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Waukegan library to bring Bradbury collection home

Waukegan Public Library Executive Director Richard Lee stands outside Ray Bradbury's house Los Angeles supervise packing his estate. Comment posted

Waukegan Public Library Executive Director Richard Lee stands outside Ray Bradbury's house in Los Angeles to supervise the packing of his estate. Comment posted on Waukegan Public Libray's Facebook page: "We are honored to be receiving his home library collection and can't wait to include it in our own." | Courtesy of Waukegan Public Library

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Updated: December 18, 2013 3:19AM

Ray Bradbury’s final gift to his hometown is making its way across the country this weekend after Waukegan Public Library officials traveled to the late author’s Southern California home on Thursday, Oct. 17, to load up a 53-foot truck with 500 boxes of books bequeathed to them by his estate.

“It’s about 22,000 pounds of books and manuscripts from his private collection,” library Executive Director Richard Lee said on Friday. “Some of it was boxed up and some of it wasn’t, so we had three packers here going from 9 until 6 at night (Thursday) getting it ready to go.”

Lee added that the collection also includes paintings, photographs and an uncounted number of “Fahrenheit 451” copies that Bradbury kept in his garage. If all goes as planned, those books might be given to ticket holders at the 8th Annual Ray Bradbury Storytelling Festival on Oct. 25 at the Genesee Theatre.

“These are overstock copies of ‘Fahrenheit 451’ that his publisher gave him and Ray would take out when he did talks at libraries to autograph, so we have a lot of copies,” Lee said. “If it all makes it back there on time and we can find them in time for the storytelling festival, we might be able to do that, but I’m not going to hold my breath.

“Everything would have to fall into place,” he added about the “Fahrenheit 451” giveaway. “With 500 boxes, I couldn’t even tell you which boxes they’re in.”

Bradbury was born in Waukegan, lived there through his childhood years and employed a romanticized version of it for the setting of such novels as “Dandelion Wine” and “Something Wicked This Way Comes.”

In January, seven months after the author passed away at age 91, Waukegan Library officials announced that Bradbury had left a collection of books for the facility and arrangements were being made to have them delivered to Illinois.

Lee said he and library exhibits manager Rena Mack first went to Bradbury’s Los Angeles home back in June “to kind of assess what the gift was (and) find out everything we were going to get.” What they encountered was a de facto Ray Bradbury memorial library.

“It’s a house he lived in for many years, and the whole thing is just like a museum,” Lee said. “He never threw anything out, so there’s bottles of dandelion wine and books all over the place.”

After last summer’s process of identifying the items that would go to Waukegan, the task this week was to not only take possession of what was designated for his hometown library but also talk trade with officals from the Indiana University-Purdue University in Indianapolis, home of the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies.

According to Lee, IUPUI was getting a collection of books authored by Bradbury and items like his desk, which will be set up at the center. After all the exchanges were made, Waukegan came away with such things as the typewriter Bradbury used in his final years.

Also coming back to Waukegan, said Lee, are various autographed copies of books penned by other authors, including Edgar Rice Burroughs. Lee added that Waukegan library officials face the immediate challenge of locating a climate-controlled space large enough to house the 500 boxes and long-term decisions about where to display select items.

On Friday, the task was simply to get everything headed east. Once it was all completed, Lee said there was a sense of sadness.

“The whole process has been very exciting,” he said as afternoon set in on the West Coast, “but we’re finishing up now and the truck is gone. We’ve been talking with Alexandra, the youngest of Ray’s four daughters, and there’s been a lot of stories told. ... It’s just kind of melancholy, because eventually, they’re going to sell the house.”

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