Bill of Rights Highlights Posner Center's Independence Day Exhibit
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Bill of Rights Highlights Posner Center's Independence Day Exhibit

Carnegie Mellon is unveiling one of only four existing first-edition copies of the Bill of Rights as part of an Independence Day exhibit at the Posner Center.
In 1792, Thomas Jefferson distributed two copies of the Bill of Rights to each governor of the 14 states. More than two centuries later, only four of those first-edition documents are known to exist. And Carnegie Mellon is unveiling its copy for the public at the Posner Center in a special exhibit through July 8.

Part of the Posner Memorial Collection that has generously been donated by the Posner Family, the Bill of Rights is a vital component of U.S. history, and just one of many notable works in the collection.

Established in 1978, the Posner Collection contains more than 1,000 fine and rare books that document history, particularly the history of science and the evolution of social concepts. The collection was built over 50 years by Henry Posner Sr. and his wife, Ida.

In addition to the copy of the Bill of Rights, the collection includes other documents and great works that are important in the history of intellectual, scientific and artistic development. Highlights of the collection include a 1913 facsimile of the Gutenberg Bible printed on vellum, a 1498 Koberger Biblia Latina, a fine copy of the Aldine Press' "Hypneratomachia Poliphili," Descartes' "Discours de la Methode pour bien conduire sa raison, chercher la verité dans les sciences" and important Einstein offprints.

The collection also features works with elaborate and exquisite bindings, like Gray's "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard," which has diamonds on the cover; Washington Irving's 1849 "Sketchbook;" and FitzGerald's translation of Omar Khayyám's "Rubáiyát" bound with snakeskin and rubies. Limited Editions Club issues of "The Travels of Baron Munchausen" (1929), Robert Louis Stevenson's "Treasure Island" (1941), Jules Verne's "Around the World in Eighty Days" (1962) and Swift's "Gulliver's Travels" are also included in the collection.

For Mr. Posner, the primary value of his collection was having carefully built a library of excellent books for his family to read and an archive that represented the best in ideas, sciences and the arts. A native of Warsaw, Poland, he arrived in Boston in 1905, and attended Carnegie Tech in 1912. He left before graduation to start his own business, the Alpha Claude Neon Corporation, which later became Pittsburgh Outdoor Advertising.

The Posner family has also provided University Libraries with a grant to fully digitize the collection, and nearly all of it is available at This allows the Bill of Rights, as well as the rest of the collection, to be read, studied and enjoyed by anyone with access to the Internet, and fulfills Mr. Posner's dream of sharing great works with the world.

The Bill of Rights will be on display at the Posner Center on campus from 1 to 4 p.m. weekdays through July 8, with the exception of July 4.

Vijay Jesrani
June 30, 2005

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