Main Content

Janet Zastrow Cook Willa Cather and Rare Book Collections

General information:  Established in 2007-2008

Allegany College of Maryland offers a collection of materials related to celebrated American author Willa Cather and other revered American and British authors. These impressive items, gathered by Dr. Gary Cook in name and memory of his late wife, Janet, an ACM English professor, are housed in a handsome room known as the Janet Zastrow Cook Willa Cather and Rare Book Collections.

The Collection holds a variety of important Cather materials and other rare and valuable books and resources.  These resources are here to be used for reading enjoyment and for research purpose.

The rare April Twilights (1903) and a first edition of The Troll Garden (1905) along with first editions of O Pioneers! (1913) and My Ántonia (1918) represent works from Willa Cather's early years.  From Cather's Alfred A. Knopf association, the collection presently has eleven of the thirteen limited editions, signed by the author.  These Knopf publications include One of Ours (1922), April Twilights (1923), A Lost Lady (1923), The Professor's House (1925), My Mortal Enemy  (1926), Death Comes For The Archbishop, (1927), Shadows On The Rock (1931), Obscure Destinies (1932), Lucy Gayheart (1935), Not Under Forty (1936), and Sapphira And The Slave Girl (1940).

In addition to the limited editions and trade editions of Cather's works, the Collection contains books written about Willa Cather.  Included in these support books are works by such eminent Cather scholars as E. K. Brown, Mildred R. Bennett, Bernice Slote, Susan J. Rosowski, and Joan Crane.  It is a goal of the Janet Zastrow Cook Collection to offer books written by and written about Willa Cather's friends and associates.  These people were certainly a part of her life and her development.  Insights gained by reading these works can contribute immeasurably to the research of this writer.

Letters written by Willa Cather are the rarest of all items to find.  In her last years Cather asked people with whom she had corresponded to destroy her letters.  Many honored her request.  This control of her correspondence extended to her directing explicitly that no letter or portion thereof could be published or quoted.  Acquiring original correspondence is the greatest challenge for the Collection.  The Janet Zastrow Collection presently has several Cather letters.

The stature of Willa Cather as a writer and as a research subject has no better attestation than the number of doctoral dissertations written about her.  Since her death 254 dissertations have currently been produced in universities throughout the United States and Canada.  These dissertations are all available on microfilm or microfiche in this Collection.

Finally, the Janet Zastrow Cook Collection has established an association with The Willa Cather Foundation, located at Red Cloud, Nebraska.  The Collection proudly offers every newsletter published by this vital Cather organization from 1957 to the present.