Last November at the annual “Dobie Dichos” literary festival in South Texas, I got to meet William Allison, a Houston attorney who specializes in environmental law and who has emerged as one of the great modern collectors of J. Frank Dobie material.
Bill told me that his grandfather introduced him to Dobie, which set him on the path to collecting Dobie books. Over the years his collecting interests began expanding into other literary terrain. After mostly retiring from law about five years ago, he’s now running his own antiquarian book business: William Allison Books.
When Bill first began tracking Dobie titles, he could rely on the standard published Dobie bibliographies to guide his search. Yet in recent years, collectors have made increasing use of the internet to discover and locate additional Dobie writings. Bill has used these tools to create a groundbreaking new Dobie collection — which includes over 300 Dobie-related items, many of them anthologies containing Dobie’s works that have never been previously listed in any bibliography.
In mid-January, Bill loaded up his van and drove to San Marcos to deliver a very special gift to The Wittliff: twenty-five boxes of rare and precious books relating to J. Frank Dobie.
Included among the hundreds of titles are such treasures as A Harvest of World Folk Tales, published in 1949 by the Viking Press, which includes an excerpt from Dobie’s Tongues of the Monte as well as Dobie’s writing on coyotes. A 1947 collection, Modern English Readings, contains an essay from Dobie’s A Texan in England. An anthology, Southern Literature, published in 1932, includes Dobie’s stories “Ballads and Songs of the Frontier Folks” and “Tales of the Mustang.”
Bill notes, “What I think the collection shows is not so much individual books that are by themselves amazing, although some are certainly interesting, it is that they show the scope of Dobie’s presence in the literature of the Southwest.”
The timing for Bill’s generous gift couldn’t be better, as The Wittliff is gearing up for a major Dobie exhibition this fall. As the Allison-Dobie Collection is cataloged, a complete donor tracing will allow patrons to see every title.
We at The Wittliff are grateful to William Allison as well as all of the Dobie collectors who have made major donations that contribute to Dobie’s lasting literary legacy, now enshrined at The Wittliff Collections.