Private libraries: listed, described, detailed: 1855-1919

Lists of private libraries in the United States — contemporary to date of publication

1855 A Glance at Private Libraries (Boston) by Luther Farnham (1816-1897) Boston, Press of Crocker and Brewster, 1855.

1860 Private Libraries of New York by James Wynne (New York : E. French, 1860)

— Hubbard Winslow Bryant publishes notices of private libraries in the Portland (Maine) Daily Press. Collected by Roger Stoddard and reprinted in 2004.

1875Washington Chronicles, Sep 15, 1875. William H. Dorsey Scrapbook Collection 247.1. “Our Libraries. The Public and Private Libraries of Washington”

1878Private Libraries of Providence by Horatio Rogers. Evidently first appeared in 1875 as a series of newspaper articles in the Providence Press

1878 — “Our Private Libraries” – Philadelphia Ledger and Transcript, Nov. 30, 1878. Clipping in William H. Dorsey Scrapbook Collection, vol. 249, p. 28. Continued: [From a Philadelphia newspaper] 1878 William H. Dorsey Scrapbook Collection, 249.2 “Private Libraries. Rich book collections in this city—the library of B.B. Comegys, Esq.—a glimpse at his literary treasures. That excellent literary journal, Robinson’s Epitome of Literature, has been, for the past few months, publishing a series of interesting articles upon the private libraries belonging to citizens of Philadelphia. From the issue for June we take the following …”

1878The Libraries of California: Containing Descriptions of the Principal Private and Public Libraries throughout the State by Flora Haines Loughead (San Francisco, A. L. Bancroft, 1878)

1879 Philadelphia Ledger and Transcript, Jun. 28, 1879. William H. Dorsey Scrapbook Collection, 249.54 “The Private Libraries of Philadelphia. The library of George W. Childs, Esq.”

1886 Brooklyn Eagle, Jul. 18, 1886; page 11. “Books and Pamphlets. Observations among curious Brooklyn shops.” Includes section enumerating the private libraries of Brooklyn. beginning “The great private libraries of Brooklyn are many. …”

1887 — R.R. Bowker in the Preface to the 1887 edition of The Library List proposes to publish a list of private libraries “in the next record number of the Library Journal, at the beginning of 1887”

1892-93 — Charles Sotheran, “Private Libraries” pp. 112-132 in James Grant Wilson (ed.) The Memorial History of the City of New York. Contents: Book-collecting in the Seventeenth Century — The First Private Library Known in the City — Libraries of Frederick Philipse, General Philip Schuyler, and others — The Livingston Family’s Libraries — General Use of Book- plates— A New Literary Spirit Developed at End of the Colonial Period — List of Fifty Important Private Libraries in 1860 — Fate of these Valuable Collections — Changes in the Character of Collections of To-day — Robert Hoe’s Library and its Features — Dr. Thomas Addis Emmet’s Historical Library — The Drexel Library — Libraries of the Rev. Dr. Dix and Samuel P. Avery — William Loring Andrews’s and Rush C. Hawkins’s Collection — Marshall C. Lefferts’s Early Americana—Jay Gould’s Books — The Astor and Vanderbilt Libraries — Thomas J. McKee’s Works on the Drama — Charles W. Fsederiekson’s Shelleyana — Other Private Libraries.

1892 Four Private Libraries of New York by Octave Uzanne

1897 List of Private Libraries. I. United States, Canada [title repeated in French and German]. Leipzig, G. Hedler, 1897. Copy: Harvard University Library, available in Google Book Search [July 2006]. Lists more than 600 entries; index by topic; ads for antiquarian booksellers at end.

1900 Descriptive Sketches of Six Private Libraries of Bangor, Maine by Samuel Lane Boardman (Bangor: printed for the author, 1900)

1910 — “Private Book Collectors” published in the Annual Library Index, 1910 (New York: Office of Publishers’ Weekly, 1910). Note: possible that the predecessors to this annual carried lists of collectors, see: Annual Library Index, 1905-1910, and the previous Annual Literary Index, 1892-1904.

1912 — “Private Book Collectors” listed on pages 195-220 of the American Library Annual, 1911-1912 (New York: Office of Publishers’ Weekly, 1912). Updates the list first published in 1910. Headnote explains scope and changes (approx. 200 words). Arranged geographically.

1913 — “Private Book Collectors” listed on pages 317-348 of the American Library Annual, 1913 (New York: Office of Publishers’ Weekly, 1913). Updates the list published in 1912. Headnote explains scope, notes 300 changes (approx. 200 words). Arranged geographically.

1914 — “Private Book Collectors” listed on pages 303-339 of the American Library Annual, 1913-1914 (New York: R. R. Bowker, 1914). Updates the list published in 1912. Headnote explains scope, notes 500 changes (approx. 200 words). Arranged geographically.

Not in Annuals for 1914-1915, 1915-1916, 1916-17, 1917-18. Replaced by listings for business, special, religious, theological, law, medical, normal and high school libraries.

