Commencement Theses, Quaestiones, and Orders of Exercises
6.25 cubic feet (1 legal document box, 16 flat boxes, 2 volumes, and 2 microfilm reels)
William Coolidge Lane’s Early Harvard Broadsides (Worcester, 1914) provides a comprehensive list of holdings among various institutions. Since the article's publication in 1914, Harvard has acquired an original Theses from 1719 and original Quaestiones from 1673, 1745, and 1763. Previously unknown originals of the Theses from 1724, 1728, 1729, and 1736 have been discovered at other institutions, and photostat copies are now included in this collection.
Upon receiving a Bachelor’s degree, students could continue their studies as candidates for a master's degree, usually for a period of three years. In contrast to the rigidly defined scope of study for undergraduates, graduate students focused on independent reading. The Commencement exercises for the Master’s degree included the Quaestiones, a single question chosen by each candidate, to be discussed in the affirmative or negative. In practice, according to a note written by President Joseph Willard on the 1794 Order of Exercises, "There is seldom opportunity for more than two or three who are candidates for the degree of Master of Arts to perform any exercises in the Afternoon, because much of the time is taken up in giving the degrees."
Beginning with the first Commencement in 1642 through 1810, Theses were printed as broadsides. They were supplemented from 1791 onward by the Order of Exercises for Commencement, printed in English. The last Order of Exercises was printed in 1810, and subsequent Theses were distributed as quartos until they were replaced in 1821 by a Commencement program. The Quaestiones were printed from 1642 through 1791. Generally, the ceremony for students receiving their Bachelor’s degrees occurred in the morning and was followed by the Master’s degree ceremony in the afternoon.
- Theses, 1642-1818
- Quaestiones, 1653-1791
- Orders of Exercises for Commencement, 1791-1810
- Lane, William Coolidge. Early Harvard Broadsides. Worcester: American Antiquarian Society, 1914.
- Morison, Samuel Eliot. The Founding of Harvard College. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1935.
- Morison, Samuel Eliot. Harvard College in the Seventeenth Century. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1936.
- Morison, Samuel Eliot. Three Centuries of Harvard, 1636-1936. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1936.
- Young, Edward J. "June Meeting, 1880. Subjects for Master's Degree" in the Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, Vol. 18 (1880-1881) pp. 119-151.
- Edes, Henry M. "April Meeting 1898: Harvard Theses of 1663" in Publications of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts: Transactions, 1898, pages 322-339.
Photostat copies of originals in the collection were removed. Call numbers HUC 6642.1, HUC 6642.4, and HUC 6642.5 were incorporated into HUC 6642. Manuscript transcriptions of the Theses and Quaestiones prepared by Isaac Mansfield, originally cataloged as HUC 6642.2 and HUC 6642.3, were distinguished as separate items (Harvard University Archives call numbers: HUM 7 for Theses, and Quaestiones, HUM 6 for Quaestiones). An incomplete set of index cards with English translations of originally cataloged as HUC 6642.6, was distinguished as a separate collection (Harvard University Archives call number: HUY 12).
This finding aid was created by Diann Benti in April 2010.
Preservation and description of the collection was supported by the Arcadia-funded project Harvard in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries.
- Harvard University. Commencement Theses, Quaestiones, and Orders of Exercises, 1642-1818: an inventory
- EAD ID
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.
Cambridge MA 02138 USA