About the Gallery

The Bentley Rare Book Gallery is a collection of 8,000 rare books, manuscripts and documents representing and manifesting the history of the book in the English-speaking world. The mission of the Bentley Rare Book Gallery is to provide good stewardship of the collection according to best practices, curate the collection through exhibits and programming, and to educate our constituency on the value of rare books and the history of the book by incorporating our collection into teaching and learning at the university. The Gallery is a university and community resource, serving as both a dynamic learning space and a repository for rare items. 

Through the Gallery’s hands-on presentations, exhibitions and workshops, campus visitors and community members have the opportunity to appreciate the rich history represented in the collection and the value of preserving it for future generations.  The Department of Museums, Archives and Rare Books welcomes you to search the collection, schedule an appointment or simply learn more about the Gallery and its history.


The Collection

The Bentley Rare Book Gallery is one of only three museum-grade collections in the state of Georgia.  The collection reflects the history and development of the book in the English-speaking world and the impact the written and printed word has had, and continues to have, on human progress.  It is named in honor of Fred and Sarah Bentley, who were instrumental in the collection’s establishment.  Mr. Bentley’s initial donation of 2,000 volumes of 19th and early 20th century first editions includes the works of Twain, Dickens, Kipling, Hemingway and Tennyson, among others.  Notable strengths in the collection include early American newspapers, fore-edge paintings, incunabula (works printed before 1501), and specialty bindings.  Two of the Gallery’s treasures are a 1685 Fourth Folio of Shakespeare’s works and a 1542 edition of the complete works of Chaucer.                                                       


The Bentley Rare Book Gallery

The Bentley Rare Book Gallery is the result of the dedication and passion for books of two men: Mr. Robert B. Williams, Senior Curator of Rare Books, and Mr. Fred D. Bentley Sr., a Cobb County lawyer and avid book collector. Under KSU President Dr. Betty Siegel, Mr. Williams and Mr. Bentley conceived of a reading room for Mr. Bentley’s donation of first editions.  The Gallery was designed to represent a middle-class domestic English library circa 1760-1820.  The space, on the ground floor of the Sturgis Library, was dramatically transformed into an immersive environment in which patrons can interact with and appreciate the collection.  The room’s woodwork was entirely hand crafted to evoke an authentic atmosphere.  Behind these beautiful surroundings, modern technology and systems were utilized to make the space secure and environmentally controlled.  The Gallery was completed with period pieces that highlight the rich cultural and social history of objects and complement their setting.  For twenty-five years the Bentley Rare Book Gallery has served as a destination for students, faculty, community members and book lovers who have had the rare opportunity to hold history in their hands.