About the Wredens

Byra J. and William P. Wreden

The Byra J. and William P. Wreden Prize for Collecting Books and Related Materials for Stanford students was created in memory of two lifelong book collectors and supporters of the Stanford University Libraries. Both Mr. and Mrs. Wreden’s collecting interests began in their youth. As a boy, Bill Wreden collected butterflies on expeditions to Mount Tamalpais, and when he wasn’t off collecting butterflies, he collected, and read, Modern Library books. As a girl, his wife, Byra, became particularly enamoured of children’s book illustrators, such as Beatrix Potter and Kate Greenaway.

William and Byra Wreden

Bill Wreden’s book collecting interests developed further during his years at Stanford under the influence of his studies and friendship with librarian Nathan van Patten. In 1936, on their honeymoon to Ensenada, the newlywed Wredens stopped in Los Angeles and bought a wall of modern first editions from antiquarian bookseller Jacob Zeitlin. In 1938, they made their first book-buying trip to Europe where Wreden acquired a large portion of Thomas Hardy’s personal library as well as the library of Havelock Ellis. He came home to open his first bookshop and issue his first catalogue featuring books from the Hardy library. During a distinguished career of antiquarian bookselling, he remained loyal to Stanford and its libraries through his long friendships with Nathan van Patten and subsequent Stanford librarians. Over several decades, he built up two remarkable collections: one devoted to witchcraft, magic and folklore, which he sold in the 1970s, and the other, his renowned bibliographical library, highlights of which were sold at Swann Galleries in New York in a two-day sale in 1990.

On their first trip to London in 1938, Byra Wreden found a Kate Greenaway book she remembered from her childhood. Her husband purchased it for her, and thus, she began a lifetime of collecting Kate Greenaway. She also accumulated extensive collections on cookery, flower arranging, with an emphasis on Ikebana, and gardening. A founding director of the Associates of the Stanford University Libraries in 1973, she served as its chairman for more than one term and actively served ASUL throughout her remaining lifetime.

William Wreden, along with others, generously contributed prize money for the winners of an earlier Stanford student book collecting competition sponsored by the Associates of the Stanford University Libraries in the late 1970s. In 1996, his business papers, known as the William P. Wreden, Books & Manuscripts Archive, were given to the Stanford University Libraries. Both Mr. and Mrs. Wreden specified that any gifts given in their memory be made to the Stanford University Libraries. In September 2000, University Librarian Michael A. Keller and the Wreden’s eldest son met and agreed to use those gifts to create an endowed fund to support a biennial student book collecting competition, to be known as the Byra J. and William P. Wreden Prize for Collecting Books and Related Materials.

Bo Wreden
28 May 2009