MORRISON / BLADE PHOTO Enlarge
MORRISON / BLADE PHOTO Enlarge
BLISSFIELD - A few months ago Susan Berryman must have felt a bit like Howard Carter, the intrepid archaeologist who discovered the tomb of King Tut in an oft-ignored triangle of the Valley of the Kings in 1922.
Searching through a storage area in the tiny Schultz-Holmes Memorial Library this year, Mrs. Berryman, the library's director, unearthed her own dust-covered and long-overlooked wonders of ancient Egypt, wrapped neatly in a 19th century leather-and-paper package.
There were four pristine volumes of a first-edition 1887 collection by Samuel Augustus Binion, Ancient Egypt or Mizraim - a historically significant collection of dozens of images depicting the findings of a French expedition to Egyptian monuments such as the pyramids, the Sphinx, and Cleopatra's Needle.
"I guess they were forgotten for a while after they were given to the library," Mrs. Berryman said.
While it might not have had the same visceral thrill as Mr. Carter's opening of Tut's tomb, the "rediscovery" of the pristine four-volume set has energized the local library in a way few images of mummies could.
Anne Morris, head librarian of the Toledo Museum of Art, proved invaluable in helping Mrs. Berryman track down information about what are arguably the most valuable - if not the most ignored - items in the Schultz-Holmes Library's collection.
"There are a number of libraries that have this, and another number that have it in microfilm or microfiche form," Mrs. Morris said, ticking off a list of some of the largest and most prestigious museums in the nation that own their own copies- the Getty, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Boston Museum of Fine Art.
Mrs. Morris said the Toledo Museum of Art also has a copy. But few of those copies are in the pristine condition that Blissfield's is, she noted.
"[Blissfield has] all of them and in their original format, and in very good condition," Mrs. Morris said after making the trip north this summer to examine Mrs. Berryman's find. "It's a very unusual thing to turn up in a small library but not unheard of."
Blissfield got its first-edition folio from the estate of the late Cora Jipson in the mid-1950s. The Jipsons founded the former Jipson-Carter Bank in town, Mrs. Berryman said.
Edward Kukla, special collections bibliographer at the Minneapolis Public Library and the Minneapolis Atheneum, which has its own copy of Binion's collection, said there was "a tremendous interest in Egyptology after Napoleon had gone there and after discovery of the Rosetta Stone" in the mid-19th century.
Mr. Kukla, a native of Detroit, said the chromolithography of Binion's collection - using multiple colors to better illustrate what was at the time a hot topic - might have given Ancient Egypt or Mizraim a broader appeal.
"It was one of those cool little technological works of the day," Mr. Kukla said.
The folio has an estimated value of as much as $6,000, according to Katharine Kyes Leab, editor-in-chief of American Book Prices Current, a Connecticut-based organization that tracks the value of old and rare books. Ms. Kyes Leab said there were 800 original copies of Binion's compilation of artwork illustrating what French adventurers had uncovered in the late 19th century.
Mrs. Berryman said the library board had considered selling the volumes to pay for items that might be pulled out a bit more frequently than once every five decades. But she said the board has instead decided to keep the volumes and display some of the images on the library walls. Right now it has an image of a mummy there.
"I think there should be more interest in them now," Mrs. Berryman said.
Contact Larry P. Vellequette at: email@example.com or 419-724-6091.