Acquired from the Percy family in 1999, part gift and part purchase, Walker Percy's library consists of over 2,500 printed volumes. They represent the author's working library, with materials acquired by Percy between his years as a medical student in New York in the late 1930s and the time of his death in 1990. The books reflect not only his broad general tastes in literature but also his more specific and specialized interests in philosophy (notably the European existentialists), religion (especially Catholic thinkers), psychology, linguistics, and semiotics.
As might be expected with a working library, many of the volumes show evidence of heavy use. Approximately one-third are annotated to varying degrees. Most of these consist of page references (with brief mention on the contents) written on the endpapers. On turning to these pages, the user will often find the passages of interest to Percy underlined or otherwise identified. Less frequently, these markings will be accompanied by marginal comments. A few books also have small sheets of paper with manuscript notes inserted loosely or attached to the appropriate pages by adhesive tape or staples. Among the most heavily annotated books are copies of Albert Camus's The Stranger and The Fall, James Collins's The Existentialists, Fyodor Dostoyevsky's Notes from Underground, Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man, Martin Heidegger's Existence and Being, Ernest Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises, Gabriel Marcel's The Mystery of Being, Charles Peirce's Philosophical Writings, and Mark Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. (Bibliographical details on most of these titles may be found in the Exhibition Checklist following this description.)The Percy Library contained few first editions of the author's own writings. However, it is rich in later American and English editions (a few with annotations by the author), translations, and copies of his early periodical appearances. Such materials are often extremely difficult to locate, even in large academic or research libraries. They complement quite neatly, with little duplication, the very comprehensive collection of first and other early Percy editions assembled by the Rare Book Collection since the late 1980s. Today, the combined holdings of Percy's published writings in the Rare Book Collection are among the most complete in North America.
Finally, the Percy Library also contains a modest number of association copies of books written by friends and acquaintances of the Percys. Notable among these are copies of nearly all of the books of Shelby Foote, inscribed to both Percy and his wife.
At the present time, all editions of the works of Percy in the general holdings of the Rare Book Collection are cataloged and accessible through the library's online catalog. As a temporary tool for accessing materials in the Percy Library, preparation of an in-house computerized database is nearing completion.