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University of Oxford
Director of University Library Services and Bodley's Librarian

'A Trio of Distinction': Remarks made at a Bodley Medal Presentation Ceremony

The Grolier Club, New York, 2 November 2005

The Bodleian Library held its first Bodley Medal ceremony in Sotheby's headquarters on the Upper East Side when we were launching our £57 million Libraries Capital Campaign in October 2002. But three years and £30 million later, we're absolutely thrilled to be back in Manhattan, in the Grolier Club. We're deeply grateful to the President and to the members of the Club for allowing us to be here.

Hitherto, we have awarded Bodley Medals to a select band of only nine recipients: great writers, media standouts, and celebrated achievers from the world of information technology. And I'd like you to acknowledge with me the presence with us this evening of one of those previous honorees: the President and CEO of America's Public Broadcasting Service, Pat Mitchell…

But tonight, in this Mecca of world bookmanship, the Bodley Medal awards are focused on three of the outstanding bookmen and library benefactors of our time. And it's my very great honour to be able to speak to you for a few moments about Carl Pforzheimer III, Helmut Friedlaender, and William Scheide.

Before I do that, though, I think it may be appropriate for me to say just a few words about the history of the Bodley Medal, and a little of what it signifies.

The original Bodley Medal, in fact, dates back all the way to 1645-6. That first medal was produced as a tribute to the achievements of the Library's Founder, Sir Thomas Bodley, who was arguably the greatest benefactor that the University of Oxford has ever had. Between 1598 and 1602, Sir Thomas refounded Oxford's University Library at his own expense; and in 1610 he obtained the royal assent to make his Library the first institution of legal deposit in the United Kingdom. Thirty-six years later, in 1646, while the English Civil War was raging, and to mark the centenary of Bodley's birth in 1545, the Bodleian Library paid the then not inconsiderable sum of two shillings for its Founder to be commemorated by the striking of a splendid medal.

The medal was crafted by one of Europe's leading engravers, Claude Warin; and it bore Bodley's profile on one side, and on the reverse the figure of a woman holding the sun and the moon, with the Latin inscription Aeternitas Rei Publicae Litterariae ('To the everlastingness of the Republic of Letters'). The inscription was a direct reference to Bodley's own ambitions for his Library, which he intended as a library for the whole world and not just for the scholars of Oxford. The original medal was made of lead brazed over with a copper alloy, and it survives in the Library today as one of our most precious historic artefacts. It stands, like the Bodleian Library itself, as a lasting tribute to the spirit of a man whose energies and generosity were put so effectively to the service of a great institution now in the fifth century of its existence.

But all things, however well provided for in their beginnings, are subject to decay. And when the time came for us, in 1998, to replace the roof which Sir Thomas had placed above his Library around 1600, we could think of no more fitting way to mark the replacement of that worn-out roof than to commission the British Royal Mint to use some of the ancient roof-metal to produce a limited edition facsimile of the original Bodley Medal. And when the 400th anniversary of the Library arrived in 2002, we could think of no more appropriate way to use those facsimiles than to award them to some of those in the modern world whose spirit and achievements most closely reflect those of our illustrious Founder.

And so it is, tonight, that we want to award three more medals to a trio of remarkable individuals whose love of books and of libraries, combined with Sir Thomas Bodley's great spirit of benefaction, so perfectly match both the motivation of the Bodleian Library's Founder and all that has been achieved by his generosity.

Which brings me back again to tonight's honorees, Carl Pforzheimer III, Helmut Friedlaender, and William Scheide. Sadly, owing to a confusion over dates, Bill Scheide cannot be here with us tonight. And right at the last moment, the 91 year-old Helmut Friedlaender has also had to bow out, owing to indisposition brought on by his return from Europe only yesterday. But they have both asked me to say very particularly how delighted they are to have been honoured in this way, and how sorry they are not to be able to be with us tonight.

