Special Collections

Bridwell Library Tribute to Colin Franklin

Colin Franklin (1923-2020)—the renowned bookseller, collector, bibliophile, and author—left an indelible mark on Bridwell Library, by helping to shape the character and quality of the library’s Special Collections, as both bookseller and benefactor, and by enriching the library’s public programs and publication history. The bonds of friendship were forged and fostered by Bridwell’s director, Decherd Turner, who first ventured in the company of Rabbi Levi and Serita Olan to Franklin’s home near Oxford in autumn 1974 to view a copy of the Kelmscott Chaucer printed on vellum. This illustrious volume—a presentation copy signed by William Morris to the book’s illustrator, Edward Burnes Jones—marked the first purchase from Mr. Franklin and occasioned his first visit to Bridwell Library, to which he delivered it on Sunday, November 17, 1974.

Franklin subsequently played a role in Bridwell Library’s 1976 acquisition of the Ashendene Press archives, which included copies of all of the press’s publications printed on both paper and vellum, including the renowned works of Dante. He also facilitated the 1977 purchase from Elizabeth de Haas of Emery Walker’s copy of the Doves Press Bible, one of only two printed on vellum for the proprietors of the press.1 Through Franklin’s assistance, therefore, Bridwell Library was the first institution to bring together thus these three preeminent works on vellum by the premier British presses of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In celebration, on January 16, 1977 at Perkins Chapel, Franklin gave his now famous address on the “Triple Crown” of printing, coining this use of the appellation. In this address, Franklin noted that “Texas can become a mildly addictive habit,” 2 and its publication that year would be the first of three works by Franklin to be published by Bridwell Library, the other two being Doves Press: Start of a Worry (1983)—which featured previously unpublished correspondence of T. J. Cobden-Sanderson and Emery Walker—and his classic, The Ashendene Press (1986). He additionally provided an address on April 11, 1980 to commemorate the installation in the library of two stone carvings by Eric Gill. In 2003, Franklin served as Chair of the competition jury for that year’s Helen Warren DeGolyer Triennial Exhibition & Competition for American Bookbinding, and further provided the introduction for the exhibition catalog, in which he touched on the process of bookbinding, interpretation of the work by the binder, and highlights in the history of binding.

Colin Franklin’s influence on Bridwell’s collections of rare books and manuscripts encompassed works published from the fifteenth century to the twentieth. Franklin sold or facilitated the sales of several incunabula to the library between 1974 and 2004, including the library’s celebrated 750th and 1000th incunable acquisitions. Colin and Charlotte Franklin additionally donated several volumes to the library. In 1997, Decherd Turner recognized the Franklins’ many contributions to the library by making his own donation in their honor on the occasion of his 75th birthday, an association copy signed by T. J. Sanderson of The Odyssey of Homer Done into English Prose by S. H. Butcher and A. Lang (Macmillan, 1879).

As a bookseller, donor, collaborator, and—most importantly—a friend, Colin Franklin fundamentally augmented the excellence of Bridwell Library and we will continue to feel, recognize, and appreciate his contributions for years to come.

- R. Arvid Nelsen

 [1] Correspondence between Franklin and Turner, and between Franklin and de Haas is held in the Emery Walker papers by Arts & Crafts Hammersmith, https://artsandcraftshammersmith.org.uk/Collection/Detail/14071/

[2] Colin Franklin. The Triple Crown: Kelmscott, Doves, and Ashendene. Dallas: Bridwell Library, Southern Methodist University, 1977, p. 1.


Colin Franklin and Bridwell Library staff member Mrs. Ruth Smith with the Kelmscott Chaucer, November 17, 1974


Colin Franklin's Triple Crown address in Perkins Chapel, Perkins School of Theology, on January 16, 1977.