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Pictured here in a painting by C. J. Fox that hangs in the Library foyer, J. K. Lilly was a collector most of his life. From the mid-1920s until his death, he devoted a great deal of his leisure time to building his collections of books and manuscripts, works of art, coins, stamps, military miniatures, firearms and edged weapons, and nautical models.
J. K. Lilly's collections of books and manuscripts, totalling more than 20,000 books and 17,000 manuscripts, together with more than fifty oil paintings and 300 prints, were given by the collector to Indiana University between 1954 and 1957. These materials form the foundation of the rare book and manuscript collections of the Lilly Library.
Mr. Lilly's range of interests, and the extent to which he realized his collecting goals, were summed up succinctly by Frederick B. Adams, Jr., at the dedication of the Lilly Library on October 3, 1960:
Mr. Lilly's books cover so many fields that it is difficult to believe that any one man's enthusiasm could encompass them all. It is equally astounding that he was able to acquire so many books of such scarcity and quality in the short space of 30 years. Money alone isn't the answer; diligence, courage, and imagination were also essential. The famous books in English and American literature, the books most influential in American life, the great works in the history of science and ideas--all these are among the 20,000 Lilly books in this building.
Above: Portrait of Josiah Kirby Lilly, Jr. (1893-1966) painted by C. J. Fox.
photograph © Dave Repp, 1997.