The clock is ticking, as book lovers mount a campaign to keep a treasure of local literary gems from the early 19th century where it belongs – tucked safely inside a Buffalo library or rare-book room.
More than 300 rare books and pamphlets depicting life in Buffalo in the early 1800s are up for sale, and the University at Buffalo would love to display them, but it needs private funds to purchase the collection.
So Ronald L. Cozzi, the collection’s temporary caretaker, is on a mission to raise the private funds to move it from its temporary home inside his Old Editions Book Shop downtown. Cozzi and his wife, Marilee, acting as intermediaries, need $90,000 to purchase the collection and donate it to UB.
“We’ve raised $30,000, and we have to raise another $60,000, so we’re asking the public for their help,” Cozzi said. “We’re looking for a few local book lovers who feel passionate about saving early Buffalo publishing history. This represents a collection that can’t be replicated today.”
The collection, now housed in Cozzi’s 38,000-square-foot book shop at 74 E. Huron St., was the almost-lifelong passion of Eugene Musial, a local bookstore owner and historical collector who died five years ago at 94.
Musial’s family has allowed Cozzi and his wife, Marilee, to store and organize the collection and look for someone to buy it. The Musial family, with some ties to UB, is willing to accept $90,000 for the rare books and pamphlets if the collection can be stored and displayed at the university.
“They basically would like to find a good home for this collection that their father worked on for 60 years,” Cozzi said.
The collection includes city directories, biographies, guidebooks, maps, religious pamphlets, even arithmetic and spelling primers, all of which paint a picture of a booming Buffalo back in the first half of the 19th century, as the community grew from a village to an incorporated city.
“These books tell us what life in Buffalo was like in those early decades of expansion,” Cozzi said. “It tells the history of our beginnings. What do we have from that time that gives us a feel for the people of Buffalo in the early 1800s? This is the only thing we have. This is why we want to preserve this, hopefully in a local institution.”
UB wants the collection but has no acquisitions budget for rare books like this, according to Michael Basinski, director of special collections.
“The University Library sees itself as a good citizen of Buffalo and takes seriously its role as a steward of books,” Basinski stated. “The Rare and Special Collection of the library is in the process of building a collection of Buffalo-based publications, and the Musial Collection will be the foundation of that collection.”
Anyone interested in this cause can reach Cozzi at firstname.lastname@example.org or 812-4937.