Luncheon Speaker

Archeology of a Collector: The Harry F. Bruning Collection at Brigham Young University

Jack Stoneman 

Until recently, we knew very little about the Harry F Bruning, who collected approximately 250 Japanese rare books and manuscripts in the 1940s and 1950s—a collection that was eventually sold to BYU in 1965. Many decades later, we are beginning to understand what led Bruning to collect Japanese items (even though his main area of collecting focus had been Americana), why he chose the type of items he collected, and how he assembled such a rare and fascinating collection. In our study of Bruning’s career as a collector, we have not had the benefit of a biography, or documentary evidence of the collector’s aims or methods. Rather, we have prompted the items to speak for themselves, and we have dug around in the collection, uncovering vestiges, like shards of pottery long buried, that reveal not only the structure and history of Bruning’s collection, but the mind and heart of the collector himself.