PORT ARTHUR —
A gift of some 3000 books of history and biography is being shared jointly by the Port Arthur Public Library and the Effie and Wilton Hebert Library in Port Neches. The major portion will be delivered—in 140 boxes—to PAPL tomorrow, April 18th, with help in moving them donated by the Webb Society of Lamar University.
The gift is made by Mr. Dale Farris, of Groves, and consists of his entire collection of scholarly and popular works. This writer asked Mr. Farris why he was parting company with his books, which occupy, in addition to shelves on most walls, nearly every other available surface in his house. He has a two-word answer: “It’s time.” He explains that the books have been his friends—read over a period of 40 years. One senses, from discussing them with him, that they all are fully fixed in his mind. He can refer to them chapter by chapter, incident by incident . He has no need of their physical presence any more. “Besides,” he adds, “I have a Kindle.”
The collection is remarkable for its breadth and for its pristine character: a majority of the works could pass for new. Even so, Mr. Farris is no stranger to antiquarian and used book stores, and a number of the volumes, apart from their intellectual merit, are intrinsically valuable as rare books.
Asked whether some of the works stand out as especially worthy, Mr. Farris immediately began jotting down a list which came to more than 70, including several multi-volume sets. Among them are Douglas Southall Freeman’s 4-volume “R.E. Lee,” still the definitive biography of Lee, and his “Lee’s Lieutenants,” which provides a conceptual basis for Russell Weigley’s 1981 “Eisenhower’s Lieutenants,” describing the planning and dissension preceding the Normany Invasion.
He also noted the 4-volume “The Years of Lyndon Johnson,” by Robert Caro, the final volume of which is still in preparation. Harrison Salisbury’s “The 900 Hundred Days: the Siege of Leningrad” whetted his interest in the history of the Soviet Union.
It will be a little while before the collection is available to the public. First comes the work of unboxing and separating those which may already be in the libraries’ collections. Then comes the job of cataloging the rest. Then there is the shelving: they will require about three hundred feet of shelf space. But then: the bigger the collection and the better the quality, the better they library. This helps.
Richard Whitaker is assistant director of the Port Arthur Public Library, 4615 Ninth Ave. Contact him at 409-985-8838, ext. 2241.