Winship Reviews Recent Acquisitions Exhibited in Widener Treasure Room; Good Fortune Features Current Year
The following article was written for the Crimson by G.P Winship, assistant librarian in charge of the Treasure Room in Widener Library.
The College Library has had its full slur of the unusual good fortune which has made this an extraordinary year for the whole University. If, as its friends believe, the Library is, more than any other organic part, the heart of the University, this good Luck is no more than its due, but it has not been any less pleasant on that account.
Expressed in figures which everyone can undersand, the year's record of the Library gives these facts. The income from funds which have been given for the purchase of books is not nearly $65,000 annually, this year's income being about $10,000 more than two years ago, as a result of recent large gifts. This annual income is what the Library can count on regularly, for book buying. In addition to this, the experience of recent years justifies the expectation that special gifts for immediate use will provide from $15,000 to $20,000, the average of the past few years, which can be used to take advantage of special opportunities to enrich the Library. In other words, the College Library can count on buying about $80,000 worth of books each year.
There have been exceptional years in the past, the most recent being 1924, when a graduate gave a considerable number of rare works of English literature for which he is known to have paid considerably over $100,000, so that the year's total was double the normal amount.
This current year, 1928-29, will again double, not merely the normal but the previous best, for the amount paid out for books will exceed $480,000. Needless to say, nearly all of this comes from exceptionally large gifts from loyal friends of Harvard. This impressive amount needs to be considered, however, in connection with another that is equally impressive, which was announced by President Lowell a year ago in June, 1928, Harvard received from the family of William Augustus White, '63, a collection of the early editions of Shakespeare's plays, which were appraised at $435,000. In other words, the money value of the College Library has increased in the past twelve months more than a million dollars.
Money values for such things as the books in the Harvard Library are most unsatisfactory even though they make a convenient measure for showing one aspect of its development. In this ease, such a measure has a certain justification, because it represents the lowest terms by which the real worth of the collection as a whole can be judged. It is a conservative estimate that every single volume added to the Library this year has increased the value of other books already there, by at least an equal amount, whether measured in money or by the tests of value to scholars.
Two of these latest additions were first editions of John Milton's writings, but these two were all that Harvard needed out of 38 separate early Milton's which were among the important features in Mr. White's collection. By making the Harvard Milton collection just so much nearer perfection, scholars who need to use these books will find it as much easier to perfect their own work Similarly, three volumes have been added to the collection of John Donne's poems and sermons, which has been one of the features of the Harvard Library ever since the gift of Professor Charles Eliot Norton's library. One of these came from Mr. White's library, and two from that of the late Edmund Gosse. In this case gratification over these additions is tempered by the fact that it was not possible to find the necessary money to buy a fourth Donne title which came into the possession of a London bookseller during the year.
English literature will always be the field of first importance in judging the comparative importance of our University Libraries, and it is in this subject that Harvard has forged ahead, most impressively during the past year Chiefly through the generosity of Mr. William A White's children and other members of his family, the Library has added 268 titles from his remarkable collection of contemporary Elizabethan literature. These include his exception ally full series of first editions of BenJonson's plays, which heretofore has been one of the noticeable weak spots in the library. For nearly all the other dramatists who were contemporaries of Shakespeare and Johnson. Harvard has long had a very strong position judged by the early editions, and this has now been made much more secure by the addition of all the plays in the White collection which were not already at Harvard.
The eagerness of book levers to secure everything with any pretence of literary form written in Elizabethan or Stuart times, carries its lesson to a library which expects to be a workshop for students of literature in the long future Harvard is now in a position to anticipate future demands more confidently, by a steady building up of its collection of contemporary poetry Mr. Morris Gray, '77, made this possible by the gift in the early spring of $12,000, of which $2,000 was for immediate use in supplying publications of the recent past, so that the income of the main fund will be free for use in keeping up with current modern poetry.
