest collections of rare books and manuscripts in the world today.” The monetary value of the donation was placed at $300 million, the largest gift in Princeton’s history.