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Passionate book collector and longtime library employee leaves $500,000 legacy to USM

Albert A. Howard - Portland Press Herald photo

The University of Southern Maine (USM) is pleased to announce a $500,000 legacy gift to its prestigious Special Collections at the Glickman Family Library from Albert A. Howard, a collector of rare books. Before his death in 2017, Howard served 35 years in the halls of the USM Libraries.

To say Howard loved books would be an understatement. A lifetime book collector, he began his library career at Brown University, serving from 1953-1965. From there, he cataloged rare books at Colby College and Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia before coming to USM.

The collection captures the story of how printed texts changed the world. Examples include the Greek and Latin classics; Renaissance presses (Giunti in Florence and Aldine Press in Venice); pamphlets by Martin Luther and others; and 18th and 19th century chapbooks (cheaply printed sensational texts).

Among the Collection’s titles are morality tales, such as “Wonder of Wonders, or The Remarkable Discovery of an American Hermit,” about a Kennebunk, Maine, hermit who lived for 200 years, and a version of “Homer: Criticism and Interpretation,” by Eustathius, archbishop of Thessalonica, printed around 1550.

Chapbooks from Albert A. Howard CollectionAlso of note are various ephemera: a leaf from the Kelmscott Press’ Chaucer, 1896; “Oath of Hippocrates,” 1941; “Honorary Membership Certificate: Society of Calligraphers," 1925; and subcollections on Colonial Mexico and the Catholic Church.

The collection, of 1,670 volumes, is considered “priceless.” 

Although Brown and Yale have such collections, Howard left the collection to USM because he felt that here, the collection would better serve the students, the university and the community. Already, the Howard Collection has supported classes across USM’s disciplines, from Languages, to English, History, and Art. It is the single most-used collection in Special Collections.

USM Provost Jeannine Uzzi lauded Howard’s selection of USM Libraries to house the collection.

“The Albert Howard Collection includes a wide array of rare and historical texts of a quality ordinarily housed only at the most elite universities,” Uzzi said. “At USM, students from every corner of the state work directly with these special texts to learn about language, art history, and the history of publishing, writing and the book.”

The Albert A. Howard Book History Collection legacy gift totals $500,000 — $450,000 of which will be used to create an endowment to support the collection in perpetuity.

The remainder will be used for near term needs for care of the collection and improvements, such as equipment and supplies to protect against damage and disrepair, and for digitizing signature items.

Howard was highly regarded among his peers for his work and passion for books. Lorrayne Carroll, associate professor of English, said he greatly supported her teaching during his time at USM.

Homer from Albert A. Howard Collection“Mr. Howard’s understanding of the intersections of teaching and scholarship was the basis for his careful, informed purchasing and donating to USM,” Carroll said. “My students and I continue to benefit from his expertise, generosity, and commitment to the humanities.”

Susie R. Bock, coordinator of Special Collections, echoed that sentiment. 

“Albert taught me more about rare books than I learned in graduate school or professional experience … but mostly he taught me how to cherish and enjoy them,” she said.

In the past year, USM has been the recipient of several generous and transformative gifts, unprecedented in scale.

In 2018, USM received $1 million from former WEX chief executive Michael Dubyak to establish a new center for the digital sciences; another $1 million from an anonymous donor toward the university’s Center for the Arts; and a $100 million rare map collection from Dr. Harold Osher in what is considered the largest single gift in University of Maine System history.


Story and photos by Alan Bennett // Office of Public Affairs