William Luther Lewis Collection


The life of William Luther Lewis is an American success story. Born in Wales and brought to the United States as a boy, Mr. Lewis entered the steel industry soon after finishing school. For more than thirty years, Lewis assembled from world markets the collection of rare books and manuscripts which now bears his name. In his search for materials, he was aided by agents in the United States and Great Britain; but many of the items were purchased personally during his frequent business trips abroad. As a collector Mr. Lewis drove a hard bargain his associates say. He was particularly interested in acquiring books in good condition. As a result, the Lewis Collection is made up of materials in uniquely fine states of preservation. At the time of his death, his office in New York housed many of Mr. Lewis's most prized possessions. The fact that he liked to surround himself with his literary treasures while at work is a significant commentary on the man.

Over three hundred of the principal authors of English and American literature are represented in the Lewis Collection. Composed of approximately fifteen hundred titles, it contains nearly nine hundred first editions as well as important manuscripts and autograph letters. Books which are not first editions are significant for various reasons; the collector obviously added materials according to a pattern based on a broad and deep knowledge of English and American literature. The materials range in date from the fifteenth to the twentieth centuries, from Thomas a Kempis' Imitato Christi printed in Augsburg, Germany, about 1473, to the works of twentieth century authors. For the most part, however, they represent works produced by the outstanding figures of the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries.