Volume II · November 1946 · Number 1
"From the Library of --"
--ROBERT F. METZDORF
Please note: The R. B. Adam Collection described below was on deposit at the University of Rochester Library. The collection, which later became part of the Donald and Mary Hyde Collection of Dr. Samuel Johnson, is now at Harvard University.
Association books have always had a special place on the shelves of every booklover. The ownership of a volume which once belonged to a great author, an eminent statesman, or some other well-known public figure seems to bring one closer to the period and the person. Bookplates, annotations, and inscriptions are evidence of some former owner's love for his books; small wonder, then, that volumes bearing such associations are dear to the collector's heart!
The Library has just concluded a display of association books from the Treasure Room and Local History collections; many students and visitors paid tribute to these literary relics, and a short account of the exhibit will interest those who were unable to see the display.
The greatest concentration of association books in the Library is, as one would expect, in the R. B. Adam Collection. Here are the fruits of two generations of devoted collecting interests, representing hours of poring over book catalogues, numberless cablegrams and special delivery letters, battles in the auction rooms, and quiet, purposeful acquisitions. The end result is an impressive series of volumes relating to Samuel Johnson and his circle.
The chief jewel in the Adam crown is the Boswell Notebook (the name of which deserves to be printed in capitals and spoken with bated breath.) This is the only known book of its kind which has survived the ravages of the years - a notebook in which James Boswell recorded his searches for early anecdotes about his hero's life. One could not get closer to the genesis of a world-famous book! The complete proof sheets of the Life of Johnson flank the Boswell Notebook, and are reinforced by a volume of revised proof sheets. The proofs of two volumes of Johnson's Lives of the Poets are also here - the life of Cowley, and the set of proofs of the life of Pope, which Johnson presented to Fanny Burney. In these sets of working proofs one can see Johnson at work, revising and polishing, never satisfied with his style or his choice of words. The volumes are unneeded proof of the old saw that genius amounts to a capacity for taking infinite pains.
It was the Rambler himself who inscribed a set of that famous set of essays for his old friend, Mrs. Gastrell. Sam Johnson believed in keeping his friendships in constant repair, and the set of Prefaces ... to the Works of the English Poets which he gave to his physician, Thomas Lawrence, is but another indication of his gift for comradeship. Finally, a set of Goldsmith's History of the Earth in which Johnson wrote his name is a lasting monument to the close bond between two literary giants of the eighteenth century.
The formidable collecting instincts of the Adams also tracked to earth a number of books which bring James Boswell closer to us. In the collection are twenty books which were once in Boswell's library: all of these volumes carry evidence of the biographer's ownership, and some of them are poignant memorials of events in Boswell's life. He bought a copy of Anthony Horneck's The Fire of the Altar at Oxford in 1776, because "this pious Treatise used to be read by my excellent Mother." His almanac for 1784 (the year of Johnson's death) contains many notes which enable us to follow his movements, and there are also books which link his name with Burke, Langton, Reynolds, and other famous contemporaries.
Perhaps the finest of all these books from Boswell's shelves is a volume in which are bound Goldsmith's The Traveller and The Deserted Village. Boswell notes that at his request Johnson marked the lines in these poems which he added or corrected; thus, between two covers we have direct associations with Goldsmith, Johnson, and Boswell.
Other eighteenth-century books in the R. B. Adam Collection which help bring to life the shadowy figures in literary history are two volumes from Laurence Sterne's library, Charles Lamb's copy of Johnson's Prayers and Meditations, Edmond Malone's annotated copy of Boswell's Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides, and Cowper's copy of Hayley's Two Dialogues.
This does not end the roll of Augustan celebrities in the Treasure Room. With the Maude Motley Collection came three more volumes from the Auchinleck library, one with Boswell's signature, one with his father's, and one with his grandfather's. Other fortunate acquisitions supplied us with approximately one hundred volumes from the library of the Thrale children, with Mrs. Piozzi's copy of Hervey's Meditations and Contemplations, with Sir Joshua Reynolds' dialogue, Johnson and Garrick (inscribed by Reynolds' niece to the Earl of Sheffield), and with a volume of pamphlets presented to Boswell by Burke.
