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SUB-SERIES — Box: 1 Identifier: UAI 5.5

College Book 1, 1639-1795 Digital

Scope and Contents

This long and narrow leather-bound volume, sometimes referred to as the Long College Book, contains early records of Harvard's two governing boards, the Corporation and the Board of Overseers, as well as a miscellany of entries, made in multiple hands, on assorted topics. Although its proper title is College Book 1, the spine title reads "College Book 1 & 2" due to a nineteenth century labeling error. Proceedings from Corporation and Overseers' meetings were entered unsystematically in this volume, alongside financial statements and other records. The varied purposes of the individual quires which make up this volume, along with the early scarcity of paper, contribute to its disorganized nature. One scholar described it as "jumbled together in a haphazard way now impossible of explanation," although several other scholars have attempted to explain its organization. Some entries are in Latin.

College Book 1 includes a list of Harvard College graduates from each year between 1642 and 1795; the College laws confirmed by the Overseers and President each year between 1642 and 1646; the College Laws of 1734; library rules and regulations approved in 1736; establishment of the Veritas shield as the College seal in 1643 (see sequence 37 in the online copy of the volume); excerpts from colonial laws respecting the Harvard Board of Overseers; a transcription of the College charter of 1650, which established the Corporation; transcriptions of various gifts and bequests (including those from Nathaniel Ward, Israel Stoughton, Ezekiel Rogers, and William Pennoyer); a list of magistrates "of the Colony of Plimouth"; detailed descriptions of the roles and responsibilities of the College Steward, Butler, and Cook; entries related to the purchase of "the first ffont of Letters for printing, in Cambridge"; inventories of "the Colledge utensills belonging to the kitchin & Butterie" in 1674 and 1683; Massachusetts General Court decisions and allocations of funds; information about faculty and staff appointments, salaries, and student rustications and expulsions; and many Treasurer's reports and other financial account information. This volume also includes entries recording expenses incurred when rooms in the College's first buildings were being finished, outlining the costs of glass, "plankes," and "nayles" as well as the labor costs of joiners, masons, and other workers. Other entries list the studies (rooms) at the College and the income derived from their quarterly rents. Minutes from a Corporation meeting held December 27, 1643 include the first known appearance of the College shield with open books and the word, veritas. Minutes from a March 10, 1649 meeting read: "Fforasmuch as the wearing of long haire after the manner of Ruffians and barbarous Indians [...offends the Corporation, we] doe declare & manifest our dislike & detestation against the wearing of such long haire."

This volume is in tête-bêche format, with texts beginning at both the front and back covers rotated 180⁰ from one another. An entry in Latin at the back of the volume contains an alphabetical list of books in the College Library.

Pencilled annotations throughout the volume were made years after its creation by librarians Thaddeus William Harris and John Langdon Sibley, Treasurer John Davis, President Josiah Quincy, and possibly others.


  • 1639-1795

Researcher Access

The College Books are open for research.


3.43 cubic feet (8 volumes, 3 folders, 1 legal document box)

Online transcription

The Colonial Society of Massachusetts has transcribed this volume, and has made the transcription available on their website:


Repository Details

Part of the Harvard University Archives Repository

Holding nearly four centuries of materials, the Harvard University Archives is the principal repository for the institutional records of Harvard University and the personal archives of Harvard faculty, as well as collections related to students, alumni, Harvard-affiliates and other associated topics. The collections document the intellectual, cultural, administrative and social life of Harvard and the influence of the University as it emerged across the globe.

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