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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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The BattalionMay 4, 2024

Hand to Hand’ exhibit opens in Cushing

Perez — THE BATTALION
Perez — THE BATTALION

Visitors to Cushing Memorial Library will now have the chance to view the newest exhibit, “Hand to Hand: Selections from the J. Lawrence Mitchell Collections,” which features boxing memorabilia and 20th century literature additions. One of these new items is a large black and white photo depicting a victorious boxer standing over his opponent in the championship bout. That boxer is Larry Mitchell, the donor of the new exhibit.
Mitchell, a professor of English at Texas A&M, had a similar feeling of success as depicted in his photo on Thursday evening, when his collection opened with a reception at Cushing Library. He is gifting a rich collection of 20th century literature that covers subjects varying from the science of writing to the art of boxing. The reception celebrated the collection as well as the collector.
“Dr. Mitchell’s interests are very broad, but he also collected deeply. It makes it an incredibly rich collection,” said Kevin O’Sullivan, curator of the new donation.
Mitchell has chosen to endow the collection in his last semester at the university after 25 years of work that included time as a professor, head of the Department of English and director of Cushing Library. His defining work, however, is his obsession with collecting books, something that he started in 1972.
“His approach to collecting is collecting the whole book,” O’Sullivan said. “And what that means is that it’s collecting the first edition, it’s collecting the first American edition, variant dust jackets, but what it also means is that the collecting doesn’t end.”
The event also featured a speech by Nicholas Basbanes, a New York Times celebrated author of nine works of cultural history. Basbanes discussed the craft of book collecting as a preservation method.
“A collector sees value where others see only piles of rubbish, things that are about to go into the landfill,” Basbanes said.
The name of the exhibit, Hand to Hand, stands as much for the subject matter of boxing as it does Mitchell’s philosophy that the value of a book comes from passing it along.
“The power of the book is the associations,” Mitchell said. “What it has to say as a work of art, but also about the materiality of that book. It’s always changing.”
By that measure Mitchell’s gift is especially generous to the student body as the collection that he has built over 40 years will be one of the largest the library has ever received.
“It’s probably the most significant, certainly for the 20th century, in terms of bulk, and there are real treasures in there,” O’Sullivan said.
The collection will be displayed in the lobby of Cushing Library through Dec. 11 and will be a permanent part of the Cushing archives.
“It couldn’t have been a better way to wind up my career,” Mitchell said.

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