Dr. Arra S. Avakian of Fresno, a retired professor of Armenian Studies at California State University, Fresno, has donated his extensive personal library of Armenian materials to the university’s Henry Madden Library.
The collection includes an estimated 3,000 books and pamphlets appraised at tens of thousands of dollars.
Dean of Library Services Michael Gorman said the acquisition is an important addition to the Madden Library.
“This is a historic Armenian community and our collections reflect that. Further, we have one of the few Armenian Studies departments in the country and the Library should reflect that,” Gorman said.
Dr. Dickran Kouymjian, who is the Haig andIsabel Berberian Professor of Armenian Studies at Fresno State, called Avakian’s library “specialized and valuable to Armenian studies.”
About 60 percent of the books are in English and the others in Armenian. English-language materials will be cataloged and integrated with current Madden Library holdings. Rare or valuable items will housed in the library’s Special Collections. To catalogue the Armenian-language works, a cataloguer who can read Armenian to transliterate the title pages must be hired. Funds will be sought to for that position. Any materials that do not fall within the scope of library collections will be offered first to the Armenian Studies department.
The collection includes a 19th century missal from Venice, an Armenian-Latin dictionary printed in Constantinople and a copy of the first English edition of “The Forty Days of Musa Dagh.”
Avakian began collecting books more than 60 years ago. His three favorite topics are church architecture, the Armenian language and Armenian music. The collection includes six volumes of work of the renowned composer Gomidas, who Avakian met shortly before his death. Also among Avakian’s collection of musical scores is 1895 Leipzig edition of the Makar Ekmalian Divine Liturgy.
Avakian said his decision to donate his collection to Fresno State “seemed natural. I used to be on the faculty and this is a way for a lasting association with the university.”
Avakian, who holds a doctorate in the fields of mathematics and science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, had a career in scientific research and engineering, especially in aerospace technology, before coming to Fresno State in 1970. He has been deeply involved in Armenian community life and the study of Armenian culture for many years. He is the author of “Armenian Journey Through History,” “Armenians in America” and “Manual for Choirmasters,” plus 10 translations of books from Armenian into English.
He continues to write newspaper and magazine articles and give public lectures on Armenian subjects and his new book, “The Eaglet,” a historical novel, will be out soon.