Throughout the 1920s and early ’30s, William Bixby made significant donations of manuscripts, letters, and printed books to the Washington University Libraries. The William K. Bixby Collection comprises a large variety of materials dating from 1514 to 1931, including correspondence, autographs, volumes produced by fine presses, early printed works, authors’ drafts, personal papers, and a nearly complete collection of Nathaniel Hawthorne books.
As a bibliophile and avid collector, Bixby was generous in his willingness to share his collection with others. Bixby shared his collections through donations to Washington University and other local institutions and by publishing facsimiles of unique manuscripts to be more broadly enjoyed.
Bixby’s personal papers contain correspondence that documents these collecting and publishing activities, providing insight into his relationships with other collectors, librarians, and booksellers.
The large autograph collection features authors, politicians, foreign royalty and heads of state, and various famous figures. The documents and correspondence containing the autographs are regularly used in classes and exhibits to contextualize history and literature. The collection additionally includes manuscripts, drafts, correspondence, ephemera of author Eugene Field, and material about The Burns Club of St. Louis, which Bixby founded.
In addition to the papers and manuscripts, Bixby donated over 150 books to the library. This portion of the collection includes early printed books, first and signed editions of English and American authors, and facsimiles of unique items created by Bixby.
The opening of the Washington University Libraries Department of Special Collections in 1962 is primarily due to the donation of the impressive Bixby Collection. In 2009 William K. Bixby III and Stacey M. Bixby established the William K. Bixby III Family Rare Book Endowment to support the ongoing preservation of the collection.