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Bentley Rare Book Gallery

The Bentley Rare Book Gallery is a rare book library housed on the lower level of the Horace W. Sturgis Library at Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, Georgia. It is one of only three certified, museum-grade rare book libraries in Georgia, the others located at the University of Georgia in Athens and Emory University in Atlanta. However, the Bentley Rare Book Gallery is the only one of the three that allows the public to view the materials first hand. Named after Mr. Fred D. Bentley, Sr, one of its principal benefactors, and his wife Sarah Bentley, the library currently boasts more than 15,000 volumes, including recent acquisitions of a Fourth Folio Shakespeare (1685) and a first edition of the complete works of Chaucer.


The idea for the rare book room was a result of many different circumstances. It originally began when Robert B. Williams, then the new director of the library, discovered eight unidentified boxes in the library vault. He soon ascertained that the boxes were a gift to the library from the former director and were believed to be valuable. Also during this time, Kennesaw State President Betty Siegel introduced Williams to a Cobb County attorney by the name of Fred D. Bentley, Sr. Bentley was a book collector who was interested in donating some items to the library. Williams determined that this was an appropriate time to look into the unidentified boxes and was disappointed to find they contained nothing more valuable than a set of Reader's Digest condensed books.

In 1986, Richard Leakey, then the featured speaker for Kennesaw State's Chautauqua program, was overheard mentioning that he had to spend large amounts of time in the restroom because it was the quietest place on campus. It was decided that a quieter place needed to be created to house the small collection of rare books. Thus, the idea for a rare book room was born. This room was not only a place of conservation for the books, but a quiet place in the form of a traditional library that was designed to foster a sense of respect and appreciation for the intellectual products of the past.


The gallery is designed to resemble a "domestic library in a middle-class household during the reign of King George III (1760-1820)." Other cited sources for the design were Agatha Christie's description of her ideal home in her autobiography, the Edwardian imagery of E. M. Forster, and Edith Wharton's "The Decoration of Houses."

The site of the gallery was formerly a staff smoking lounge in the basement of the library. To facilitate construction and to prevent damage to the works, all water pipes surrounding the room had to be moved to the opposite side of the building. In addition, the gallery was built so that none of its walls are exterior library walls. To further protect the works, the gallery is designed to regulate temperature and humidity, although dust continues to be a problem.

Volumes and Collections

The Bentley Rare Book Gallery houses approximately 15,000 works. These include books, private journals and papers, and other literary publications and resources. The works are separated into two divisions: those works originally donated by Mr. Bentley, which include mainly first editions of works written between the eighteenth and twentieth centuries, and those works which Mr. Williams has selected and added throughout his term as curator of the gallery. On October 6, 2008, astronaut Edgar Mitchell donated Apollo 14 space memorabilia to the Sturgis Library to be permanently housed in the special collections section in the Bentley Rare Book Gallery. This donation of 14 space suit emblems and five flags coupled with the donations from the Apollo 16 flight affords Kennesaw State University the distinction of owning more flown lunar artifacts then any other institution in the world.

Notable Volumes and Literary Items

Secrist Papers

The Secrist papers are commission papers donated by Dr. Phillip L. Secrist, former Cobb County Commission Chairman (1988-1992) and current professor in the Kennesaw State University department of history and philosophy. The collection includes invoices, internal audits, budget and expenditure documents, election records, development records, and other commission documents from Dr. Secrist's term in office.

Oral History Project

The Kennesaw State University Oral History Project is a collaboration with the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, and the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. Its goal is to collect oral histories from all past recipients of the KSU Distinguished Professor, Teaching, Scholarship and Service Awards. The interviews were conducted by Dr. Thomas Scott and Dr. Dede Yow, with transcript editing and indexing assistance by Susan Batungbacal, Josh Dix and Jan Heidrich-Rice.


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