In my first post on SCRC Behind the Scenes I wrote about a serendipitous find in our Leopold von Ranke Papers, in which I mentioned that von Ranke’s library formed the foundation of Syracuse University’s library. Inspired by the many times I’ve been posed the question “Who’s that old guy?” when visitors notice the von Ranke portrait (see below), I’d like to take the opportunity to expand on von Ranke’s legacy a bit.
Leopold von Ranke (1795-1886) was a German historian famous for his insistence on empiricism in historical study (read: basing the study and writing of history on actual evidence). After his death, his substantial library (even von Ranke himself did not know its extent and contents) was offered for sale by its heirs — to the Prussian government. Undaunted by the competition, Syracuse University professor (of history and logic) and librarian Charles Wesley Bennett met with Leopold’s son Otto and secured the right to purchase the library if the Prussian government passed on the deal. Surprisingly to Otto, the Prussian government declined, and Professor Bennett swooped in to claim the library, most likely using money supplied by his godfather, Rev. Dr. John Morrison Reid of Genesee College.
SCRC pays tribute to the von Ranke library heritage by prominently displaying a portrait of Leopold in our Reading Room (below). The portrait is an oil painting by Hans G. Hermann. It was painted in 1883 but is based on a portrait painted by Julius Shrader in 1868, when von Ranke was 73. Note the books on the table at his left hand–I like to think those very books are included in the von Ranke collection in SCRC today!
Galpin, W. F. (1952). Syracuse University: Volume I: The pioneer days. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press.
Jackson, J. C. (1972). Leopold von Ranke and the von Ranke library. The Courier, 9(4) & 10(1). Retrieved from http://surface.syr.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1088&context=libassoc.No Comments »