New Acquisition • The Library of William Chauncey Fowler (1793-1881)

From a descendant, the Library purchased the remaining personal collection of Noah Webster’s son-in-law, William Chauncey Fowler, professor, clergyman and legislator. The 311 titles come to a total of 392 volumes and include books on a wide variety of subjects as well as his personal, marked-up copies of his own works also ranging widely in subject, from anti-slavery to what sorts of books young people should read. Also included are two books formerly owned by his father in law, one of which, Jeremy Belknap’s American Biography (1794), has Webster’s annotation contradicting the author. In addition, because the Fowler family was a share holder in one of the earliest public libraries founded in the United States – the Book Company of Durham, Connecticut (founded 1733), they obtained a number of books from the Library’s stock when the company was dissolved in 1856 and the members voted “to divide the books by auction.” These are variously marked “Book Company of Durham, new library” or “Durham, new library” and include stock numbers (with date of accession as inscribed): 26, 35 (“1789”), 38, 45, 47, 71 (“1791”), 72-76 (“Jan. 3, 1792), 78 (“Jan. 1793”), 86 (“presented by Dr. Stiles, April 8, 1793”), 88 (“presented by Dr. Stiles, April 8, 1793”), 96, 97 (“A.D. 1795”), 101 (“A.D. 1795”), 108 (“1795”), 110 (“A. D. 1795”), 114 (“A.D. 1796”), 129 (“March 5, 1798”), 132, 142-144 (“1800”), 192 (“June 5th, 1812”), 199, 201, 202, 212 (“Jan’y, 1817”), 216, 224, 225, 229, 256, 257, 258, 279, and 286. One book with no stock number is marked “Ethosian Society, Durham, Conn.,” a debating society with a library known to have been formed in 1783 and dissolved in 1793. Few libraries of nineteenth century professors are traceable as a collection today. Equally few are gatherings of books known to have been in one of the thousands of social libraries active in ante-bellum America. Historians of reading are eager not only to know what those books were but to actually examine such documented survivors as these.


0 thoughts on “New Acquisition • The Library of William Chauncey Fowler (1793-1881)

  1. I wonder if you have books in that collection that belonged to Charles Chauncy, the second President of harvard, and come of his descendants, especially Nathaniel Chauncey. William Chauncey Fowler was a descendant of them, and I believe he may have had books from the original Chauincy library, that went with Nathaniel Chauncey when, at a very young age, he went to live with his uncle, bringing the Chauncy library with him, in return for being raised and educated by the uncle. There was also a connection to Yale!