The catalogue of English literary treasures continues into the nineteenth century. Three books from Thomas Carlyle's shelves carry his bookplates and the carefully written labels he glued on the spines of all his books. There is a ten-volume set of Bacon, annotated by T. B. Macaulay, which throws interesting light on his methods of work; next to it is Charles Dickens' set of Hallam's Introduction to the Literature of Europe, containing the bookplates of Dickens, Edmund Yates, Laurence Hodson, and Ira S. Wile, '98, from whom the University received the volumes.
A volume from Thackeray's library (a 1710 edition of Ward's Life of the Learned and Pious Dr. Henry More) carries numerous notes in the novelist's hand, and also bears the signatures of his ancestors, Thomas and Elias Thackeray. Two books from the Rossetti library are here; first, William Rossetti's copy of the Love Letters of Mary Queen of Scots, and second, Christina Rossetti's set of Goldsmith's Citizen of the World. A first edition of Ruskin's Elements of Drawing which Edward Lear read and marked, links two great Victorian artists, and there are four volumes from the collection of Thomas Hardy, dating from 1882 to 1927.
Books of American association interest are present in even greater number, for here the resources of the Treasure Room are reinforced by the great holdings of the Local History collections.
Among the early American authors represented is James Kirke Paulding, Irving's collaborator, whose annotated four-volume set, A Selection of Curious Articles from the Gentleman's Magazine, reflects his whimsical personality.
But the greatest number of these interesting literary memorials are connected with the New England writers. Many of these books were noted in an earlier article in this journal which recorded some of the splendid items in the E. G. Miner Collection. One of the greatest books presented to the Library by Mr. Miner was not listed there, however, because of the exigencies of space: this is the copy of The Blithedale Romance inscribed by Nathaniel Hawthorne to Franklin Pierce. Books from the libraries of the presidents are always difficult to find, but this particular one is outstanding, because it is an important literary work in first-edition form, associated with one of our greatest authors, and a relic of a long and close friendship.
Oliver Wendell Holmes is represented by a copy of the 1863 edition of his Poems, inscribed to his old school-friend, Horatio B. Hackett, and by a first edition of The Iron Gate, presented to the well-loved Bishop of Massachusetts, Henry C. Potter. Last but not least are a series of early American plays from the library of David Belasco, and a book from Mark Twain's library which bears evidence of his researches into Platonism, Hegelianism, and faith-healing.
Books which connect directly with the history of the University are not lacking. The most charming of these volumes reflect the friendships which President Martin B. Anderson had with the authors of his native New England. There is a copy of Emerson's 1850 edition of his Poems inscribed, "For the Library of the University with the respects of the Author" - a birthday gift for the University, and surely one of the finest association pieces we could hope for! Another volume of the same type is a first edition of Lowell's Among My Books, with an inscription to Anderson, followed by Anderson's own signature.
Mementos of other early benefactors include a book from the library of President Millard Fillmore, and several volumes from the extensive book collection of Lewis Henry Morgan. Morgan's own copies of some of his works, such as League of the Ho-de-no-sau-nee, or Iroquois, Ancient Sociey, and Systems of Consanguinity, have not only a local interest, but are also landmarks in the history of anthropology, ethnology, and sociology.
Several recent gifts have resulted in choice additions to our shelves of association copies. Mr. William Henry Seward has presented a number of volumes from his grandfather's library: among these are two volumes inscribed by Walt Whitman to the great statesman. Mr. and Mrs. Harold C. Townson have presented a group of volumes formerly in the possession of Mrs. Townson's grandfather, Schuyler Colfax, who was Speaker of the House of Representatives and Vice-President in the Grant administration.
Our science collections in the Treasure Room are still weak, but the Charles Wright Dodge Collection can boast three presentation copies of Darwin's books (including a first edition of The Descent of Man), and there are also books from the libraries of Henry Muhlenberg, the botanist, and Elisha Gray, the inventor. This last volume, concerning Gray's battle for patent rights in the telephone, was given by Charles A. Brown, '79, who was associated with Gray.
This catalogue of association books by no means exhausts the list of such material in our collections; it does not mention association volumes in the Medical Library or the Sibley Music Library. While the material which we have cannot rival the now-dispersed Harry Smith library, or the Howe Collection at Harvard, it provides a good foundation upon which to build what one may hope will someday become an outstanding selection of association books -- books which help the past to live again.