1919 — J. A. Holden, A List of Private Book Collectors in the United States and Canada (New York: R. R. Bowker, 1919), which went through several editions up to 1948 under the title Private Book Collectors in the United States and Canada.

Contemporary accounts: Chart of Temperance and Physiology – Number One

The Publisher’s Weekly, April 24, 1886 [No. 743], page 549 under “Literary and Trade Notes”

“The Writers’ Publishing Co., 25 University Place, N. Y., have issued a chart of temperance and physiology entitled “The Road to Ruin and How to Avoid it.” It is 22×34 in size, and paints the vice of intemperance in such horrible colors that must at once convince the reader that “abstinence is the best policy.” Due attention is also given to the economic side of the question, tables being given that show at a glance that intemperance does not pay in any sense of the word. The price, half mounted, is $1; full mounted, $1.50.”

• • •

“List of educational publications of 1885-‘86; compiled from publisher’s announcements by the United States Bureau of Education.” This list gives a total of 609 publications distributed across 40 categories. Under the heading of ‘Physiology and hygiene’:

“Temperance and Physiology – Chart No. 1, strikingly illustrated, showing the road to ruin and how to avoid it. By the “The Writers’ Publishing Co., 21 (sic) University Place, New York City. (New England Journal of Education).”

[Report of the Commissioner of Education for the Year 1885 – ‘86 (Washington, D.C., 1887) p. 704 ]

• • •

Chart of Temperance and Physiology – Number One : The Road to Ruin and How to Avoid It. …
Published by Miss Julia Colman, Superintendent, Literature Department, National Women’s Christian Temperance Union. 72 Bible House, New York City.

Copyright 1885 by the Writers’ Publishing Company. Call number: (Ex) Broadside – Oversize – 411

Louis Sébastien Mercier (1740-1814) • Dreams and Utopia

Two works by Songes Philosophiques, Première [-Seconde] Partie. Par M. Mercier. A Londres, et se trouve à Paris, chez Lejay, Libraire, Quai de Gêvres, au grand Corneille. 1768. Call number: (Ex) HX811 .M42

L’anno due mila quattrocento quaranta. Sogno di cui non vi fu l’eguale. Seguito dall’Uomo di ferro. Opera del cittad. L.S. Mercier … Traduzione dal Francese sull’ultima Edizione fatta in Parigi l’Anno VII della Repubb. Francese. Corretta, Riveduta, ed Augmentata dall’ Autore. Prima Edizione Italiana. In Genova. Stamperia de’ Cittad. Domenico Porcile, e C. nella strada della Posta vecchia no. 487. Anno II. della Repubb. Ligure [1798]. Call number: (Ex) 2007-3277N


Songes Philosophiques contains ten philosophical dream sequences, eight of which were reused in Mercier’s Mon bonnet de Nuit, 1784-1785 and seven of which were used in his landmark utopia L’An deux mille quatre cent quarante, 1785. This practice of borrowing and rebranding his own work was very much part of what became Mercier’s distinctive style. — Amanda Hall

‘He published prodigiously by recycling passages from one book to another and stretching essays into multivolume tracts. His major works – L’An 2440, Tableau de Paris, and Mon Bonnet de Nuit – therefore have a formless character. They are composed of short chapters on a wide variety of subjects, which Mercier cobbled together without worrying about narrative coherence. When a book caught on, he expanded it, cutting and pasting and fighting off pirates as he advanced from one edition to the next. The result was never elegant, but it often had a gripping quality, because Mercier knew how to observe the world around him and to make it come alive in anecdotes and esays. There is no better writer to consult if one wants to get some idea of how Paris looked, sounded, smelled, and felt on the eve of the Revolution’ (Darnton, The Forbidden Best-Sellers, 1996, p. 118).


First edition in Italian of Mercier’s famous utopian novel L’an 2440. Placed on the Index on 26th August 1822. Only copy recorded to be in an American library.

‘The translator was thought to be Filippo Castelli’, writes Everett C. Wilkie, ‘however, in his Saggi di Eulogia, Genoa, 1838, he himself takes credit for having translated only ‘L’Homme de Fer’. One possibility for the translator of L’An 2440 is Elisabetta Caminer, who translated several of Mercier’s dramas into Italian … Nevertheless, Caminer had died in 1796, two years before this translation appeared. However, this translation has one of the hallmarks of her work, liberties with the original text; and her other translations of Mercier’s works show her sustained interest in his writings. One can speculate that she was the one who began the translation, finishing only a part of it before her death. Castelli might well have finished the translation and gone ahead to do ‘L’Homme de Fer’, which was the last part of the book. Castelli was in Genoa at this time and was active translating other French works into Italian’

Everett C. Wilkie, “Mercier’s L’An 2440: Its Publishing History During the Author’s Lifetime,” in the Harvard Library Bulletin, Vol. XXXII, 1984, p. 393.