William Scheide, a 1936 alumnus of Princeton University that died at the age of 100 years old last November, has left his collection of around 2,500 rare books and manuscripts to Princeton.

The expected value of the collection is almost $300 million, which makes it the largest gift ever received by the University.

Collectively known as the Scheide Library, the collection has been in the Firestone Library of Princeton since 1959, when Scheide moved the books and manuscripts from his Pennsylvania home town.

The highly valuable collection includes the first six printed editions of the Bible, beginning with the 1455 Gutenberg Bible, which is the earliest printed major book in the West using movable type; the original print of the Declaration of Independence; an autograph of Beethoven in a music sketchbook for 1815-16, which is the only one outside of Europe; the first, second, third and fourth folios of William Shakespeare, manuscripts signed by Beethoven, Bach, Schubert, Mozart and Wagner; a signed speech from 1856 by Abraham Lincoln on slavery; and the original copies of a letter and telegrams by Gen. Ulysses Grant from the Civil War's last weeks.

While the collection was privately owned by Scheide, the books and manuscripts were available to be accessed by patrons of the Firestone Library through its Department of Rare Books and Special Collections.

According to Karin Trainer, the University Librarian, Scheide's generosity has made it possible for the collection to support the academic programs of Princeton, due to the immense research value that each piece in the collection holds.

William Taylor Scheide, the grandfather of William Scheide, started the collection back in 1865. William Scheide's father, John Hinsdale Scheide, an 1896 Princeton alumnus, expanded the collection and created the library in their home town of Titusville.

Scheide, who began adding to the collection in 1954, moved the library from Titusville to Princeton in 1959 after the death of his mother. He then continuously added to the collection with the support of his wife, Judy McCartin Scheide, until just before his death.

Trainer said that the Scheide Library will remain as a distinct collection within the Firestone Library, with no book or document to be relocated elsewhere in the facility. Trainer added that Princeton is in the process of digitizing pieces from the collection, including the copy of the Gutenberg Bible, which will then be accessible through the Princeton website.

Currently located in a space at the library that includes pieces from the original library in Titusville, a major renovation at the Firestone Library will relocate the Scheide library into a new space that has been approved by Scheide before his death. The new space was designed based on a vintage picture of the library in Titusville.

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