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COLLECTION Identifier: UAIII 50.27.14

Early Harvard College Librarian's papers

Overview

This collection contains an assortment of ten administrative records related to the Harvard College Library and the College Librarian (known in the 18th century as the Library Keeper), dating from 1715 to 1727. The documents consist of two payment orders for the salary of the library keeper in 1715 and 1721; a 1720 list of books sent by English merchant and Harvard benefactor Thomas Hollis; six financial records related to the preparation and printing of the 1723 printed catalog of the Library; and a copy of 1726/7 receipt related to a bequest to the Library by Bridget Usher.

Dates

  • 1715-1727

Creator

Researcher Access

The Early Harvard College Librarian's papers are open for research.

Copying Restriction

Copying of fragile materials may be limited.

Extent

.17 cubic feet (1 half document box)
This collection contains an assortment of ten administrative records related to the Harvard College Library and the College Librarian (known in the 18th century as the Library Keeper), dating from 1715 to 1727. The documents consist of payment orders for the salaries of library keepers John Rogers, in 1715, and William Cooke, in 1721; a 1720 list of books sent by English merchant and Harvard benefactor Thomas Hollis to Increase Mather; six financial records related to the preparation and printing of the 1723 printed catalog of the Library; and a copy of 1726/7 receipt related to a bequest to the Library by Bridget Usher.

Item titles are supplied by the cataloger unless otherwise noted.
Note regarding date conventions It should be noted that documents whose dates are between January 1 and March 25 in the years prior to 1752 have been cited with the double date convention, e.g. February 27, 1658/9. This convention has been followed only when the document itself indicates the date in such a manner. This convention was used in England and the North American colonies between 1582 and 1752. The first date refers to the year according to the Julian calendar, which began on March 25, while the second refers to the year according to the Gregorian calendar, which began on January 1.

Historical note

The origins of the Harvard College Library can be traced to the College's namesake, John Harvard. Following his death in 1638, Harvard's library of four hundred volumes, along with half of his estate, was given to the newly-established college subsequently named in his honor. These books were the College's first library collection. Beginning in 1676, the Library was housed in Harvard Hall, where it would remain until the building was destroyed by fire in 1764.

In 1667, the Harvard Board of Overseers compiled the first laws of the College Library and gave the Harvard Corporation, comprised of the President and Fellows, the responsibility for selecting a new "Library Keeper" every two years and reviewing the librarian's accounts. The librarian was often a recent graduate, junior fellow, College tutor, or resident bachelor, and the first known librarian was appointed by the Corporation in 1677. The librarian began receiving a salary in 1693.

The College Librarian oversaw the physical condition of the library and was charged with maintaining intellectual control over the holdings with library catalogues, shelflists, and records documenting donations, acquisitions, and book borrowing. In the early 1720s, in response to the growing number of duplicate books in the Library and with an interest in encouraging more donations, the Harvard Corporation charged Library Keeper Joshua Gee (1698-1748; Harvard AB 1717) with compiling a catalogue of the Library's holdings. Gee's catalogue was printed in 1723 and reflected the 3,500 volumes in the collection; there were an additional 600 volumes by the time a second supplement to that first catalog was printed in 1735.

Harvard College Librarians, 1714-1726
  • 1714-1718 John Rogers (1692-1773; Harvard AB 1711)
  • 1718-1720 William Welsteed (1696-1753; Harvard AB 1716)
  • 1720-1721 William Cooke (1696-1760; Harvard AB 1716)
  • 1721-1722 Joshua Gee (1698-1748; Harvard AB 1717)
  • 1722-1723 Mitchel Sewall (1699-1748; Harvard AB 1718)
  • 1723-1726 John Hancock (1702-1744; Harvard AB 1719)
Harvard College Librarians, 1714-1726
1714-1718
John Rogers (1692-1773; Harvard AB 1711)
1718-1720
William Welsteed (1696-1753; Harvard AB 1716)
1720-1721
William Cooke (1696-1760; Harvard AB 1716)
1721-1722
Joshua Gee (1698-1748; Harvard AB 1717)
1722-1723
Mitchel Sewall (1699-1748; Harvard AB 1718)
1723-1726
John Hancock (1702-1744; Harvard AB 1719)

Arrangement

The records are arranged in chronological order.

Acquisition information

The documents in this collection are University records and were presumably acquired in the course of University business.

Online access

All of the records have been digitized and are available online. Links accompany detailed descriptions.

Related Materials

In the Harvard University Archives
  1. Harvard College Library. Early Catalogs and Shelflists of the Harvard College Library, 1723-1822 (UAIII 50.15.30): http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.ARCH:hua35010
  2. Harvard University. Documentary history of the library, 1773-1879 (HUF 523.6.73): http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.ARCH:hua01010
  3. Harvard University. Corporation. Corporation records: minutes, 1643-1933 (UAI 5.30): http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.ARCH:hua51010
  4. The Printed Catalogues of the Harvard College Library, 1723-1790. Boston: Colonial Society of Massachusetts. Distributed by Oak Knoll Press, 1996. (UAIII 50.15.29 and HUF 523.596.9)

References

  • Carpenter, Kenneth E. The First 350 Years of the Harvard University Library: Description of an Exhibition. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1986.
  • Morison, Samuel Eliot. Three Centuries of Harvard, 1636-1936. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1936.
  • Potter, Alfred Claghorn. The librarians of Harvard College 1667-1877. Cambridge, Mass., Library of Harvard University, 1897.

General note

This document last updated 2018 November 26.

Processing Information

The material was first classified and described in the Harvard University Archives shelflist prior to 1980. A folder previously labeled "John Hancock 1723-1726" was found empty in August 1984, and a section identified as "Mrs. Mascarene presents a book to the library" in a folder previously labeled "John Rogers, 1714-1718" was found empty in June 2012. The material was re-processed in 2012. Re-processing involved a collection survey, re-housing in appropriate archival containers, and the creation of this finding aid.

This finding aid was created by Diann Benti in June 2012.

Preservation and description of the Early Harvard College Librarian's papers was supported by the Arcadia-funded project Harvard in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries.
Link to catalog
Title
Harvard College Library. Early Harvard College Librarian's papers, 1715-1727: an inventory
EAD ID
hua07012

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.

Contact:
Pusey Library
Harvard Yard
Cambridge MA 02138 USA
(617) 495-2461