Henry Ayer True – OHIO University Libraries

Ohio University Libraries has at least 200 books from the private collection of Henry Ayer True. They are largely children’s books printed 1850-1900, and most are held in the Juvenile Collection in the Mahn Center for Archives and Special Collections. Locating and identifying these books is important to helping us understand the history of collecting at Alden Library.

True was an avid reader and collector of literature. The museum in his family home in Marion, Ohio, has over 13,000 books that he inherited or collected. While it has not yet been determined how OHIO came to have so many of his books, evidence suggests they were acquired around 1970, when the library was buying bulk collections to fill the newly built Alden library.

A Brief Biography

  • True was born July 26, 1879, in Marion, Ohio.
  • He was the third Henry True to have lived in Marion. His grandfather, Dr. Henry True, came to Marion in 1839.
  • Dr. True had an undergraduate degree in literature and also started the Marion County Bank.
  • Banking remained a family business, and all three Henry Trues held positions on the board of the bank.
  • The True family has a long, distinguished history in America. The first Henry True came to America from England between 1630 and 1635, and his family includes several Revolutionary War soldiers. (See his great-great grandfather’s war journals.)
  • True graduated Cum Laude from Princeton in 1902.
  • He enjoyed traveling and purchased books from Los Angeles to London, but his favorite bookstore seems to have been Bertrand Smith’s “Acres of Books” in Cincinnati.

An Overview of the Collection

There is no comprehensive list of books from Henry True’s collection because the books were integrated into the Libraries’ general collection. Each book has to be individually identified as having come from his personal library. True’s books have a few elements in common:

True inscription in St. Dunstan's Fair by Mary and Catherine Lee, 1892. Click image to zoom.
True inscription in St. Dunstan’s Fair by Mary and Catherine Lee, 1892. Click image to zoom.
  • Some have True’s name or initials on the inside cover, or the name of a family member who owned the book before him.
  • Some note where or when he bought the books.
  • Many have biographical material on the author written in, or other information about how the book was written.
    • True collected many female authors who wrote extremely popular books during the late 19th century, but who often wrote anonymously or under male pseudonyms. True identified them by writing their names into his books.
  • Some books include a note on True’s opinion of the book.

However, some books have no identifying marks, so there is no way of confirming whether they were once owned by Henry True.

Some Names Present in Books Owned by True

Most of True’s books were inherited or bought used, so several names other than Henry True can mark a book as formerly belonging to Henry True:

  • Harry True (True’s father, who often used the nickname Harry.)
  • Mrs. Harry True or Flora True (True’s mother.)
  • Mrs. Henry True or Elizabeth True (True’s mother may have also used the name Mrs. Henry True, but it was more often used by True’s grandmother.)
  • J.S. Reed (True’s uncle. James S. Reed came to Marion with Dr. True in 1839 and was another founding member of the Marion County Bank. Dr. True married one of Reed’s sisters, Elizabeth.)
  • Helen A. Vose (Most likely a cousin of True.)
  • Ozias Bowen (True’s maternal grandfather. Bowen was a judge on the Ohio Supreme Court and was an elector for Abraham Lincoln in the 1864 presidential election.)
  • W.A. Christie (Christie has no known relationship to True, but comments written by True in several books signed by Christie indicate that True bought many books previously owned by Christie.)

If you know more about Henry Ayer True, or if you come across a book in the Library that you think belonged to True, please contact special collections librarian Miriam Intrator.

Page created by Carrie Goldstein, English 4940, Spring 2016