Gene Hyde and Collin Reeve are the two lovely gentleman that work in the UNC Asheville Special Collections. Both of them were more than happy to talk about the books in the Special Collections and expressed interest in being kept in the loop about the course. Their enthusiasm made this assignment very enjoyable as well as informative.

The first two enquiries, concerning the oldest book in the collection and a book bearing evidence of reader use, we explored with one book – A priest to the temple. Or, the country parson, his character and rule of holy life by Mr. George Herbert. Having been printed in 1675, this is oldest book in the UNC Asheville Special Collections and how it ended up in our library neither Gene nor Collin have the faintest. Originally printed in the St. Paul’s Churchyard in London, England by a T.R. for Ben Tooke, the book has held up remarkably well. In part, this could be attributed to the newer binding placed on it which Gene estimated to have been done in the late twentieth century. A number of inscriptions on the front leaf pages allowed us to track some of the book’s other owners . While the inscriptions for the years 1727 and 1844 are difficult to read, one can discover that in 1878 Howard Hall received the book as a birthday present, and in 1913 it belonged to a fellow named Richard. Whether this “Richard” is the last person to have owned it before the library is unknown. Besides these markings, there is also a note in the back of the book that reminds the reader the reader of the chapter that starts on page 103. Perhaps whoever wrote the note found that chapter particularly invigorating or thought provoking.

However, that is quite a large perhaps, for while the book’s provenance does lend itself to helping out understanding of where this book has been and whom it belonged to, without some extensive research, there is not a lot that we can say with absolute certainty. This much is true: A priest to the temple was originally published in 1675 by a T.R. for Ben Tooke in the St. Paul’s Churchyard in London England.  Since then, we know the book has changed hands at least five times – from the first unknown person in 1727 to the second unknown individual in 1844 to Howard Hall to Richard, and finally, to the UNC Asheville library. All of the book’s owners cared enough about the book to keep it in good condition, and at least one of them made some study of the book as denoted by the reference to page 103.

After examining the book above, Gene and Collin told myself and Kinsey about one of the more recent bequests to the Special Collections. Dr. Erica Locklear teaches a course devoted to Appalachian food culture and history. During a seminar held at UNC Asheville, Pamela Allison heard Dr. Locklear discuss the course and was thrilled with the idea, especially as starting in her graduate school years, Allison had begun collecting cookbooks of every kind. Gene, Dr. Locklear, and Allison met to discuss the cookbook collection and in the Fall of 2015, the UNC Asheville library found itself with around 1000 books collectively known as the Pamela C. Anderson Cookbook Collection. Around 300 of those books specifically dealt with Southern Appalachian food, and the rest of the 3000 book collection went to award winning culinary arts program at AB Tech. Gene asked Allison to write a statement about the collection. Pam asserts that her interest in cooking came at first from her grandmother’s quintessential cooking;

“She cooked her green beans, freshly snapped, with a piece of fatback in a Club Aluminum pot, and she made her biscuits with buttermilk and lard, baking them on a dark pan that had to be at least 50 years old.”

Apparently, any biscuits sent home never made it out of the twenty foot driveway. This coupled with Allison’s love of reading manifested into research about cookbooks. From there, Allison asserts that her collecting grew into “an obsession to own every cookbook printed”. She gave the collection to UNC Asheville so that other scholars could benefit from having the cookbooks to research and so that Dr. Locklear could continue her work on looking at food culture through cookbook literature.

All in all, it was a very informative and interesting way to be introduced to the Special Collections.