If there is any one thing which characterizes a Harvard student it is his utter ignorance of and indifference towards all objects of interest connected with the college, to say nothing of his apathy towards Cambridge's many historical monuments, to see which hosts of people annually make long pilgrimages. How many are there who have an idea of where the trophy room is? How many can with certainty locate the far famed annex? Well, some day we hope to pay a visit to these and many other points of interest, but today we will confine ourselves to the Curiosity Room in the Library.
Of course you do not know how to reach it, but the accommodating assistants will inform you. You ascend the staircase and find yourself in what appears to be a very bare and uninteresting room. Be not deceived; its treasures like those of the earth, must be sought after in order to be found. There are things which must attract every one's attention, but let me say that it is a veritable paradise for cranks-I mean such cranks as coincollectors, bibliophilists and autographic fiends. How their hands must itch to see lying before their eyes such unattainable treasures!
On your right as you enter stands a case of rare Roman coins, dating back as far as 400 B. C. They are of bronze, silver and gold; the oldest is a huge bronze as, which must have served the ancients, in time of need, as an excellent sling-shot. Unless you are an infatuated coin-collector, you will not spend much time at this case, but will pass on to other curiosities. On the shelf of a bookcase stands a cast of that grim old Puritan soldier, Oliver Cromwell, from the original mask taken after death and presented to Prof. Charles Eliot Norton by Thomas Carlyle. Next you turn to a glass case which contains many a precious book, whose leaves have been thumbed by men whose names have been household words for centuries. Here is the old Indian Bible of that heroic soul, John Eliot; also the Bible of John Bunyan, with his autograph on the title page, which bears the date 1637. The Bay Psalm Book, the first work published in America, must not escape your attention.
The collection of autographs and manuscripts, although not large is very rich. If you look sharp you will see a small book of Ben Johnson's with this characteristic phrase: Sum Ben Jonsonii. It would take too much space to give even an incomplete list of autographs; here are a few: John Locke, Alexander Pope, Jonathan Swift, William Wordsworth, Robt. Burns, Emanuel Kant, John Dryden, Walter Scott, Edmund Burke. The manuscripts are of still greater interest. A Latin poem by John Milton; a musical composition of Haydn's; a letter from George Washington to Gen. Schuyler; an official document of the Confederate States signed by Jeff. Davis and Alex. H. Stevens; an invitation to Charles Sumner from President Lincoln to attend the inaugural ball. But that which will probably interest you most of all is Longfellow's first draft of Excelsior, dated September, 1841, half-past three in the morning. It is written in his usual neat hand on the back of a letter addressed to him by Charles Sumner.
It is in this room where the photograph albums of past classes are kept, and a glance into them would repay you. But enough. You must go there yourself if you wish to have your curiosity satisfied. There are many gems which time does not permit us to mention.