Reading in the 1820s: Conditions of the Central Circulating Library kept by Hannah Harris, Salem, Mass.

On the front paste down of volume 1 The English in France By the Author of “The English in Italy” Philadelphia: Carey, Lea and Carey, 1829. [(Ex) Item 5251517]

According to Joseph Barlow Felt, Annals of Salem (Salem, 1849), vol. II, p. 33, Mrs. Harris’s stock eventually numbered 4,000 volumes.

Note Condition number VII “Subscribers lending their books will be charged for them as non-subscribers, separate from their privilege as subscribers.” She was not going to be undercut by customers “repackaging” her “loan” to them. Her protectionism can also be seen in her final Hint: “It is requested that new books be returned in three days.”

Darwin catalogued in 1884

The 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin is February 12 and the 150th anniversary of the publication of his On the Origin of Species will be in November.

If you look up Darwin in the earliest printed catalogue of the Library to contain mention of his work, you are drawn to pages 220 and 221 of the Subject-catalogue of the Library of the College of New Jersey, at Princeton (New York, 1884), compiled by head Librarian Frederic Vinton.

The entry for Darwin is under the heading ‘Evolution of Species.’ Such is expected. But, library catalogues always provide surprising juxtapositions of headings, and this 1884 Subject-catalogue is no exception. The entry preceding ‘Evolution’ is ‘Evidences of revealed religion,’ subdivided into three sections, the last of which is ‘(Revelation denied).’
Immediately following ‘Evolution of species’ is the ‘Evolution of the universe… (See also Cosmology, Metaphysics)’, followed by ‘Examinations (academic)’

This sequence of entries has an unexpectedly modern tone — in public discourse, these categories are still in close proximity today. Clearly Librarian Vinton was not only an expert bibliographer and cataloguer. He was a cunning compiler who knew the power of lists to both reflect and anticipate debate.

Overwrapped in otterskin

Johann Buxtorf. Lexicon Hebraicum et Chaldaicum (Basel, 1645)
Call number: (Ed) 2291.231.11

Native American and English contact is documented by this copy of Buxtorf’s Lexicon (1645) owned by the Reverend David Brainerd (1718-1747).

Pictured above is the front cover and spine of the book. An otterskin piece, decorated in a pattern characteristic of Native Americans of the Eastern woodlands, wraps over the tattered original spine and boards. Mismatched pattern stripes at the inside corners (not pictured) show the wrapper to be a fragment of a larger piece. This suggests that the wrapper was salvaged from another Indian artifact no longer useful at the time for its original purpose but eligible as repair material. It is unknown precisely when the overwrapper (or, overcover) was added but various evidence suggests occurrence during the eighteenth century.

In 1739, Brainerd entered Yale but was expelled for sympathizing with the Whitefield revival and, so it is told, for remarking that a college tutor had ‘no more grace than this chair.’ A missionary of the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge, the Rev. Brainerd evangelized among Indian groups in New England, New York, and Pennsylvania. His most notable success came among the Delaware at Crossweeksung. In the spring of 1746 he and his Indian wards moved their community to Cranbury. In October of the following year Brainerd died in the house of Jonathan Edwards – a future president of Princeton – in Northampton, Massachusetts. Brainerd was engaged to marry Edwards’ daughter Jerusha when he died of tuberculosis at age 29.

The book was bequeathed by Brainerd to Jonathan Edwards and was passed down through Edwards’s descendants, including the Rev. Tryon Edwards, and Dr. Fitzhugh Edwards. It was presented as a gift of the descendants of Jonathan Edwards through Mrs. William F. H. Edwards on September 7, 1907. It followed the family’s earlier gift of books from Edwards’s library made on September 27, 1897.

The Library has loaned this book to Morven for the exhibition “Picturing Princeton 1783: The Nation’s Capital,” on view until June 2009.