RBS Mourns the Loss of Michael L. Turner

We were saddened to hear of the death last week of Michael L. Turner, longtime Rare Book School friend and faculty member. Michael held various positions at the Bodleian Library throughout his long career at that institution, retiring as Head of Preservation Services. He was also Lecturer in the History of Printing at the University of Oxford, and served as the editor of Publishing History, a co-editor of The Cambridge History of the Book in Britain, Volume 5 (1695–1830), as an associate editor for the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, and as president of the Oxford Bibliographical Society.


Michael L. Turner at RBS in 2007

Turner delivered the very first Book Arts Press lecture, “Collecting Printed Ephemera,” on 16 November 1972, in his capacity as curator of the John Johnson Collection of Printed Ephemera at the Bodleian. He gave seven additional BAP/RBS lectures:

  • “The Bodleian Library, Oxford” (12 February 1974, Lecture 9)
  • “A View of the Bodleian” (23 April 1975, Lecture 23)
  • “The Bodleian Library Reviewed” (18 November 1976, Lecture 28)
  • “A View of the Bodleian Library” (19 June 1980, Lecture 64)
  • “Developing a Preservation Program for the Bodleian Library” (27 September 1982, Lecture 98)
  • “The Sociology of the Book Trade: The Stationers’ Company in the Early 19th Century” (19 June 1986, Lecture 211)
  • Ten Years of Conservation in the Bodleian” (19 April 1988, Lecture 256)

Turner co-taught a Rare Book School course on the nineteenth-century book with Michael Winship from 1983 to 1985, and a course on publishing history in 1989, 1991, 1994, and 1999. He later co-taught “The Stationers’ Company and the London Book Trade to 1830” with Ian Gadd in 2006 and 2007.

“Michael was one of the earliest and strongest supporters of the rare book program at Columbia’s School of Library Service and of Rare Book School,” said RBS founding director Terry Belanger. “His good offices in arranging for the Bodleian Library’s gift to RBS in 1989 of books from the San Garde collection enormously augmented the teaching resources of the school. He was a gifted teacher, and a wonderful friend.”

“Michael and I worked closely together as editors on Volume 5 of the Cambridge History of the Book in Britain,” said RBS Executive Director Michael F. Suarez, S.J. “I had known him earlier because he taught classes at Oxford on nineteenth-century book history, and he and Don McKenzie taught a group of us how to print in my first year of graduate school. As you might imagine, it could have been awkward working with one’s former teacher as a co-editor, but Michael Turner was invariably gracious and kind.”


Additional photographs of Michael Turner at BAP/RBS events (from left: June 1980, July 1984, April 1989). Click for larger version.