A Selection of Sixteenth-Century Books from the Thomas Wiltberger Evans Collection
On exhibit May 9 - August 15, 2018
Thomas W. Evans (1823-1897) was the preferred dentist to the Royal Courts of Europe. Evans, a Philadelphia native, left his estate to the University of Pennsylvania to create and maintain a dental school that would be "second to none." That Evans collected antiquarian medical books generally and dental books specifically probably seems unsurprising. After all, what else should such a person collect, if he were going to collect at all? In fact, however, Evans collected, and the Evans Collection contains, not only medical and dental books, but also other subjects as well—and later additions have continued to expand the Evans Collection. Speculation about the interests and motives of someone long dead, and whose life, expectations, and aspirations were all formed in an era distant from our own, would be foolhardy. Yet it seems reasonable to guess that some of Evans's collecting interests derived at least partly from curiosity about his profession's history.
If we cannot know for certain why Evans collected his books, we can nonetheless enjoy them. Whatever his motives, the varied nature of Penn's Evans-related books offers many possible attractive avenues of approach for the researcher. This exhibition travels along one such avenue, presenting a small selection of sixteenth-century printed books associated with Evans. Large, small, illustrated, unillustrated, their attractions differ. They reflect a person with more curiosity and broader interests than many people possess. His legacy gives Penn and its community a gift with many uses—one of which is their sheer enjoyability