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February 26, 2015

Mass. College Raises Hackles With Sale of Donated Rare Books

Gordon College's plan to auction off a portion of a rare-book trove donated by a wealthy family nearly a century ago has drawn criticism from faculty at the Wenham, Mass., liberal-arts institution and a descendant of the collector, The Boston Globe writes.

The 1922 gift by a son-in-law of railway executive and bibliophile Edward Payson Vining apparently came with a stipulation that the collection remain intact, but the college says it needs to sell a tenth of the 7,000 volumes—among them rare Bibles and Shakespeare folios—to pay for proper care of the remainder. The auction, scheduled for the fall, is expected to fetch as much as $2.5-million.

Some Gordon faculty members say administrators shut them out of discussions of the sale, and a great-granddaughter of Mr. Vining told the Globe her ancestor "would want the books to be there." A Gordon spokesman said another descendant contacted the college to say the family understands the institution's wish to sell some books.

Gordon donor Dale E. Fowler said he is considering withdrawing a planned $60-million bequest to the college due to his dissatisfaction with its president, D. Michael Lindsay, who has clashed with faculty and drew controversy last year when he joined other religious leaders in urging a faith-based exemption to federal workplace protections for gay and transgender workers.