So, let me say a few words about Carl Pforzheimer III, and about the Carl and Lily Pforzheimer Foundation over which he presides so genially. In business, like his father and grandfather before him, Carl Pforzheimer III has been both assiduous and highly successful. But Carl is also, without doubt, an extraordinarily generous and civic-minded man; and he has devoted a very great deal of his personal energies and substance to the service of the public good. I can hardly begin to do justice to all the many municipal and non-profit boards on which he serves, and has served, nor to the countless charitable organisations which have benefited from his support and from the generosity of his family foundation.

And pre-eminent among those charities have been educational institutions, universities, libraries, museums, and organisations dedicated to the furtherance of scholarship in the Arts and Humanities in particular. You hardly need me to remind you, I think, that one of the New York Public Library's most precious collections - the Carl H. Pforzheimer Collection of Shelley and His Circle - was a donation from the Carl and Lily Pforzheimer Foundation. Carl himself is a Trustee of the NYPL; and, among many other things, he is Chairman Emeritus of Pace University, and a Director of the Lincoln Center Institute, the National Humanities Center, and the Corning Museum of Glass.

Carl is also a Harvard man, through and through, of course; and he and his foundation have supported and sponsored so many things at Harvard that even that great institution must by now have lost count. A library reading room, key faculty positions, and many other vital things at Harvard bear continuing testimony to Pforzheimer support, including the named professorial chair in the School of Government occupied by Harvard's present University Librarian, Sidney Verba.

But the Pforzheimer generosity knows no institutional bounds; and the world of scholarship and of books and libraries well beyond Harvard has many reasons to be grateful to the Pforzheimer family for the kind of generosity that Sir Thomas Bodley exemplified in his day. Mr Pforzheimer is also a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. And that fact, on its own, says a very great deal about the way in which the help of the Carl and Lily Pforzheimer Foundation for libraries and scholarship has been so consistently deployed to support the research that is based around so many great library collections.

And that same remarkable spirit of support for scholarship has reached out across the Atlantic to Oxford, where we too have come to appreciate the altruism that underlies the Pforzheimer generosity. And so, tonight, we are proud and honoured to be able to express the Bodleian Library's deep and abiding respect for a truly remarkable philanthropist, the 3rd Carl H. Pforzheimer.

Ladies and gentlemen: it gives me extraordinary pleasure to invite Dr Jon Dellandrea, Oxford's Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Development and External Affairs, to present this tenth Bodley Medal to Carl Pforzheimer III, as a mark of the Bodleian Library's great esteem both for him and for the Carl and Lily Pforzheimer Foundation…

And so to our second honoree this evening, Helmut Friedlaender. As a celebrated book-collector, Helmut will be no stranger to most of you. His personal library, which contained so many important early printed books, was auctioned at Christie's here in New York only four years ago, and the catalogue of that wonderful collection has already become both a work of reference and a collector's item in itself.

But in Oxford we also know and respect Helmut Friedlaender as one of the earliest, and most knowledgeable, supporters of our Incunable Catalogue project. So it's a particular pleasure to be able to associate tonight's celebration of this great publishing enterprise with the award to Helmut of a Bodley Medal.

Helmut Friedlaender was born in Berlin on the eve of the First World War into the family of one of Germany's leading lawyers, whose name is memorialised in Helmut's Eugen Friedlaender Foundation. The family's Jewish background eventually led to a wise, but no doubt traumatic, exit from Nazi Germany in 1933, with New York as the chosen haven of safety. Helmut himself proceeded to qualify in administrative law in Lausanne, Switzerland, in 1935, where he successfully presented a thesis on hydro-electric enterprises.

After he rejoined his family in the States, Helmut pursued a career in business and investment; and for fifty years he has been a Director of the Pennsylvania-based AMETEK corporation. But Helmut was always a bibliophile, and for many decades he was carefully building his own outstanding library of books, manuscripts, and engravings, concentrating in particular on literary and scientific works.

