A handsome, richly illustrated guide to the A. S. Williams III Americana Collection at the University of Alabama, From a Love of History introduces one of the most important archives of southern history and literature ever gathered in one place.
A. S. Williams III, of Birmingham, Alabama, is an insurance executive and bibliophile who over some forty years assembled a rich collection of Americana that is exceptional in size and scope, many parts of it rare and unstudied by scholars.
The A. S. Williams III Americana Collection, housed at the Gorgas Library at the University of Alabama since 2010, includes some twenty thousand volumes and pamphlets published between the late seventeenth century and early twenty-first century. These pertain to the US presidencies and the history and culture of the South. The Civil War is particularly well represented by some six thousand published volumes.
Portions of the collection contain archival materials ranging from nineteenth-century letters, diaries, and newspapers to business records and a wide variety of documents recording the American experience of both the famous and the unknown from the mid-eighteenth century to the Great Depression. Particularly noteworthy are some fifteen thousand photographs of the South taken between the 1850s and the mid-1930s. Smaller collections include early southern maps; the African American experience in the South, with emphasis on materials relating to historically black educational institutions; the financial history of the United States from pre-Revolutionary times to the founding of the Bank of the United States; and some volumes of southern fiction ranging from well-known literary landmarks to obscure works by lesser-known and unstudied writers.
From a Love of History, written by Stephen M. Rowe, the longtime curator of Williams's private collection, organises the vast range of materials into ten chapters, paralleling the organisation of the collection itself. Following a general overview of the collection's genesis in Williams's passion for history, the chapters each contain a short introduction and a beautifully designed sampling of the materials in the collection accompanied by full and compelling captions.
Stephen M. Rowe is archivist and curator of the Eufaula Athenaeum, Eufaula, Alabama, USA. He was an assistant archivist at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation from 1974 to 1977. Since 1983 he has worked as an antiquarian bookseller and appraiser.