WCC Hosts Open House Celebration for Pardue Library / Bowman Rare Book Room

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WCC Hosts Open House Celebration for Pardue Library / Bowman Rare Book Room


WCC hosts an open house celebration for Pardue Library / Bowman Rare Book Room


Wilkesboro, N.C. – Wilkes Community College hosted an open house in celebration of the newly-renovated Pardue Library and the addition of the Bowman Rare Book Room on Thursday, July 21, 2022, in Window World Hall.


“The Pardue Library staff are delighted to share our newly-renovated facility, which features a Learning Commons that unites the library with the Academic Support Center, and the Bowman Rare Book Collection,” stated Christy Earp, WCC Pardue Library librarian. “This is a unique collection of late nineteenth and early twentieth-century young adult fiction that encapsulates an era in which literature for children was basically invented and grew into an entertaining and lucrative business.”


The Bowman Rare Book Room dedicated in 2020 houses books from the private collection of Dr. Tom Bowman. Primarily consisting of first, early, and important editions of popular serial fiction titles for adolescent boys and girls, the collection includes works by American and British authors that span the late-19th to mid-20th centuries, an era considered by many to be the golden age of children’s publishing. The titles in this collection established such iconic characters as Tom Swift, The Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, and Tarzan. Writers like Horatio Alger, Jr. introduced readers to exciting careers and encouraged them to pursue the American Dream. Other series in this collection allow readers to immerse themselves in a variety of adventures, from camping with the Boy Scouts to serving in the armed forces during the First World War, to taking the field in their favorite collegiate sports, to exploring outer space. Scholars will find the Bowman Rare Book Collection a treasure for the study and appreciation of the children’s literature of the time period, and curious readers will discover a world of new-to-them stories just waiting to be enjoyed.


Dr. Tom Bowman states, “I began collecting books several years ago with the purchase of 200 English and Arithmetic primers on eBay that were in mint condition. After that purchase, I began researching to see what other books were available, and I noticed that several people, including curator Stephen Seminazzi, were selling books from the 1870s, 1880s, and 1890s which included the Tom Swift and Nancy Drew series.” After purchasing a few books, he decided to write a letter to Mr. Seminazzi sharing his idea of creating a library within a library and asking for his assistance.  He added, “We developed a plan, and from there it took on a life of its own, culminating in over 7,500 books.”


Mr. Stephen Seminazzi, curator, stated, “This book collection is valued at over $1M, with some books valued between $3,000 and $4,000 each. These books are in mint condition, and a number of them have been signed.” He added, “My job over the last four years has been buying books, completing series, and upgrading to higher quality books for Dr. Bowman.”


  1. Christian Mattson, curator, collector of rare books, and co-author of “Collectors Guide To Hard Cover Boys Series Books” said, “I bought my first book when I was eleven years old from money my great grandfather gave me. I later gave that book to Dr. Bowman as a gift.” He adds, “The Bowman Rare Book Collection is the basis of American history. The books, from the early 1800s, follow our history in war, peace, inventions, and general American life. This is the true American culture without a doubt. This collection is one of the finest collections in America.”


Photo credit: Dr. Gordon Burns

l-r: Dr. Jeff Cox, Stephen Seminazzi, E. Christian Mattson,

Dr. Tom Bowman, and Dr. Karolen Bowman


Wilkes Community College, a member of the North Carolina Community College System, is a public, two-year, open-door institution serving the people of Wilkes, Ashe, and Alleghany counties and beyond. Established in 1965, WCC continues to build on a strong history of meeting the educational needs and cultural interests of our students, community, and workforce. WCC prepares learners for success in a dynamic world.