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COLLECTION Identifier: UAIII 50.8.116

Harvard College Library Order Department letters, 1881-1976

Overview

This collection is comprised of correspondence and other material of the Order Department of the Harvard College Library from 1881-1976. Kept by members of the department including Librarian Justin Winsor and Assistant Librarians William Tillinghast, Alfred Claghorn Potter, and Clarence Eldon Walton, records consist of bound volumes of correspondence and organizational material, loose letters, microfilming records, and reports, and document the major acquisitions-related activities of the department such as buying, shipping, paying bills, and exchanging of books, periodicals, and other publications.

Dates

  • 1881-1976

Creator

Researcher Access

The Harvard College Library Order Department letters are open for research with the following exceptions: Harvard University records in this collection are restricted for 50 years from the date of creation. Specific restrictions are noted in the inventory.

Access to fragile original documents may be restricted. Permission of the University Archives is required for photocopying or publishing.

Extent

160.8 cubic feet (458 document boxes, 2 legal document boxes, 2 half document boxes)
This collection is comprised of correspondence and other material of the Order Department of the Harvard College Library from 1881 to 1976. Kept by members of the department including Librarian Justin Winsor and Assistant Librarians William Tillinghast, Alfred Claghorn Potter, and Clarence Eldon Walton, records consist of bound volumes of correspondence and organizational material, loose letters, microfilming records, and reports.

While early outgoing correspondence is represented, most of the collection consists of incoming correspondence from book agents, dealers, and other libraries or institutions, and documents the major acquisitions-related activities of the department such as buying, shipping, paying bills, and exchanging of books, periodicals, and other publications. There is much correspondence and catalogs of work for sale from agents and firms with which Harvard had long-standing relationships, such as Harrassowitz, Schoenhof, and Quaritch. Many of these agents and firms represented Harvard's investment, especially during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, in international collecting. There are also requests from departmental and subject libraries for books to be purchased to aid in collection development, as well as from particular professors and students for personal research or interest.

Other material in the collection includes bound volumes of organizational material relating to the Order Department, including charts of major book agents and status of orders by year, charts of the state of funds for various subject collecting, directions regarding ordering and cataloging, lists of contact information for specific agents, and a detailed narrative of the functions of the department from 1939.

Historical Note

To facilitate the Harvard College Library's increased focus on acquisitions and collection development during the nineteenth century, functional departments and new staff positions were established in the Library, including the Order Department. This department was responsible for the acquisition of new books, periodicals, and other published material-- both foreign and domestic-- and achieved this function largely through ordering from the catalogs sent to the Library by book-selling firms, or through direct correspondence with book agents themselves. The department also ordered material based on the recommendations of staff from departmental and subject libraries, and sometimes, based on the requests of professors and students for personal research or interest.

The earliest records of the Order Department date from the early 1880s, with Assistant Librarians-- including William Hopkins Tillinghast (1887-1913), William Coolidge Lane (1887-1893), and Alfred Claghorn Potter (1904-1928)-- serving as head of the department during each of their tenures. By 1939, the Order Department had expanded to maintain a staff of eleven people in different subdivisions, including the Bibliographical Division and the Executive Division. The former division held responsibility until the approval of purchase by the Librarian; this division read through requests and catalogs, maintained up to date files, prevented purchase of duplicates, and prepared orders with as much information as possible to be sent to the Librarian for approval and the seller or agent for fulfillment. The Executive Division ensured that orders were obtained rapidly, efficiently, and economically after approval of purchase by deciding on the appropriate agent, checking the received material against the bill and the original order, assigning an appropriate Library fund to pay the bill, and giving pertinent information to the Cataloging Department, where new orders were sent to be integrated into the Library's collections.

Over the broad time span of this collection, the Order Department underwent numerous changes, shifting with modernized library processes and technologies. Namely, with the growth of the Harvard Library system (which includes 72 libraries), the functions of the department were distributed amongst various staff within specific libraries, and these smaller staff units are now largely called Acquisitions or Collection Development, rather than the Order Department. Still, the essential task of acquisition remains the same.

Arrangement

This collection is arranged in chronological groups of correspondence by academic year(s). Within groups, files are arranged alphabetically.

Acquisition information

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

Related Materials

Collections in the Harvard University Archives:

Harvard College Library. Harvard College Library letters, 1826-1914 (UAIII 50.8): http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.ARCH:hua10015

Harvard College Library. Records of the Harvard College Library: William Coolidge Lane general files, 1877-1929 (UAIII 50.8.10.2): http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.ARCH:hua18016

Harvard College Library. Records of the Harvard College Library: Alfred Claghorn Potter general files, 1928-1936 (UAIII 50.8.10.3)

Harvard College Library. Records of the Director of the Harvard College Library: Robert Pierpont Blake letters, 1920-1935 (UAIII 50.8.11.2)

Harvard College Library. Harvard College Library bills and lists of books purchased, 1877-1906 (UAIII 50.15.88.3)

Harvard College Library. Harvard College Library bills and lists of books purchased, 1906-1971 (UAIII 50.15.88.4)

Inventory update

This document last updated 2020 January 31.
People
  1. Blake, Robert Pierpont, 1886-1950.
  2. Coolidge, Archibald Cary, 1866-1928.
  3. Lane, William Coolidge, 1859-1931.
  4. Potter, Alfred Claghorn, 1867-1940.
  5. Tillinghast, William Hopkins, 1854-1913.
  6. Walton, C. E. (Clarence Eldon), 1898- .
  7. Winsor, Justin, 1831-1897.
Groups
  1. Harvard College Library.
Topics
  1. Academic librarians.
  2. Academic libraries--Massachusetts--Cambridge.
  3. Academic libraries--Acquisitions.
  4. Academic libraries--Administration.
  5. Academic libraries--Collection development.
  6. Academic libraries--Management.
  7. Harvard University--Libraries.
  8. Library employees.
  9. Universities and colleges--Libraries.
Places
  1. Cambridge (Mass.)
Formats and genres
  1. Correspondence.

Processing Information

The processing of this material involved a survey of legacy data about this collection; intellectual arrangement, including integration of three child collections (see superseded call numbers); and the creation of this finding aid. Material was not examined. Titles transcribed by the archivist from legacy data.

This finding aid was created by Leah Edelman in May 2016.

Preservation and description of the Harvard College Library Order Department letters was supported by the Harvard Library's Hidden Collections initiative.
Link to catalog
Title
Harvard College Library. Harvard College Library Order Department letters, 1881-1976: an inventory
Author
Harvard University Archives
EAD ID
hua25016

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