Konstantin Frank wine cellars donates historic book collection to Cornell

The New York State Agricultural Experiment Station's Frank A. Lee Library has newfound wealth: a collection of 132 books donated by Dr. Konstantin Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars and the Frank family.

The collection comprises 19th and 20th century titles on topics including horticulture, plant science, viticulture, enology, chemistry, nature, history and literature, with the largest single subject category being wine- and grape-related material. When Frank emigrated from Europe to the United States in 1951 at the age of 54, he sacrificed all other luggage to bring along his precious collection of books.

The majority of the collection will be housed in Geneva. Those that don't quite fit into the Lee Library collection will be offered to various libraries on the Ithaca campus.

"We are thrilled about, and very grateful for, this generous gift to the library and pleased with how it complements our enology and viticulture collection," said Marty Schlabach, Lee Library director.

Of particular interest are a number of wine-appreciation titles signed by their authors to Frank. Also of special note are French and Russian ampelographies (identifications and classifications of grape vines) and a multivolume history of horticulture in Russia. Researchers will no doubt be intrigued with the numerous handwritten notes that illustrate Frank's views on grape varieties and various vineyard practices.

The Lee Library's viticulture and enology collection, reputed to be the finest east of the Rocky Mountains, consists of over 2,700 books and more than 40 current subscriptions to periodicals from around the world. Together with those in the larger Cornell library system, the total holdings in enology and viticulture exceed 7,000 titles.

Discussion of the Frank donation began in May 2007 when Mike Fordon, a public services assistant at the Lee Library, and Katherine Reagan and Evan Earle from Cornell Library's Rare and Manuscript Collections met with Fred Frank, grandson of the founder and president of the winery, and a Frank Winery representative.

While the collection contains many interesting and rare titles, its most significant aspect may be what it tells us about Frank, said Fordon.

"He was quite fond of underlining certain passages in his books -- mostly those that pointed out the number of hybrid grape varieties that were forbidden in Europe," Fordon said. "He also seems to have used just about anything as a bookmark -- money, letters, postcards, photos, hunting licenses and so on. While processing books I removed a large quantity of ephemera, which will be used in a display later this month. It was exciting to find all this stuff while working with the collection."

Located on Keuka Lake a few miles north of Hammondsport, Dr. Konstantin Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars has long been associated with the New York wine revolution. Frank helped pioneer the successful introduction of the European vitis vinifera grapevines in the eastern United States. For his contributions to the American wine industry, he was inducted into Wine Spectator's Hall of Fame in 2001.

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Joe Ogrodnick