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The Gift of a Life’s Work

The Library will be immeasurably enriched by the recent gift of Professor Paul F. Betz’s spectacular collection of books, manuscripts, and art relating to William Wordsworth, associated writers of the British Romantic Period, and other figures in English literary history. This collection, to be given over time, provides an unprecedented resource for scholars of the British Romantic Period and beyond.

Georgetown Professor Emeritus Paul F. Betz taught in the Department of English until 2007 and remains active as a Wordsworth scholar and in University affairs. The Betz collection of Wordsworth and the early Romantics served as a basis for the definitive Bibliography of William Wordsworth (Cambridge 2013), in which scholar Mark L. Reed remarks that Betz’s “achievement [as a collector is] unmatched of its kind in our time.” It is one of the finest collections for its period and subject in the world in private hands.

The inaugural installment of Betz’s gift includes a sampling of the treasures from the full collection: Wordsworth first editions, books from the libraries of Wordsworth and his friend Robert Southey, a collection of manuscripts by 57 lesser-known 19th-century British poets, a run of The European Magazine that includes Wordsworth’s first published poem (1787, attributed to “AXIOLOGUS”—“Wordsworth” in Greek), a special copy (one of only ten) of William Knight’s edition of Wordsworth’s Poetical Works, and many others.

Other highlights of the Betz collection include: the rare first edition of Lyrical Ballads (London issue, 1798), one of the first major works of the British Romantic era; the second edition of Lyrical Ballads, whose preface set forth Wordsworth’s manifesto for Romantic poetry; first and early editions of the rest of Wordsworth’s works, many of them presentation or association copies; a large number of books from Wordsworth’s, Southey’s and Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s libraries (many of them annotated by their owners); a substantial number of letters and manuscripts by or relating to Wordsworth and by a wide array of his contemporaries; and associated prints and drawings.

In addition to his gift of the books and manuscripts themselves, Betz has generously funded an endowment to support the collection. With characteristic foresight, Betz has ensured that the terms of the endowment allow its proceeds to be used not only for future acquisitions—thus ensuring that the Library will be able to take advantage of opportunities to acquire important additional materials as they arise—but also for conservation, access and promotion. A planned supplementary endowment will eventually provide support for visiting scholars to travel to Georgetown to consult the collection.

University Librarian Artemis G. Kirk noted that the collection will become one of Georgetown’s greatest treasures: “This gift is transformational for humanities scholarship at Georgetown and around the world. We can’t thank Professor Betz enough for entrusting his rich and wonderful collection to the Library that has been his scholarly home for so long—and that will be a home for future scholars for generations to come.”

Professor Betz will be named Honorary Curator of the Collection. The Paul F. Betz Wordsworth and English Literature Collection will reside in the new Paul F. Betz Reading Room in the Booth Family Center for Special Collections on the fifth floor of Lauinger Library. Once cataloged, this remarkable collection will be made available there for consultation by scholars and students, will feature frequently in Georgetown classes, and will be presented to the public in an ongoing series of exhibitions.

Through his generosity in placing the fruits of his life’s work at Georgetown, Paul F. Betz has permanently established the Hilltop as a prime destination for students and scholars of British Romanticism.