Midway in time between these two extremes, the ear has brought to Harvard a large collection of eighteenth century English fiction Some of these books have been "collector's items," additions to the shelves devoted to the outstanding literary lights, but by far the more important portion comprises long forgotten novels by equally un known authors, who were none the less the writers who in their own day supplied the reading matter for the larger part of the book buying public. The eighteenth century is the period of English literature where Harvard's position is challenged most dangerously by Yale, its closest rival among University libraries, so that every move which adds to its resources in this century is particularly welcome
There is always a danger that the obvious importance of English literature, like that of American history will induce neglect of writings in other languages, or on other parts of the political world. But nothing is plame than that Englishmen have always been influenced very greatly by Kahan writers, and that an acquaintance with Italian literature is an essential back ground to a full appreciation of that of Britain. This has long been recognized as one of the subjects which was inadequately represented at Cambridge, and the realization of this added to the deep disappointment a few years ago, when an opportunity to secure a very large Italian collection had to be declined because the necessary money could not be secured. This loss has now bee mitigated to some extent through the rapid growth of the Italian collection in the library, made possible by the establishment by Mrs. Nash of a substantial fund in memory of Professor Bennett Hubbard Nash.
Portugal, both its literature and its history, is another country for which the Harvard Library is being placed in a position where it is prepared to meet all comers. Hon. John B. Stetton, Jr. 06, has made this his especial pursuit for several years, and he was particularly fortunate last summer in securing a very valuable private library in Portugal. This makes the Harvard collection a close rival to that of the King of Portugal in historical treasures, and in early Portuguese literature, while for the greatest of Portuguese writers, Camoens, Harvard's preeminence is said now to be secure.
It is not often that the library has occasion to start a wholly new classification, but this has been made possible this year by a gift of several hundred finely printed books, made by philip Hofer, '21. The library has for at least two decades had an active interest in modern printing, of which the Charles Eliot Norton library contained a number of important examples. To these, specimens of the productions of such noteworthy presses as the Merrymount, Kelmscott, Ashendene, Daniel, and Dun Emer, have been added as funds permitted. Such accessions came at irregular intervals, however, and it was not until Professor Sachs gave his collection of the work of Bruce Rogers, that Typography was recognized as a distinct subject for which the library ought to provide a place. Mr. Hofer's gift now makes it certain that the Harvard collection of finely printed books will be easily equal to that of any other institution. The recognition of Printing as a fine art is closely connected with book illustration, and Mr. Hofer is adding important examples of the best work in this line, from the fifteenth to the twentieth centuries. In the nineteenth century, there was a brilliant period, when books were being illustrated by Kate Green-away, Randolph Caldecott, Sir John Tenniel and Walter Crane. The Widener collection brought to Harvard a good assemblage of Miss Greenaway's work, while Tenniel is very well represented in the Lewis Carroll collection made by Harcourt Amory, '76, and given in his memory by Mrs. Amory and their children. The other two, Crane and Caldecott, are thoroughly taken care of by the books, original drawings, and autograph letters given last autumn by A. H. Parker '97, to form the Caroline Miller Parker collection in the Harvard Library. Mr. Parker's gift includes a fund of $5000 to assure the permanent well-being of these treasures, and he has also recently made a number of most important additions, among which is a sketch book in which Crane drew the view of the river front where the Freshman Dormitories now stand, from the opposite shore, not far from the School of Business Administration, which is reproduced here for the first time.
It may be doubted whether Harvard ever received a gift which combined the qualities of abiding elemental human interest, with the highest range of international historical importance, more inextricably interwoven than in the collection of Lord Nelson letters and documents formed by Joseph Husband, '08. Trafalgar saved the British Empire, to all appearances, and Emma, Lady Hamilton, saved Nelson from seeming more than human Mr. Husband's collection brought to Harvard last October fifty letters and documents signed by Nelson, and half as many by Lady Hamilton, together with over a hundred other documents connected with the career of the greatest of English seamen. Other documents, some of them of out-standing importance, have already begun to add themselves to those brought together by Mr. Husband as a nucleus for what is certain to become in time a great collection on Naval History.
This is a summary account of the high spots in the record of a single year's routine at the Harvard Library. Other chapters could be written, that would be less spectacular but just as full of every-day human interest and quite as important for the all around development of the Library as the greatest of all collections for the prosecution of productive scholarship, as well as for the education of young Americans. More significant than anything else in this record, however, is the fact that nothing has happened in 1928-29 which is not likely to be matched, and maybe bettered, by 1930