The Lilly Library has opened its exhibition space to a first-of-its-kind collection.
Its latest exhibit, “India, Empire, Nation – 200 Years of History,” opened to the public Thursday with an event headlined by lectures by Glenn Horowitz, the collector who sold the works to the library, and Michael Dodson, curator of the exhibition.
“He’s been collecting this stuff over 20 years, mostly out of personal interest, and Lilly was smart enough to buy it,” Dodson said. “What we’re doing in the exhibit is showing a fairly small selection of the books we have acquired.”
Erika Dowell, associate director and curator of modern books at Lilly, introduced the speakers and the collection to the attendees in the full lecture space. There were people sitting and standing by the walls and doorway.
“Glenn has been instrumental in bringing to this library a variety of very important manuscript collections,” Dowell said. “The Indian collection we debut tonight is even more special, I think, in his life and career. Suffice to say he is a very important figure in the development of this library.”
Horowitz spoke about the path to acquire the materials he sold to Lilly by looking back on his travels to India with his wife and explaining how examination of the literary tradition of India inspired him to start collecting.
“To me this is an especially touching and moving experience,” Horowitz said. “This particular collection has been closer to me than any other collection that I’ve been responsible for sending out to Indiana. This is a collection I spent a dozen years building book by book on my own.”
The idea behind the exhibition was not to create one overarching theme, Dodson said. The works are truly a selection from the wider donation of material.
“Each of the cases is marked and has sort of a theme to it, things like early empire, the company rule and nationalism,” Dodson said. “We have some early Bengali novels and lots of imagery, which is really special.”
The pieces on display throughout Lilly’s exhibition space include everything from linguistic charts, color-coded in reds, blues and yellows, to literary works about religion and genres such as erotica.
The exhibition also includes correspondence from a variety of figures, including letters home from soldiers stationed in India throughout history and even some telegrams from Mahatma Gandhi during the culmination of the independence movement of the 20th century.
During his portion of the lecture, Dodson spoke about one of his favorite pieces, an 1832 Sanskrit-to-English Dictionary belonging to an intriguing historical figure, Fitzedward Hall.
“Fitzedward Hall was very interesting because he was shipwrecked in India, spent some time there teaching languages and then eventually retired to England and was a major contributor to the Oxford English Dictionary,” Dodson said.
Dodson, also the director of IU’s Dhar India Studies Program, said the acquisition of these materials in particular resonates with him because of his and his students’ interests in the region and the breadth of materials now available through Lilly.
Given the University’s commitment to furthering international education, Dodson said the collection is timely and important.
“This is a part of President McRobbie’s overall strategy for IU, which is more global engagement, more international education for students here, and this collection will go a long way to helping faculty and students interested in India,” Dodson said. “It presents us with a really great research collection, probably one of the best in the country.”
Horowitz agreed that the collection will be of benefit to IU in a distinctive way.
“With the beginning of this collection, I think there’s a great opportunity for the Lilly Library to establish itself as a center for Anglo-Indian studies,” Horowitz said.