He who destroyes a good Booke, kills reason it selfe
Robert Vosper had, above all, a commitment to the library as the home of free
and open inquiry. During the McCarthy reign of terror, early in Vosper's tenure1951
to 1960as Director of Libraries at KU, he and the equally committed
Chancellor, Franklin D. Murphy, supported what became an internationally noted
exhibition on intellectual freedom. Demand for its catalogue was so great that
it was repeatedly reprinted until 20,000 copies had been distributed. Fifteen
years later, on May 6, 1970, at UCLA, in response to intense pressure to close
the library at the time of anti-war rioting and police action on the campus,
Robert Vosper posted a notice which expresses the essence of his library faith:
The Library is an open sanctuary. It is devoted to individual intellectual inquiry and contemplation. Its function is to provide free access to ideas and information. It is a haven of privacy, a source of both cultural and intellectual sustenance for the individual reader.
Since it is thus committed to free and open inquiry on a personal basis, the Library must remain open, with access to it always guaranteed.
We at KU were privileged to have known, for nine eventful years, one of the truly great librarians of our century, and to have shared his vision of what a library should be. We continue to share that vision.
The original exhibition and catalogue were awarded the Letter Library Award by the American Library Association in convention, Miami Beach, June 1956, with the following declaration:
Free access to ideas and information has never been more important than in today's divided world when all too often the timorous and bigoted seek to preserve national strength and unity by striving to prevent the dissemination of those writings and expressions which, according to their own self-developed standards, they believe to be pernicious. Thus, consciously or unconsciously, they are directly opposed to Thomas Jefferson's great dictum of 1779 "that Truth is great and will prevail if left to herself ... unless disarmed of her natural weapons, free argument and debate; errors ceasing to be dangerous if it is permitted freely to circulate them."
In such troubled times, it is most fitting to present the Letter Library Award for distinguished contribution to the development of an enlightened public opinion on an issue of continuing importance, to the University of Kansas Library not alone for its outstanding exhibition of books which have been banned in recent centuries but which nevertheless "have survived Fire, the Sword and the Censors," but particularly for the preparation and publication of an attractive illustrated and descriptive catalogue of these books, of which many thousands of copies have been distributed throughout the world, with widespread comment and critical acclaim.
The catalogue of this exhibition, published in 1955, is now re-issued on the World Wide Web by the Department of Special Collections, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas, in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Library Bill of Rights. It is a tribute to the courage and devotion to intellectual freedom of Joseph Rubinstein and Earl Farley (then respectively head of the Department of Special Collections and rare books cataloguer, and the authors of the exhibition and its catalogue), of Robert Vosper, and of Franklin D. Murphy.
The original exhibition was supplemented by a very well-received traveling exhibition of current paperback editions of many of the censored books. By issuing this electronic edition of the catalogue, we continue the travels of this exhibition and reaffirm our commitment to free enquiry.
Save for the addition of illustrations drawn from the holdings of the Spencer Research Library, the scanned version of the revised second printing of the original catalogue which follows is unchanged. Changes in the political and social climate of the world over the past half-century may make some of the language and sentiments expressed surprising to the reader of today but to alter these would make censors of the humble electronic editors,
Alexandra Mason and Richard Clement
Return to Kenneth Spencer Research Library
© University of Kansas Libraries, 1998