Houghton Library is saddened to learn that Julian I. Edison (AB ’51, MBA ’53) of St. Louis, Missouri, passed away on Monday, May 8, 2017. With Mr. Edison’s death, both Houghton and Harvard University have lost one of their most distinguished and generous supporters.
Julian was the former CEO and chairman of Edison Brothers Stores, Inc., a national retail chain founded by his uncles in 1922. He was truly loyal to Harvard, supporting the university in numerous ways, and was involved in many charitable organizations in St. Louis including the Barnes-Jewish Hospital and the Washington University in St. Louis.
Julian was a book collector of considerable distinction; his collection of miniature books was world renown both for its size and variety. He was named one of “100 Top Collectors” by Art & Antiques magazine in March 2007. The Edison Collection was the subject of exhibitions here at Houghton Library in 2005 and in 2007 at the Grolier Club in New York. Julian was the author, with Anne C. Bromer, of the comprehensive and extensively illustrated Miniature Books: 4,000 Years of Tiny Treasures (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 2007). The Edison Collection was given by him to Special Collections at the Olin Library at the Washington University in St. Louis.
We at Houghton Library are especially grateful to Julian and members of his family for a generous gift to renovate the Library’s exhibition and events room which now bear their names. The Edison and Newman Room was dedicated in 2005 –its inaugural exhibition was the aforementioned Miniature Books– and remains the space where thousands of visitors learn about our collections each year. Julian’s understanding of the role of special collections libraries was key in this gift.
Julian’s enthusiasm was infectious and we will miss his rapid-fire questions on many subjects. He never really ended many of his conversations and letters, but simply stopped them temporarily with the telling phrase “to be continued.” His memory will be continued for many years to come at Houghton Library.
Thomas Hyry, Florence Fearrington Librarian of Houghton Library
William Stoneman, Curator of Early Books and Manuscripts and former Florence Fearrington Librarian