Records of the Harvard College Library : Library charging records, 1762-1897.
These records document book borrowing from the Harvard College Library from 1762 to 1897. Book borrowers include Harvard faculty and students, tutors, overseers, proctors, administrators, employees, and prominent clergy, jurists, lawyers, doctors, and educators with connections to Harvard University. The records offer insight into the reading habits and intellectual life of New England's most educated thinkers.
- Harvard College Library (Organization)
Conditions on Use and Access
The collection is open for research. Access to fragile original documents may be restricted.
Users are encouraged to access the digital facsimiles. Links to the digital facsimiles are provided for all volumes. There is no transcription of these handwritten texts included with the facsimiles, and users should be aware that the text may be difficult to read and includes many crossed-out portions.
Permission of the University Archives is required for photocopying or publishing.
Extent37.35 cubic feet (155 volumes, 1 container of library charging slips, 1 container of botanical specimens, 9 microfilm reels)
The library charging records offer insight into the reading habits and intellectual life of New England's most educated thinkers in the era when Boston earned the title, "the Athens of America." Book borrowers include Harvard faculty and students, tutors, overseers, proctors, administrators, and employees. New Englanders who were not officially affiliated with Harvard also had borrowing privileges. These include prominent clergy, jurists, lawyers, doctors, educators, and civic leaders.
The library charging records are a subset of the records of the Harvard University Library. These charging records document book borrowing from the Harvard College Library from 1762 to 1897. The whereabouts of the library charging records from 1819 to 1821 are unknown.
The Harvard College Library used ledgers to record the loans of books from the library's collection during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The presence of what appear to be call-slips from 1823 to 1826 and the lack of ledgers for this period is unaccounted for in the literature cited in the bibliography. Late in the nineteenth century, librarians recognized that the ledger system could not provide the flexibility needed to control large collections. At the Harvard College Library, Justin Winsor (1831-1897), complained that the ledger system was slow and inefficient and he introduced a call-slip system in 1878. Despite the introduction of call-slips, the ledgers continued to be kept at least until 1897, which was also the year of Justin Winsor's death.
- Cambre, C.J., Jr.
Circulation Systems.Encyclopedia of Library History, 1994.
- Dewey, Melvin.
Charging Systems Based on Accounts with Borrowers.Library Journal 3 (November 1878) : 252-255.
- Dewey, Melvin.
Principles Underlying Charging Systems.Library Journal 3 (July 1878) : 217-220.
- Geer, Helen Thornton. Charging Systems. Chicago: American Library Association, 1955.
- Kirkwood, Leila H. Charging Systems, The State of the Library Art, ed. Ralph R. Shaw, no. 2, part 3. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1961.
- Linderfelt, K.A.
Charging Systems.Library Journal 7 (July-August 1882) : 178-182.
- Olsen, Mark and Louis-Gregory Harvey.
Reading in Revolutionary Times: Book Borrowing from the Harvard College Library, 1773-1782.Harvard Library Bulletin 4 (1993) : 57-72.
- Plummer, Mary W.
Loan Systems.Library Journal 18 (July 1893) : 242-246.
- Winsor, Justin.
The Charging System at Harvard.Library Journal 3 (November 1878) : 338-339.
Arrangement of the library charging records
The library charging records are chiefly arranged chronologically by academic year. Entries list the borrower's name, the titles of books borrowed, book shelf location and call numbers, and the dates of loans. Entries in the eighteenth century and the first half of the nineteenth century charging records include the signatures of the borrower. After the Civil War, book call numbers increasingly replace the book titles recorded in the charging records while borrower's signatures become less frequent.
The earliest charging record, volume 1 (1762-1763), is a single volume of borrowing records divided into two sections. The first section consists of members of the Harvard community and includes faculty, officers, administrators, and other individuals with borrowing privileges. The second section consists of Harvard College undergraduate students arranged by class social order; an order which indicates the rank of their respective fathers and families. The next four charging records from April 1766 to October 1767 are single volumes arranged chronologically by date and consist of members of the Harvard community and students, but lack a division. Entries record the name of the borrower, the date the book was borrowed, the title and condition of the book, the book size, the number of book pages, cuts, book shelf location, and when the book was returned.
In November 1767, separate volumes dedicated to students begin to appear and continuing the pattern established in volume 1, the students are arranged by class social order. After 1772, this social ranking disappears and students are hereafter arranged in alphabetical order. In 1771, separate volumes dedicated to faculty and other individuals with borrowing privileges begin to appear. Faculty members are organized according to their academic rank, with other borrowers appearing last in each volume.
In the nineteenth century the charging records become more uniform in arrangement and most of the volumes are divided into two sections: the first section consists of members of the Harvard community and includes faculty, officers, administrators and other individuals with borrowing privileges. The second section consists of Harvard College undergraduate students and is divided by class: seniors, juniors, sophomores, and freshmen.
Indexes recording the names of all borrowers except students are introduced with the first volume in 1762. However, indexes for the eighteenth century volumes, for the most part, are used sparingly.
Transferred from Harvard College Library to University Archives; date of transfer unknown.
This document last updated 2015 November 12.
This material was first classified and described by the Harvard University Archives prior to 1980. In 2009/2010, Dominic P. Grandinetti reprocessed these papers, with preparation for digitization. Reprocessing involved a collection survey, rehousing in appropriate archival boxes, and the creation of this finding aid.
Loose materials found inserted in the charging volumes during the reprocessing of these records were retained in the locations in which they were found.
- Harvard College Library. Records of the Harvard College Library : Library charging records : an inventory
- Harvard University Archives
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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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