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The Library houses James Ford Bell’s collection of approximately 600 books related to discovery and exploration in the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries, which was presented to the University in 1953 to establish a center for study, research, public outreach, and further acquisition. Since then, the collection has grown to some 30,000 items that reflect international trade and cross-cultural interaction from the ancient world to ca. 1800.

"… A word about my satisfaction in turning my collection over to the University of Minnesota. It is my hope that these books may make a contribution to the task of fulfilling the nature of man which every educational institution is designed to perform."
  – James Ford Bell