WENHAM, Mass. – A decision by a Christian college to auction a portion of its rare collection of Bibles and Shakespeare folios donated nearly a century ago by the family of a railroad executive isn't sitting well with his descendants and some faculty members.
The family of Edward Payson Vining donated the 7,000-volume collection to Gordon College, outside Boston, in 1922 with the condition that it remain intact and with the college.
Gordon, which was thrust into the national spotlight last year when its president joined other religious leaders in calling for an exemption to federal workplace protections for gay and transgender workers, wants to sell about 10 percent of the collection, saying it could generate as much as $2.5 million to help preserve the remainder.
"Simply put, the college believes the best way to honor the larger intent of this collection ... is applying the proceeds of the sale of the 10 percent of the collection to preserve and maintain the larger 90 percent," Gordon spokesman Rick Sweeney said.
The sale has the support of the college's trustees, he said. It originally was scheduled for April but has been postponed indefinitely for an unspecified reason.
Vining's great-granddaughter, 76-year-old Sandra Webber, told The Boston Globe (http://bit.ly/181rHAg ) she was "shocked" when she was told of the sale by a reporter.
"I know his collection would not want to be broken up," she said.
Faculty members say they were left out of the decision-making process.
"The Vining collection is an example of the larger issue of a breakdown between the faculty and the administration," said James Trent, a professor of sociology and social work.
The sale also has disappointed donor Dale E. Fowler, who told the Globe he was considering withdrawing a $60 million bequest. He blamed college president D. Michael Lindsay, who spearheaded the auction.
Officials at Gordon College later insisted Fowler wasn't considering withdrawing his bequest. Fowler didn't return messages from The Associated Press seeking comment or clarification on Thursday.
The collection includes a Ximenes Greek Bible, a first-edition Martin Luther German Bible and "Up-Biblum God," a 1663 Bible translated by the Puritan missionary John Eliot into Algonquin.
Some volumes date to the 1400s and are written in ancient languages from Australia, Southeast Asia and Mexico, said professor K. David Goss, who doesn't want to see the collection broken up.
Information from: The Boston Globe, http://www.bostonglobe.com