Monday, December 20, 2010
Henry Bartlett Van Hoesen, Brown University Librarian
It must be tough to have Christmas Day as one's birthday. Henry Bartlett Van Hoesen (1885-1965) was one individual who suffered this fate. This Christmas will be the 125th anniversary of Van Hoesen's birth. He served as Librarian of Brown University from 1930 to 1950. In somewhat of a left handed compliment, Brown University President Henry M. Wriston said this about Van Hoesen: "With no qualities of showmanship at all, and without any appearance of the go-getter, Dr. Henry Van Hoesen has been one of the most progressive library administrators in the United States." The Special Collections Deparment of Brown University Library maintains an excellent History and Guide to the collections of Brown University. The section on the 1930s and World War II deals with the development of those collections under Van Hoesen. As a philatelist, I was impressed that Brown has a substantial philatelic collection that originated with a donation from Colonel Webster Knight during this period. The large drawer in the table in the image above was said to have housed the entire Brown University Library at one point. The collection shown behind the table is a collection of early books in the library reassembled by Van Hoesen in 1938. Both the table and the collection are displayed in the reading room of the John Hay Library. It is not often that a library is able to preserve such an important artifact in its history. I wrote a post earlier in the year about Reuben A. Guild (1822-1899) who served as Librarian of Brown from 1848 to 1893.