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Texas Originals

Harry Huntt Ransom, or ‘The Great Acquisitor’

Chancellor of the University of Texas and world-class collector of books. The Ransom Center at UT is part of his legacy.



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November 22, 1908–April 19, 1976


The Gutenberg Bible, completed in 1454, is the first substantial book printed with movable type. Of the twenty-one complete copies in existence, one is on view at The University of Texas at Austin's Harry Ransom Center. This book—and the Center that houses it—are the proud legacy of Chancellor Harry Huntt Ransom known as "The Great Acquisitor."

Born in Galveston in 1908, Ransom came to U-T in 1935 as an English instructor. Over the years he served as Dean, Provost, President, and Chancellor. Ransom's first concern was always for the students. He firmly believed that a strong library system was critical for a successful education and he spent his career working to strengthen the university's collection.

Ransom founded the Humanities Research Center in 1957. He knew he could not compete with the rare collections that institutions such as Harvard and Yale had built over many years, so he focused on modern authors and materials. The result is one of the world's finest collections of twentieth-century writing including from such luminaries as James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, and George Bernard Shaw.

Ransom's ultimate purpose was not simply to amass valuable books and manuscripts. He sought a collection of what he called "knowledgeable people."

After Ransom's death in 1976, the Humanities Research Center was re-named in his honor. Today, its treasures continue to draw scholars to the University of Texas, creating a continuing flow of knowledgeable people of which Ransom would have been proud.

The Harry Ransom Center celebrated the 100th anniversary of Harry Huntt Ransom’s birthday in November 2008. This video shares some of the enormous contributions made by Harry Ransom to higher education, American libraries, and the establishment of an internationally



Barnes, Michael. "Harry Ransom: The Great Acquisitor." Austin American-Statesman, February 17, 2002.
Berry, Margaret C. "Ransom, Harry Huntt." Handbook of Texas Online.
Gribben, Alan. Harry Huntt Ransom: Intellect in Motion. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2008.

This episode first aired on August 4, 2012.