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For over a half-century the MSU Libraries has been acquiring and building an important collection of materials devoted to early bee keeping. The core of this collection originated in 1946 with the donation of an important apiculture collection by Ray Stannard Baker, a Pulitzer Prize winning author and alumnus of what was then Michigan Agriculture College (MAC). Baker, who was born in Lansing in 1870 and graduated ftom MAC in 1889, first reached fame as a journalist writing for McClure's and the American during the Progressive era. He won the Pulitzer Prize in 1940 for his authorized biography of President Woodrow Wilson, although he may be best known for his series of books on country life written under the pseudonym of David Grayson. Baker Hall on the Michigan State University campus is named in his honor.
Mr. Baker's interest in bees and the literature of apiculture began early in his life, as did his dream to place a distinguished collection of apiculture at his alma mater He was an avid collector of early bee books and he corresponded with a number of noted bee book collectors in pursuit of his goal. Unfortunately none of his attempts to have MAC acquire a bee collection materialized. This lack of shared enthusiasm for his passion did not deter Baker, however. Instead be kept buying for his own collection which he described in his book, Under My Elm, published in 1942. Shortly before his death in 1946, the fruits of his collecting were donated to Michigan State as the Ray Stannard Baker Bee Collection. In accordance with his wishes the MSU Libraries has "built upon and increased it with the passage of years, " so that the collection has now grown to several hundred volumes. For example, we recently purchased James Banner's important Treatise on the Natural History and Management of Bees, (Edinburgh, 1796); and Jacob McDonald's A Treatise on Bee-Culture, (Zanesville, Ohio, 1868), a rare and apparently unrecorded early American beekeeping work.
The Baker collection is especially strong in apiculture works printed in English, although other languages are well represented. Almost all the early English works are present. It is primarily a historical collection with the vast majority of imprints before 1900. It is housed in Special Collections where it is complemented and supported by distinguished collections of early agriculture and cookery.
The following catalog is a list of all bee books in the Baker collection printed before 1900. For other imprints patrons should check the Libraries' catalog. Also included here is a reprint of the Friends of the Libraries News announcing the donation of Mr. Baker's original gift in 1947 to what was then Michigan State College.