Skip to main content
COLLECTION Identifier: UAIII 15.5.8

Admittaturs

Overview

From the Latin meaning "be admitted," an admittatur served as a student's certificate of admission to Harvard College beginning in the 1650s. The collection contains admittaturs to Harvard College signed by the President and several Tutors and Fellows. The admittaturs document a component of the College's 17th and 18th century admissions procedures, and the manuscript and printed copies of the College laws complement the Laws and Statutes collection and provide insight into the Harvard administration's expectations of student behavior. The collection also offers a resource for studying collegiate governance, student life, and codes of conduct in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Dates

  • 1715-1867

Creator

Researcher Access

The admittaturs are open for research.

Due to its physical condition, the Admittatur of Richard Waldron (Harvard AB 1738), 1735 (UAIII 15.5.8 Box 1, Volume 10) is unavailable for research use. Contact reference staff for details.

Copying Restriction

Copying of fragile materials may be limited.

Extent

1.63 cubic feet (4 document boxes, 1 half size document box, and 2 volumes)
The collection contains admittaturs to Harvard College signed by the President and several tutors and Fellows. The admittaturs are arranged in series according to the format dictated by the College laws of the time: students' manuscript copies of the College laws, published copies of the College laws, and "forms of admission." Records dating from after 1800 are listed in this finding aid but are not fully described. Between 1655 and 1767, College law called for the President and several College officers to sign a student's own manuscript copy of the College law; in 1767, the admittatur was reduced to a "Form of Admission" certified by the College Steward and signed by the President and several College officers. The 1790 College laws combined both the signed Form of Admission and a signed printed copy of the College Laws as a student's admittatur.

The admittaturs document a component of the College's 17th and 18th century admissions procedures, and the manuscript and printed copies of the College laws complement the Laws and Statutes collection by providing insight into the Harvard administration's expectations of student behavior. The admittaturs offers a resource for studying collegiate governance, student life, and codes of conduct in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Richard Waldron's 1735 admittatur contains the oldest known extant copy of the "College Customs." The College Customs were a set of nineteen rules reflecting the social hierarchy of the different undergraduate classes, including wearing of hats and errand-running by freshmen for upperclassmen. The 1737 admittatur of Timothy Prout and the 1756 admittatur of William Clark include handwritten lists of Harvard students at the time of their admission. The admittaturs in the collection include the signatures of Presidents Benjamin Wadsworth, John Leverett, Edward Holyoke, and Joseph Willard. The collection also includes the admittatur of President Willard himself when he entered Harvard as a freshman in 1762.

Historical Note

From the Latin meaning "be admitted," an admittatur served as a student's certificate of admission to Harvard College beginning in the 1650s. Following successful completion of an oral Latin and Greek examination from the President and at least two Tutors, prospective students presented a handwritten transcription of the College laws to the President and a Fellow for signature before joining their class. The College officers signed their names below the words, "Admittatur in Collegium Harvardinum."

The 1655 College laws defined the admittatur practice: "every Scholler sh[all] procure for himselfe a true Coppy of the Lawes wh[ich] being Signed with the Presidents and one of the Fellows hands shall be a testimony of his admission into the Colledge and also of the time thereof, which hee shall keepe with himselfe for his better guidance, whilest hee shall Continue a member of the Colledge." Students transcribed the College Laws prior to their examination and subsequent approval. As an example, Timothy Prout, who entered Harvard in 1737 as a member of the Class of 1741, dated his transcription of the Laws July 10, 1737, and the President signed the admittatur on October 5, 1737.

The practice of signing a student's transcription of the College laws was reiterated in the 1734 College laws, with the modification that it should be signed by the President and a "major part of Tutors." In the next significant revision of the College Laws in 1767, the admittatur requirement was substantially altered and instead of a manuscript copy of the laws, the President signed a printed certificate. The "Form of Admission," certified first by the College Steward, affirmed that the student's parents or guardians had both paid the specified sum and given a secured bond to the College Steward for their son's college expenses. The 1767 laws stated, "Every one that has been accepted on Examination shall, as soon as may be, exhibit to the President a Certificate from the Steward, that the foregoing Law has been compiled with; upon the receipt of which the President shall sign an Order for the Admission of such Persons."

The practices set forth in the Codes of 1734 and 1767, and later merged in the 1790 edition of the College laws stated: "Every one, who has been accepted, on examination, shall as soon as may be, exhibit to the President a certificate from the Steward that the foregoing law has been complied with; upon the receipt of which, the President shall deliver him a printed copy of the laws, to which shall be annexed an order for his admission to the privileges of the College." In the 1800s the President signed admittaturs in various formats, including a "Certificate of Admission" printed with a single-sheetAbstract of Laws and Regulations of the University in Cambridge, for the Information of Parents and Guardians of Students accepted on Examination.

Arrangement

The records are organized in four series:
  1. Manuscript College law admittaturs, 1715-1762
  2. Published College law admittaturs, 1786-1802
  3. Forms of admission, 1784-1791
  4. Abstracts of the laws and regulations, 1806-1867

Acquisition information

Most of the items in the collection were donated by private individuals, and acquisition information is noted at the item level.

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 University collection of laws and regulations, 1790-, HUC 9XXX.
  2. Admittatur of Samuel Shapleigh, 1785 (HUM 57 Box 1, Folder 65) in the Papers of Samuel Shapleigh: http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.ARCH:hua49010

References

  • Lane, William C. "Manuscript laws of Harvard College" in the Publications of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts, Volume 25, April 1923.
  • Morison, Samuel Eliot. Harvard College in the Seventeenth Century. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1936.

Inventory update

This document last updated 2019 February 6.

Processing Information

The material was first classified and described in the Harvard University Archives shelflist prior to 1980. The material was originally described as part of a larger Harvard Corporation finding aid. The material was re-processed in 2010. Re-processing involved a collection survey, re-housing in appropriate archival folders and boxes, and the creation of this finding aid.

This finding aid was created by Diann Benti in October 2010.

Preservation and description of the admittaturs was supported by the Arcadia-funded project Harvard in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries.
Link to catalog
Title
Harvard University. Corporation. Admittaturs, 1715-1867: an inventory
EAD ID
hua44010

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
Cambridge MA 02138 USA
(617) 495-2461