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Press Release

Teresa Thomas
Cindy Carroll

For immediate release:
July 9, 2004

Carnegie Mellon University Opens The Posner Center

Unusual new building houses a collection including an original 1792 printing of the Bill of Rights, a 1495 letter by Christopher Columbus, rare and beautiful books, jade and ivory carvings

PITTSBURGH — The Posner Center, a contemporary, largely underground home for the Posner Memorial Collection, an internationally recognized collection of rare books and art, has opened on the Carnegie Mellon University campus.

The facility is a gift from Helen and Henry Posner Jr. in memory of Mr. Posner's parents Henry and Ida Posner, the creators of the collection. Henry Posner Sr. attended Carnegie Tech, now part of Carnegie Mellon, early in the twentieth century.

"The intellectual and artistic content of the Posner Collection is a perfect fit for Carnegie Mellon. This is a superb resource for our students and faculty, the Pittsburgh region and literate people everywhere," said Carnegie Mellon President Jared L. Cohon, "We're fortunate to have such a setting for it on campus."

The 11,400 square-foot Posner Center is unified throughout with "curved corners," curving elements apparent from the granite façade to the vaulted ceiling and the details of cabinetry and furnishings. Illuminated by cove lighting and fiber optics, the interior is inviting, dramatic and conducive to the Center's functions as a rare book library and executive meeting facility.

The Posner Memorial Collection includes one of only four existing copies of the first printing of the United States Bill of Rights and its ratifications, distributed to governors by Thomas Jefferson in 1792. There is also an early printed copy of Christopher Columbus' letter (in Latin, 1495) to the Treasurer of Spain describing his first voyage to America.

Some other collection highlights:

  • An exquisitely illustrated copy of the Haggadah, in Hebrew and English (1939)
  • Harmonicus Mundi (1619) by Johann Kepler, the founder of modern astronomy
  • The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám, in an exuberant binding (1912) with snakeskin and rubies
  • Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations (1776), a foundation of modern economic thought
  • Synopsis of Comets (1705) by Edmond Halley, predicting "his" comet's appearance in 1758
  • Gray's Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard, a bejeweled and highly illustrated 1931 edition
  • A glorious facsimile on vellum of the Gutenberg Bible, hand-colored and illuminated (1914)
  • Dickens' Bleak House (1852-1853) in its suspenseful original serial installments
  • The Nuremberg Chronicle (1493), with woodcut illustrations and contemporary city views
  • Narrative of the Mutiny (1790), an extraordinary naval account by William Bligh
  • A rare intact edition of the Third Folio of Shakespeare (1663)

The Posner family has supported with an additional grant the full text digitization of the collection by the University Libraries, making nearly all of it available to students and scholars worldwide on the Internet, at

Mr. Posner Sr. and his wife Ida built the collection over a period of fifty years. Initially, Mr. Posner collected important literary works and books about art. Later, he began to focus on intellectual history, especially science. As they traveled, the Posners added another dimension to the collection with jade and ivory carvings, snuff bottles, and other art objects.

The Posner Memorial Collection is available to the public in the Posner Center from 1 to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. For more information, call 412-268-7680.


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