Although I collect postal librariana related to libraries throughout the world, most of my posts on the Library History Buff Blog pertain to libraries in the United States. Today (April 26) the Library and Information History Group (LIHG) of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP), the United Kingdom's equivalent of the American Library Association, held a one day conference on parochial libraries. So I thought I would do a post about a group of folded letters mailed to the Congregational Library in London in the 19th century. All of the letters are mailed to Reverend Algernon Wells in his capacity as Secretary to the Colonial Missionary Society. The Colonial Missionary Society evidently had its offices at the Congregational Library, but had no other direct connection to the library. The earliest of the letters was mailed in 1838 and the latest in 1844. All of the letters have postal markings, but only the 1842 letter has a postage stamp (shown above). You may know that it was Great Britain that issued the first postage stamp (commonly called the Penny Black) in 1840. The 1840 letter shown above was mailed just a month before the Penny Black became valid for postage on May 7. At the time the letters were mailed the Congregational Library was located on Blomfield Street in Finsbury, a location it occupied from 1831 to 1866. The use of the terminology "parochial library" is more common in the United Kingdom where one of the earliest pieces of legislation was the Parochial Libraries Act of 1708.
Monday, April 26, 2010
Friday, April 23, 2010
Monday, April 19, 2010
In one of those unusual coincidences I wrote about the Society of Social Friends, a student literary society at Dartmouth College, on Saturday and on Sunday at a local stamp show I obtained an amazing 1829 letter from a student member of the Society. I am able to obtain some of the more interesting items in my postal librariana collection because a few stamp dealers (thanks Terry) keep their eye out for items for "the library cover guy". This item was a stampless letter (postage stamps didn't come into being in the United States until 1847) mailed by Dartmouth student Henry Hoit to his father Daniel in Sandwich, NH. The letter is almost totally about the need for Henry to make a donation for the library of the Social Friends and the case for why his father should advance him the funds to do so. Henry writes in part, "You probably well know that our libraries are made and increased entirely by the donation of its members. The usual sum is from $5 to $50 and this is all that we have to pay for the use of 8000 volumes of choice, interesting, instructive books consisting of History, Biography, Travels, Theology, Philosophy, Languages, etc." Henry goes on to say that all in his class have given $10 except a few have given $15 and two "charity scholars" have given $5 and $7 respectively. There is a notation on the letter by Daniel Hoit that indicates that Henry was successful and that funds had been sent. Daniel Hoit or "General" Hoit as he was addressed because of his rank in the state militia was a prominent person in New Hampshire and had served a number of terms in the State Legislature. He ran for Governor on two occasions. William Henry Hoyt (he later changed his name from Hoit to the original family name of Hoyt) graduated from Dartmouth in 1831 and then went to Andover Theological Seminary. He was ordained first as an Episcopal minister but later converted to the Catholic faith and became a priest. Henry's brother Albert graduated from Dartmouth in 1829 and became a prominent artist. Henry mentions Albert in his letter.
Sunday, April 18, 2010
Saturday, April 17, 2010
Early academic libraries, unlike those of today, were not very friendly to students. This led to the creation of student literary societies that established their own libraries which had more popular collections and more liberal lending policies. Dartmouth College is an excellent example of this situation. An online history of the Dartmouth College Library includes the following description of student access to the official college library in 1802: "The collection numbers approximately 3,000 volumes, many of which are duplicates and of little practical use to the students and faculty. Library hours are very restricted: 1 hour per class every other week, with no more than 5 students in the library at one time. No one is permitted to take a book down from the shelves without permission of the librarian. A use fee of $1.50 per year is assessed from each student, one quarter of which goes to the librarian. Circulation is limited to one volume at a time for freshmen, two for sophomores and juniors, and three for seniors." In 1783 a student literary society called the Society of Social Friends was founded at Dartmouth. A similar student society, the United Fraternity, was founded in 1786. For many years the libraries of these two student organizations were the primary source of books for both students and faculty. In 1817 in the midst of a controversy between the State of New Hampshire and the Trustees of Dartmouth over the control of the College, the student societies decide to move their collections out of Dartmouth Hall into a building controlled by the societies. The College attempts to prevent this and a student "riot" ensues. As a result both sides press charges and both students and faculty are arrested. The matter is ultimately settled out of court. The controversy between the State and the Trustees is settled in favor of the Trustees in a United States Supreme Court case argued by Daniel Webster (class of 1801; see postage stamp above). In 1874 in return for more favorable access the student societies agree to combine their libraries with the college library under a single head. In 1904 the societies disband and full title to the libraries was transferred to the college. A bookplate for the Social Friends' Library of Dartmouth is shown above.
A follow up post on the Social Friends' Library of Dartmouth was made on April19.