ITHACA, N.Y. – A rare Civil War-era photograph album will soon assume a place of honor at Cornell University Library: its 8 millionth volume.
The volume — compiled for Louis-Philippe d’Orléans, Comte de Paris, the French nobleman and historian who volunteered to join Gen. George McClellan’s staff in the Union Army — is a gift from Beth and Stephan Loewentheil.
To mark the milestone, the Library will host a celebration in the Amit Bhatia Libe Café in Olin Library on Friday, Feb. 21 at 5 p.m. Stephan Loewentheil JD ’75 will speak, followed by a reception with light refreshments. The album will be on display at the event.
“It’s fitting to celebrate this milestone with such a rare and historically important volume,” said Anne R. Kenney, Carl A. Kroch University Librarian. “Part of the Library’s mission is to make rare collections available to everyone at Cornell and, moreover, to researchers all over the world through digitization. I’m proud to make rare volumes such as this one accessible.”
The book, a highlight of the Loewentheil Family Collection, is one of the finest surviving Civil War photograph albums, with 265 rare photographs by the preeminent photographer Mathew Brady and others. It contains unusual images of infantry, artillery, and cavalry units preparing for battle, military field operations, gun emplacements and camp scenes as well as rare portraits of Union and Confederate officers, prisoners of war and Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln.
It will become part of the historic Beth and Stephan Loewentheil Family Photography Collection, which includes many rare and valuable Civil War-era photographs. Some of these photographs were featured in the 2011-12 exhibition, “Dawn’s Early Light: The First 50 Years of American Photography.”
“Cornell University is universally recognized as one of the great research libraries in the world. It is critical that every generation continue to build on the foundation of those who have come before us to ensure the continued growth of our great institutions,” Loewentheil said. “From its earliest days under president Andrew Dickson White Cornell began to collect materials on the Civil War, This gift is part of the Loewentheil family’s attempt to provide photographic materials to enhance the great tradition of the Cornell Libraries.”
It’s been more than a decade since the last event of this kind; the Library acquired its 7 millionth volume in 2002.
“This milestone speaks to the continued importance of print collections, even in the digital age,” Kenney said. “The Comte’s album will join our abundant, world-class collections on the Civil War, and we are grateful to Stephan Loewentheil for entrusting us with this valuable album.”