Rare Book School

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James Davis Scholarship Fund

James Davis, 1989

James Davis attended his first Rare Book School in 1985. He joined the RBS program staff in 1986, and he returned annually thereafter, both throughout RBS's Columbia years and then on to Virginia in the 1990s. He used to say that he already had as much management as he wanted to do at home (he was Rare Books Librarian at UCLA); at RBS, he developed a collection of non-administrative duties he made entirely his own, stretching from one end of each RBS week to the other: from mugshot photographer on Sunday night to course evaluation editor over the succeeding weekend. In between, he did the bulk of the RBS supplies-and-equipment shopping, edited Museum labels, acted as the Director's conscience ("It's just me: Jiminy Cricket!"), and made himself generally available to do whatever had to be done next. He was unfailingly interested in RBS students, and he spent a great deal of time talking to them both at breaks and after class in the evening.

James Davis, 1997We expected him as usual at the RBS January 2000 session, but he stayed home to undergo what he told us was a fairly routine bypass operation. In the event, he never regained consciousness after surgery, and he died in the hospital on February 3rd.

The RBS staff operates on the principle of interchangeable parts: there are few jobs that can't, if necessary, be done by whoever's handy. But nobody on our staff was like James Davis, who combined a vast knowledge of RBS's collections and customs with an unflaggingly sunny disposition, and RBS cannot be the same without him.

Over the years, we have had many discussions with both RBS students and RBS prospective students about the need for scholarship support for our courses. Here, finally, is a program that has the potential to grow to become a force of considerable benefit to the field of rare books. Present and future contributions to the James Davis Scholarship Fund endowment are welcome. Checks should be made payable to the James Davis Scholarship Fund and sent to Rare Book School.