“Isn’t it queer: there are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before; like the larks in this country, that have been singing the same five notes over for thousands of years.” – Willa Cather, O Pioneers! (1913)

December 7th marks the 150th anniversary of Willa Cather’s birth. The Pulitzer Prize-winning writer is best remembered for her novels about life on the American plains, including O Pioneers!, Song of the Lark, and My Ántonia

Coates Library Special Collections & Archives is home to an extensive collection of first editions of Cather’s works, currently on display in the reading room lobby. The collection was assembled by Helen Miller Jones, wife of Bishop Everett Jones, a member of the Board of Trustees at Trinity University.

Willa Cather book covers on displayWilla Cather book covers on display










The collection on display includes fourteen first editions, many of them signed by Cather. Of particular interest is the 1929 illustrated edition of Death Comes for the Archbishop, her most significant work. Only 170 copies of this edition were printed, featuring stunning illustrations by Harold von Schmidt and signed by the author.

Willa Cather manuscript

The highlight of the collection is an original typescript manuscript of Cather’s 1926 novella, My Mortal Enemy. The manuscript includes handwritten corrections and instructions for the printer made by the author. My Mortal Enemy entered the public domain this year, and we recently digitized the manuscript and added it to the library’s digital collections. The manuscript will also be added to the Willa Cather Archives, a digital library documenting the author’s work hosted by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Special Collections is open weekdays from 1pm to 4pm, or by appointment. We invite you to celebrate Willa Cather’s birthday and stop by to view this collection.