Papers of Samuel Shapleigh
Samuel Shapleigh (1765-1800) spent half of his life at Harvard College, first as a student and later as College Butler and Librarian. This collection includes bills and other records of Shapleigh's time as a Harvard student; personal papers related to family property in Kittery, Maine; legal documents granting him power of attorney for several individuals; and his reading notes on two contemporary novels, perhaps created in his role as College Librarian. Of particular note are the extensive financial records - primarily receipts, receipted bills, and account books - which Shapleigh maintained over almost two decades. These provide a window into the daily life and material culture of Cambridge in the late eighteenth century, as well as an understanding of Shapleigh's individual habitudes and tastes.
- Shapleigh, Samuel, 1765-1800 (Person)
The Papers of Samuel Shapleigh are open for research.
Copying of fragile materials may be limited.
Extent1 cubic feet (1.5 document boxes and 1 flat box)
Samuel Shapleigh (1765-1800) spent half of his life at Harvard College, first as a student and later as College Butler and Librarian. This collection includes bills and other records of Shapleigh's time as a Harvard student; personal papers related to family property in Kittery, Maine; legal documents granting him power of attorney for several individuals; and reading notes he made about two contemporary novels, perhaps in his role as Librarian. Of particular note are the extensive financial records - primarily receipts, receipted bills, and account books - which Shapleigh maintained over almost two decades; these provide a window into the daily life and material culture of Cambridge in the late eighteenth century.
It should be noted that one document whose date is between January 1 and March 25 in the years prior to 1752 has been cited with the double date convention, as January 12, 1739/40. This convention has been followed because 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.
Biographical note on Samuel Shapleigh
Samuel Leighton Shapleigh (1765-1800) was born in Kittery, Maine on July 9, 1765. He was left an orphan when both his parents, Mary Leighton Shapleigh and Tobias Shapleigh, died in 1769. He was subsequently cared for by his uncle and guardian, Major Samuel Leighton. Shapleigh attended Harvard College, entering in 1785 and graduating with the class of 1789. Following graduation he worked briefly as a school keeper for the town of Cambridge. Afterwards he pursued legal studies and received an A.M. from the College in 1792. A hereditary pulmonary illness prevented him from entering into full-time legal practice, and he instead worked at the College for the rest of his life, serving as Butler from 1790 to 1793 and as Librarian from 1793 until his death on April 17, 1800. Shapleigh bequeathed his entire estate, a few legacies excepted, to Harvard and designated that income from the estate be "sacredly appropriated to the purchase of such modern publications as the Corporation, Professors, and Tutors shall judge most proper to improve the students in polite literature; the books to be deposited in the library of the University."
According to Josiah Quincy, Shapleigh's "disposition was amiable, modest, and unobtrusive; his manners gentle and singularly polite and conciliatory, winning the affections of all." He was a staunch advocate for the improvement of the Harvard College Library, and his Cambridge gravestone describes him as "a virtuous son, faithful librarian, and liberal benefactor of Harvard College."
References for Biographical note
- Fogg, William. "The Shapleighs of Eliot." Old Eliot: A Monthly Magazine of the History and Biography of the Upper Parish of Kittery, now Eliot Vol. II No. 12 (Dec. 1898).
- Jordan, Tristram Frost. Leighton Genealogy: An Account of the Descendants of Capt. William Leighton of Kittery, Maine. Albany, New York: Press of Joel Munsell's Sons, 1885.
- Quincy, Josiah. The History of Harvard University. Cambridge, Mass.: John Owen, 1840.
The Papers of Samuel Shapleigh are arranged in four series. Materials within each series and subseries are arranged chronologically.
- Records related to family property in Kittery, Maine, 1739/40-1798
- Financial and student records, 1773-1800
- Records related to work as attorney, 1787-1794
- Reading notes, ca. 1795-1800
Superseded call number
The call number for all material in the Papers of Samuel Shapleigh is now HUM 57. Their former call number, UAIII 50.27.93, is no longer in use. Please use the current call number, HUM 57, with the appropriate box and folder number in place of the superseded call number when citing material from this collection.
The provenance of these papers is unknown. They were presumably kept at Harvard following Shapleigh's death in 1800, when he was College Librarian.
All of the papers have been digitized and are available online. Links accompany detailed descriptions.
This document last updated 2018 December 21.
This collection was previously listed in the Harvard University Archives shelflist among the records of the Harvard College Library, but otherwise uncataloged. It was processed in 2010. Processing involved a collection survey and arrangement into series and subseries, re-housing in appropriate archival folders and boxes, and the creation of this finding aid.
This finding aid was created by Laura Morris in November 2010.
Preservation and description of the Papers of Samuel Shapleigh was supported by the Arcadia-funded project Harvard in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries.
- Shapleigh, Samuel, 1765-1800. Papers of Samuel Shapleigh, 1739/1740-1800: an inventory
- Language of description
- 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