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Through the wardrobe to Upland’s Narnia

Taylor’s Brown collection celebrates great Christian writers

By Emily Pawlowski | Echo

A mascot of sorts sits atop a work table in the Center for the Study of C.S. Lewis and Friends. Photo by Trevor Osswald.

A mascot of sorts sits atop a work table in the Center for the Study of C.S. Lewis and Friends.
Photo by Trevor Osswald.

Through the library doors, down the stairs and around a corner is one of Taylor University’s hidden treasures.

 

One side of this room is lined with row after row of aged books. On the other stands a perfect replica of an old British bar, complete with half a dozen dated taps.

 

This room, of course, is the Center for the Study of C.S. Lewis and Friends, home to the third largest collection of C.S. Lewis’s materials in the world. It focuses on gathering the works of Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, George MacDonald and Dorothy Sayers.

 

This collection began with Edwin Brown, an avid Lewis fan. He spent decades gathering books and printed sources related to Lewis and MacDonald.

 

Thanks to him, the Lewis Center boasts first editions of all British and American prints of Lewis’s books, most with their original dust jacket. Other gems include an original manuscript of Lewis’s short story, “Light,” and a copy of “Prince Caspian” that was signed by both Lewis and the book’s illustrator, Pauline Baynes.

 

This extensive personal collection was acquired by the university due to David Neuhauser, a former math professor at Taylor and major advocate for the study of Lewis.

 

Neuhauser took students to see Brown’s collection of books once a year, and convinced him over time to donate the collection to Taylor. Eventually an anonymous donor paid Neuhauser for the collection, and Taylor has housed it ever since.

 

The books, of course, are the main appeal of the collection, but there’s plenty of other collectibles that relate to Lewis and his peers.

 

“There’s all sorts of treasure that I keep learning about,” Anne Cooper, program assistant of the collection said. “Every time I open up a drawer or go into the shelves for the Brown collection I’m surprised by what we have.”`

 

There is the unusual, such as tiny porcelain figures of the cast of the Narnia series and a McDonald’s toy that portrays Mr. Tumnus as a whistle.

 

There is also the personal, including nearly 100 letters written by Lewis and original photographs of MacDonald and his family. Other treasures include a membership card to the Socratic club Lewis attended in college and many of the papers produced through that group.

 

To share this resource with students, the center offers a host of Lewis-themed activities.

 

One of these are its Lewis and Friends teas, which are held every Friday at 4 p.m. These meetings often feature a speaker who discusses a theme related to the Inklings, the group of writers Lewis worked with.

 

“I wanted to do something Inkling-like with students, getting them more involved and move excited about these writers,” said Joe Ricke, professor of English, center director and founder of the teas.

 

Another place for fans to gather and discuss these writers is the Lewis and Friends Colloquium, held every two years. Scholars and fans from all over the world gather to present papers and discuss these writers at Taylor campus.

 

Students are also invited to participate in this event. Several did so this summer, and even presented their own stories and papers inspired by the collection.

 

“If you like literature and fantasy, it’s a wonderful place to learn about some of the origins of fantasy as we know it,” senior Jori Hanna said.

 

The center is open from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and other special occasions.

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