Furnishing the Mind
To the Editors of The Crimson:
If John Harvard, Thomas Hollis, Isaac Watts, Thomas Carlyle, Charles Eliot Norton, Haward Mumford Jones, and an enormous host of others nad not thought it worthwhile for an educated person to form a private library, there would not now be at Harvard ready access for students and professors to what you correctly call "one of the best and biggest library systems in the world." Just look at the bookplates in many of the books you use in that system and you should quickly see that its existence does not represent some kind of bibliographical parthenogenesis.
To compare this kind of activity with the formation of a natty personal wardrobe is a sorry reversal of the fable of the emperor's new clothes. There is a major difference between furnishing one's mind and clothing one's body.
Your presupposition of a "substantial level of personal wealth" as a requisite for entry is just as far off the mark. People can (and have) made significant collections of materials that cost them little or nothing except the wit to perceive that the collection was worth forming. Some of them were pretty esoteric, too, and some of the more esoteric ones have proved unexpectedly useful as tools of scholarship.
Finally, a point of fact, the Board of Overseers did not establish or even originate the prize in question. It has been financed by the voluntary contributions of members of the Visiting Committee for the University Library, which is appointed by the Board of Overseers. At the present moment no Overseer is also a member of that committee. W.H. Bond Librarian, The Houghton Library