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John M. Boyle Himalayan Library

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In 1997, the American Alpine Club Library received a generous donation from John M. Boyle: the John M. Boyle Himalayan Library. This collection contains about 3,000 books in 36 different languages/dialects (approximately half of these autographed by expedition members), 400 expedition reports, and 100 videos/films and 35 boxes of ephemera.

Download a detailed description of the contents of the library: [.PDF]: JMBoyleFinding_Aid.pdf

The John M. Boyle Himalayan Library contains a unique autographed collection of first ascent books on all fourteen 8,000 meter and seven summit peaks. Other highlights include first ascent books by John Hunt, Maurice Herzog and Karl Herrligkoffer; a book by Hasagawa on his illegal solo ascent of Nanga Parbat; a book detailing the 1924 British expedition signed by all team members, including scrapbooked signatures of Mallory and Irvine; October, 1982 ABC aerial photo footage of the East Face of Everest taken during an illegal flight; slide images of a 1994 aerial fly-by; and one of only five known surviving copies of the Great Trigonometrical Survey of India.

AACRBExhibits.jpgThe impetus for the creation of the Himalayan Library came to Boyle while in preparation for a 1983 Everest East Face Expedition. As assigned expedition engineer, the task of getting 12 climbers and 3,000 lbs of equipment and supplies safely up the East Face required detailed research information and documentation on past expeditions and routes. In researching, Boyle could find no continuous record of expedition logs. Also found lacking were photographic material and bibliographies of recommended books and resources.

In Boyle's words, "The Himalayan Library genesis was the task to find a way up the East Face of Everest"; a task which was in the end successful when on October 8th and 9th of 1983, six team members stood atop the summit. Upon the return from Everest, Boyle began gathering and compiling a complete library on Himalayan Expeditions.

The first incarnation of the Himalayan Library was begun in pre-WWII Austria by Professor E.O. Dyhrenfurth. These early expeditions were largely organized by national clubs and, due to the publicity and interest in the unknowns of high altitude exploration, the expeditions were well documented, written about, and reported on. Professor Dyhrenfurth collected detailed records of these early expeditions.

In 1969, upon Professor Dyhrenfurth's retirement, the library and collection responsibilities fell to Anders Bolinder of Switzerland. Bolinder became European Honorary Secretary of the Himalayan Mountain Club and provided extensive reporting on European Himalayan expeditions; this included his interviews of all expedition teams. He was noted as the "reporter of record" on European Himalayan expeditions. The Collection included over 300 rare books in European languages. Many were pre War II and had not been available in the US. Bolinder's death in 1986 resulted in the move of the library once again. In 1987, Boyle purchased the Bolinder collection from his estate.

As the AAC representative to the UIAA for the Expeditions and Documentation Commissions in the 1990's Boyle was able to visit climbing clubs around the world and collect climbers' autographs.

The single most important event for collecting autographs was the "Celebration of the 40th Ascent of Annapurna" in Chamonix in June 1990. All of the important Himalayan mountaineers were assembled. They eagerly signed books on their expeditions. Many additional autographs were obtained during the June 1993 40th Anniversary of the first ascent of Everest. Hosted by the Royal Geographic Society and attended by HRH Queen Elizabeth, the event was rife with Everest summiters.

The collection has been compiled primarily by John Boyle himself, with the exception of three primary purchases: the acquisition of the Anders Bolinder archival collection, the acquisition of a collection of books from Eugen Gippenreitter and finally the acquisition of a collection of books from Leonid Zmatnin. These collections were coalesced by Boyle, into what is today the Himalayan Library. The Verena Bolinder endowment provides funds in support of the Himalayan Library.

The thorough scope of this assemblage are part of its special value. A primary focus has been documentation of every expedition to the Great Peaks and collection of expedition reports in the original language. Another unique aspect of this collection lies in autographed material. Each of the first ascents of the fourteen 8000 meter peaks is documented in a book. The Himalayan Library holds books from each expedition, autographed by expedition team members.

The book collection is classified under the standards set out by the Library of Congress Subject Headings and AACR2 cataloging rules, and can be searched in the online library catalog.

The non-book materials are organized by peak, and then by date. Housed in the Rare Books room, the John M. Boyle Himalayan Library is not a circulating collection. Items may be requested and viewed under supervision of staff in the AAC Reading Room during regular Library hours or by appointment.

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American Alpine Club Library History

John M. Boyle Himalayan Library

About the Collections

Archive Donation

Magazines in the Library

Library on Inclined: The AAC Blog

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