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A rare view of scientific discovery

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It's a bibliophile's dream. The ultimate book collector's collection.

The Dr. Elliott and Eileen Hinkes Collection of Rare Books of Scientific Discovery ranks among the most important collections to have come to Johns Hopkins in the past half century, according to Earle Havens, William Kurrelmeyer Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts for the Sheridan Libraries.

The texts will be on display in the Eureka! exhibition, which opens to the public October 24 at the George Peabody Library in Baltimore.

Comprising approximately 300 rare items, the collection vividly illustrates major milestones in the history of ancient and modern scientific discovery, from the early documents, pamphlets, and books of the 15th century up to the 20th century. The collection's earliest and rarest materials include a 1495 edition of the celestial works of Aristotle and early editions of influential works by Nicolas Copernicus, Johannes Kepler, Galileo Galilei, and many others.

The collection is a gift from the family of Elliott Hinkes, who earned a bachelor's degree at the School of Arts and Sciences in 1964 and an MD from the School of Medicine in 1967. (Hinkes died on November 20, 2009.) The works were assembled over 20 years and now have a permanent home at the Sheridan Libraries.

"This is one of the most significant collections ever acquired by the Sheridan Libraries," said Winston Tabb, Sheridan Dean of University Libraries and Museums. "Dr. Hinkes' intellectual generosity, as a collector and a man of science, will live on through future generations of Hopkins students and faculty who will have access to these seminal works in their original form."

According to Havens, nearly every "monumental scientific publication" of the early- to mid-20th century is represented, in rare offprints of essays (some of them signed by the original authors) and in first editions by such groundbreakers as Albert Einstein, Max Planck, Ernest Rutherford, Edwin Hubble, and Linus Pauling.

Other exhibition highlights: a leaf of the Gutenberg Bible, which was the first book produced by movable type; the first in-print appearance of Charles Darwin's theory of evolution; a 1687 first edition of Sir Isaac Newton's treatise on gravitation; and original copies of the three 1953 articles by scientists Watson and Crick that first outlined the structure of DNA.

"There are plenty of collections on the history of science in the world," Havens said, "but there are very few that take as an organizing principle the concept of capturing moments of absolute importance to the history of human discovery and exploration."

The exhibition runs through Feb. 29, 2012; admission is free. The George Peabody Gallery is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturdays 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., and Sundays noon to 5 p.m.

Adapted from "Addition to Rare Book Collection is 'Monumental,'" Arts & Sciences Magazine

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