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A few years ago it was not uncommon to hear a senior remark: "Indeed, I never thought of going into the library in my freshman year." Today the toiling freshman not infrequently sighs: "Why are we expected to read half of the books in the library?" From the ceaseless throng that come and go the library may properly be termed the university workshop.

There are some parts of the library which are, however, almost unknown to the students, either because we are not permitted to explore them or because we have not the time. The one place, perhaps, most unfamiliar to the average student and most frequented by strangers is the visitors' room. Here are collected more articles of interest to the student of Harvard's history than perhaps in the entire remainder of the building. The class albums; the autograph letters of celebrated graduates, such as Sumner, Emerson, etc., etc., and the visitors' book, are but a few of these objects. For those who have never been in this most interesting room I may be permitted to describe a few of its many attractions. The visitors' book is one of the most interesting features of this room. Each page of the modest, mercantile-looking ledger contains this notice, indicative of its use: "As the purpose of this book is to preserve the autographs of the visitors to Harvard College Library, it is requested that no one person sign for a party but each one sign for himself."

It is fearful to contemplate the variety of scrawls in this book - a collection such as is only equalled by the variety of tracks the different species of fowls can make in the same mud-hole. The majority of visitors, strange to say, are from Cambridge and the immediate vicinity. The Western States, as Illinois, Michigan and Kansas, come next. Paris sends a few every year. Turkey, China, Bulgaria and England have representatives.

The state of mind of the writer when subscribing his name, I have fancied, may be often seen from his handwriting. Some there are who seem to be frightened, so as almost to be unable to leave a legible trace; others seem inspired by their surroundings and turn out specimens that would be creditable to a writing academy. Young ladies seem to be the majority of those who put down their names. Very often there appears a long list of ladies' names, from some distant place, grouped in a pleasant chorus.

Men seem to be more modest, excepting, perhaps, college graduates. They invariably put down all their titles. One who seems proud to have returned to his Alma Mater has written, " '74 and wife." Some Yale man who came up in his freshman year has honored the entire head of one page with his name followed by "Yale, '85." High school maidens and seminary girls appear, perhaps, most frequently. The present visitors' book was opened January 2, 1879, and has now 234 pages filled. On each page there is an average of 23 names, thus making a total of some 5380. Query - at this rate how long would it take for all the United States to visit Harvard University; what effect would this continued influx have upon our native modesty and how long would the library "stand the pressure?"

The idea of having a visitors' book originated with Prof. Webster in 1838, who placed an ordinary blank-book - quarto size - in Harvard Hall, which was then used as the college library. This book was used until 1849. The idea seems not to have been taken up by the library authorities themselves until 1858, when Vol. I. of the "Book for Visitors to Harvard College" was opened.


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