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What is in the John M. Boyle Himalayan Library?

Posted on: July 21st, 2009 by AAC Library

Postcard: 1922 Everest Expedition Members

Postcard: 1922 Everest Expedition Members

In 1997, the American Alpine Club Library received a generous donation from John M. Boyle: The John M. Boyle Himalayan Library. This collection contains more than 2500 books in 36 different languages/dialects (approximately half of these autographed by expedition members), 400 expedition reports, and 100 videos/films and 35 boxes of ephemera.

Library staff has now made available a complete listing of non-book items, which can be found in PDF here. All of the books in the John M. Boyle Himalayan Library can be found in the online catalog with the designation “HIM” in the call number.  They are not available for checkout, but can be requested for research during a visit to the library.

The John M. Boyle Himalayan Library contains a unique autographed collection of first ascent books on all fourteen 8,000 meter and seven summit peaks. Other unique items include first ascent books by John Hunt, Maurice Herzog and Karl Herrligkoffer; a book by Hasagawa on his illegal solo ascent of Nanga Parbat; a book with autographs of 1924 British expedition members; a 1982 ABC aerial photo footage of the East Face of Everest; slide images of a 1994 aerial fly-by; and one of only five known surviving copies of the Great Trigonometrical Survey of India.

The impetus for the creation of the Himalayan Library came to Boyle while in preparation for a 1983 Everest East Face Expedition. As assigned expedition engineer, the task of getting 12 climbers and 3,000 lbs of equipment and supplies safely up the East Face required detailed research information and documentation on past expeditions and routes. In researching, Boyle could find no continuous record of expedition logs. Also found lacking were photographic material and bibliographies of recommended books and resources.

In Boyle’s words, “The Himalayan Library genesis was the task to find a way up the East Face of Everest”; a task which was in the end successful when on October 8th and 9th of 1983, six team members stood atop the summit. Upon the return from Everest, Boyle began gathering and compiling a complete library on Himalayan Expeditions.

The first incarnation of the Himalayan Library was begun in pre-WWII Austria by Professor E.O. Dyrenfurth. These early expeditions were largely organized by national clubs and, due to the publicity and interest in the unknowns of high altitude exploration, the expeditions were well documented, written about and reported on. Professor Dyrenfurth collected detailed records of these early expeditions.

In 1969, upon Professor Dyrenfurth’s retirement, the library and collection responsibilities fell to Anders Bolinder of Switzerland. Bolinder became European Honorary Secretary of the Himalayan Mountain Club and provided extensive reporting on European Himalayan expeditions; this included his interviews of all expedition teams. He was noted as the “reporter of record” on European Himalayan expeditions. Bolinder’s death in 1986 resulted in the move of the library once again. In 1987, Boyle purchased Bolinder’s collection of around 300 books from his estate.

The collection has been compiled primarily by John Boyle himself, with the exception of three primary purchases: the acquisition of the Anders Bolinder archival collection, the acquisition of a collection of books from Eugen Gippenreitter and finally the acquisition of a collection of books from Leonid Zmatnin. These collections were coalesced by Boyle, into what is today the Himalayan Library. The Verena Bolinder endowment provides funds in support of the Himalayan Library.

The completeness and thorough scope of this assemblage are part of the special value of this collection. A primary focus has been documentation of every expedition to the Great Peaks and collection of expedition reports in the original language. Another unique aspect of this collection lies in autographed material. Each of the first ascents of the fourteen 8000 meter peaks is documented in a book. The Himalayan Library holds books from each expedition, autographed by expedition team members.

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