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Mills book collection displays treasures

Michelle Ma

Ever heard of the Heller Book Room?

Don’t worry; the room is forgotten by most students due to its tucked away location and lack of acknowledgement.

The room holds some very famous works, such as a leaf from a Gutenberg Bible, the first folio of William Shakespeare’s plays published in 1623, and a manuscript of a sonata by Wolfgang Mozart. Who wouldn’t want the chance to have a look at that?

The Elinor Raas Heller Rare Book Room, or more commonly, the Heller Book Room, was established in 1989.

The room is located inside the Mills library to the left of the entrance and behind the double doors.

Elinor Raas Heller graduated Mills in 1925 and donated a large portion of her collection in order “to promote the cultural, literary, and aesthetic heritage of the book,” according to Janice Braun, the Special Collections Curator and Director of the Mills Center for the Book.

Today, the room holds about 17,000 volumes, 14,000 photographs and 10,000 manuscripts, some dating back to the 1400s.

Also included in the collection is a 1939 limited edition of Metamorphoses by Ovid with etchings by Pablo Picasso and a design binding by renowned binder Henri Creuzevault.

The special collection supports much of the school’s curriculum and can be a significant resource for students doing research and studying. All of these works are readily available and easy to access by Minerva, the library’s online catalogue system.

“The Heller Rare Book room was a huge help when I did my research project on Mills traditions,” said senior Alexi Ueltzen.
“I loved going through old scrapbooks and Mills programs and yearbooks. It’s something special when you can hold in your hand the ticket that they had at the Campanile Christening in 1904.”

Many professors use the collection in the Book Room as a special tool to help their students visualize and understand what they are learning.

The Book Arts department are heavy users of the Book Room and usually use it once a week, according to Book Arts professor Kathleen Walkup.

“My class, Women Reading as a Necessity of Life, meets in the Heller Room,” said Walkup. “Students conduct research with primary documents from the Mills archive. I have had two Library Literary Salons in the Heller Room. I can’t imagine teaching the classes I teach without the resources of Special Collections.”

Janice Braun and assistant Karma Pippin are more than willing to help students search through the collection, said Ueltzen and Walkup.