But before long, Helmut's activities as a discerning bibliophile also began to run in parallel with his generosity towards other great collections and towards public and private causes. In the library and museum worlds, Helmut and his foundation have supported, among others, the New York Public Library, the Pierpont Morgan Library, Columbia University's Rare Book and Manuscript Library, and New York's Jewish Museum. His lifelong musical interests have also seen him support the Metropolitan Opera, the Oratorio Society of New York, and the Peter Norton Symphony space on Broadway.

But Helmut's public-spiritedness has gone even more widely: he is a member of the Advisory Council of the United Nations of New York; he is on the Board of Advisers of New York University's Center for International Studies; and he is a patron of the New York Academy of Medicine. Nor has he ever forgotten his Jewishness: for half a century he has been a member and benefactor of North America's oldest Jewish congregation - the Shearith Israel congregation of New York, founded in 1654 - and he has supported both the National Foundation for Jewish Culture, and the American Jewish Historical Society.

Helmut's long, productive, and generous life is a model of public spiritedness and private benefaction. It is a cause for celebration in Oxford that we have been able to benefit from such exemplary generosity; and it gives me really great pleasure to be able to express our highest esteem for the eleventh Bodley Medal recipient.

Ladies and gentlemen: please recognise, in his absence, Helmut N. Friedlaender…

And so to our final honoree this evening, William H. Scheide, another remarkable nonagenarian, who is here in spirit with us, if not in person. And if Harvard is fortunate to have its Carl Pforzheimer III, then there can be no doubt that Princeton is equally blessed in having its Bill Scheide. The Scheide Collection at Princeton must stand as one of the truly great library collections of the world. Passed from father to son, like the Pforzheimer Collection at NYPL, and piously nurtured and expanded in the same way, the Scheide Collection just has to be seen to be believed.

I'm almost tempted to say, in this great company of bibliophiles, that if you've never visited the Scheide Collection at Princeton University Library then you've never lived! Every single item is a great treasure; and every one of them speaks volumes about the expertise and the care that has brought so many wonderful things into a single place. I doubt whether anyone in this room tonight will deny that William H. Scheide is one of the world's greatest living book-collectors. And to hear him speak with such expertise and affection about his treasures must rank among the greatest joys that any book-lover can experience.

But Bill Scheide's passions are by no means restricted to his great library. If you wanted to learn more about printed Bibles, you'd certainly want to pick Bill Scheide's brains; but equally, if you wanted to know about the manuscripts of Johann Sebastian Bach, you couldn't go to a deeper fount of wisdom. Class of '36 at Princeton, Bill took a Master's degree in Music at Columbia because Princeton then had no Music Department of its own. But Princeton now has one; and you won't be surprised to know that it, too, enjoys the Scheide generosity!

From his earliest years, Bill has been a patron of music and a serious Bach scholar. A pianist of no mean repute himself, he founded the Bach Aria Group as far back as 1946; and for 40 years Bill Scheide did as much as anyone to raise awareness of the great Bach cantatas. Hardly surprising, then, that his Library at Princeton should contain so many important musical manuscripts.

But, as with Carl Pforzheimer and Helmut Friedlaender, the generosity and achievements of Bill Scheide have reached into many civic causes, as well as into many libraries way beyond the shores of North America, including a number in Europe and the United Kingdom. And it is with great gratitude, and no small pride, that we are able to count Bill Scheide among the Bodleian Library's most generous friends and supporters. It therefore gives me inordinate pleasure to usher into the select band of Bodley Medal recipients, in absentia and honoris causa, the doyen of world book-collectors, Mr William H. Scheide.

Ladies and gentlemen: please recognise with me Bill Scheide in his enforced absence!

Grolier presentation
Pictured at the Grolier Club event, left to right: Oxford's Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Development and External Affairs (Dr Jon Dellandrea), Pat Mitchell, Carl Pforzheimer III, and Bodley's Librarian

Reg Carr
New York
2 November 2005