Chester Thordarson (1930), from scrapbook assembled by J. Christian Bay, C. H. Thordarson, his life, his library. From the Thordarson Collection, Department of Special Collections, Memorial Library, UW-Madison. From the Thordarson Collection, Department of Special Collections, Memorial Library, UW-Madison.
Visitors to Door County may know of Rock Island State Park, property once owned by Icelandic immigrant, entrepreneur, and inventor Chester Thordarson (1867-1945). Thordarson was also a renowned and avid book collector, whose collection, described by the Milwaukee Sentinel as “Volumes From ‘Wizard’s’ Library,” was acquired by the University of Wisconsin shortly after his death. Perhaps best known for its double-elephant folio edition of Audubon’s Birds of America, the Thordarson Collection also features a complete set of Gould’s monographs on birds of the world, lavish bookbindings, long runs of English almanacs beginning in the 17th century, and many Icelandic titles, as well as rare works in other fields.
Mrs. Jane Loudon, The ladies’ flower-garden of ornamental annuals (London, [1840-1849]). From the Thordarson Collection, Department of Special Collections, Memorial Library, UW-Madison.
Thordarson built the collection through good times and bad and shared it with visitors first in his Chicago factory and then at his impressive boathouse on Rock Island. It is now shared with students, faculty, and visitors in the Department of Special Collections in Memorial Library on the UW-Madison campus. Join Dr. Robin Rider, curator of special collections in the UW-Madison Libraries, to learn how and why the UW negotiated its acquisition, and what the Thordarson Collection has to say to researchers -- decades later -- on subjects from agriculture, astronomy, and the book arts to history, satire, and zoology.
Next Event in the Series
The next event in the series will take place Tuesday, July 16.
Wisconsin Historical Museum
Wisconsin Historical Museum, 30 N Carroll St
Madison, WI 53703
Four floors of changing exhibit galleries, permanent exhibits and the museum store ― located on Madison's Capitol Square
The site is fully accessible to visitors requiring a wheelchair for mobility.