In 2006, The Rare Book & Manuscript Library of the University of Illinois established a book collectors’ club for acquisitive book lovers who have a book collection or would like to begin one.
Inspired by the fine collection of American wit and humor, including broad Twain holdings, at the University of Illinois, The No. 44 Society takes its name from the hero of Mark Twain’s last novel, No. 44, The Mysterious Stranger, a fantastical, but little-known Twain story set in a fifteenth-century print shop. The only requirements for membership are to have read Twain’s novel and to love books.
The club attracts a lively mixture of undergraduates, graduates, faculty members, and local and regional collectors. Members offer advice to beginning collectors, share tips and tidbits about dealers and collectors, and regale one another with tales of the chase. Members also make formal presentations on their collections.
In short, it is a convivial club for mysterious strangers united by a shared affliction called bibliophilia.