Teaching with Rare Books

Since its inception one hundred years ago, the mission of the Chapin Library has been to support teaching and research at Williams College with rare books, manuscripts, and other special materials. As an early donor, Carroll Atwood Wilson (Class of 1907), wrote, every item in the Chapin Library “has been placed there for an educational purpose. The sum of those items is there to represent, in an organized way, every field of thought. . . . Frankly, the writer believes that there is no field of thought which cannot be . . . represented by the material in Chapin: the curator of the library surprised the astronomers in 1937 as much as she did the students of Vergil in 1930, and the lovers of early American geography in 1945.”

As the body of students and faculty at Williams has grown and its curriculum has become more varied, so the Chapin collections have developed, largely by gift or through funds provided by gift, to accommodate new subjects as well as fields of thought long established. Use of the collections has grown too, as faculty have discovered the value of teaching with primary sources, and that their students respond with enthusiasm when handling rare items in their original form. The provision, moreover, of splendid rooms in new Sawyer for the Chapin Library and College Archives, with space for reading and teaching, has raised the visibility of special collections and made them still more attractive to the Williams community.

Our new exhibition, Every Field of Thought: Teaching with Rare Books, celebrates the continuing use of the Chapin Library collections in the service of education, in partnership with faculty and with library and museum colleagues, through dozens of classes and presentations each term, in addition to supporting individual research projects, papers, and theses. At the same time, we honor the generosity of our many donors, from Alfred Clark Chapin (Class of 1869) at the founding of the Chapin Library to the present day, who have given Williams this important and dynamic means of instruction.

The exhibition is on view in the Chapin Gallery (Sawyer Library 406) through December 23, 2015.

Wayne Hammond, Chapin Librarian
Elaine Yanow, Chapin Library Assistant

The words of Carroll Atwood Wilson are quoted from the foreword to his Catalogue of the Collection of Samuel Butler (of Erewhon) in the Chapin Library, Williams College (1945).

J. Brooks Hoffman, M.D.

The death on June 11th this year of John Brooks Hoffman, M.D., Williams College Class of 1940, brought to a close a long and enjoyable relationship with one of the Chapin Library’s greatest friends. Brooks loved his country and its history, and collected American documents with a keen eye for quality and importance. Many of these items came to the Chapin Library and the College Archives. We shared his enthusiasm, and he appreciated that his gifts were put frequently into use as part of our educational mission.

With advancing age, and with his beloved wife Jane having passed away, Brooks planned his memorial service in fine detail. I was flattered when he asked me to speak at his service on behalf of Williams College, and accepted only on condition that it not be too soon. He suggested what I should cover, and insisted that I take no more than five minutes, as there would be speakers also on behalf of Blair Academy and the medical profession, and he didn’t want the audience to be bored. I prepared my text and set it aside; happily, I did not need it soon, and was able to speak with Brooks many times before the end.

His service, held in Greenwich, Connecticut on September 12th, included a piano medley of Williams songs (Yard by Yard, The Mountains, ’Neath the Shadow of the Hills, and Our Mother), a hymn written by Washington Gladden, Class of 1859, and a remembrance by Dr. Marc Newberg, Class of 1959, in addition to my remarks which follow.

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In our files at the Chapin Library, the first recorded donation by Dr. and Mrs. J. Brooks Hoffman was a 1796 list of Williams students, presented through the Library to the College Archives. That was in July 1976. There is then a gap in correspondence until January 1980, but by then Brooks and Jane had decided to give to Williams their original manuscript of President Andrew Johnson’s National Thanksgiving Proclamation of 1866. At the same time, Brooks wrote that it was his “intent to leave [to the Chapin Library] on occasion further documents, manuscripts and perhaps autograph letters of prominent people”. He described his collection as only “very modest when one reviews some of the monumental collections” at other institutions. But neither the superb Johnson manuscript nor the hundreds of other items we received from Brooks and Jane over the years are “modest” by any means.

Take, for example, the broadside proclamation of June 12, 1775 signed by General Thomas Gage, received as a Hoffman gift in 1981. Though printed in small type on a small sheet, it has a terrific impact. Gage was appointed Governor of Massachusetts in the hope of quenching fires of rebellion while enforcing unpopular acts of Parliament. In this he was unsuccessful, and his attempt in April 1775 to seize a cache of weapons outside Boston led finally to the outbreak of war. Two months later, Gage’s broadside addressed “the infatuated multitude”, condemning the insurgency at Lexington and Concord and declaring martial law. Even so, he was willing to grant amnesty to all who would lay down their arms – all, that is, except rebel leaders John Hancock and Samuel Adams, “whose offences are of too flagitious a nature to admit of any other consideration than that of condign punishment”. Brooks found this a fascinating fragment of history, and we never tire of showing it to students.

He was also proud of having acquired what we sometimes call the British reply to the Declaration of Independence. This other, almost unknown “declaration” was issued on September 19, 1776 by General Howe and Admiral Howe, the King’s Commissioners for Restoring Peace to His Majesty’s Colonies and Plantations in North America. Admiral Howe had met with a delegation from the Continental Congress, in one last attempt to reconcile the colonies to the crown. Having failed at this, the Howes encouraged the “misguided Americans” who had made an “extravagant and inadmissible” “Claim of Independency” to once again “accept the blessings of peace” under royal authority. This plea was set in type by Loyalist printers, but few copies survive – probably most were torn down as soon as they were put up. The one that Brooks found, and whose historic worth he recognized when others did not, is on permanent display at the Chapin Library along with founding documents of the United States, and its text is read at Williams following that of the American Declaration every July 4th.

Our copy of the Declaration of Independence, in fact – one of the rare originals printed on July 4, 1776 – is itself partly a Hoffman gift. Brooks was instrumental in helping to raise funds to buy the document in 1983, and himself contributed, along with other loyal Williams alumni, including fellow members of the Class of 1940. A few years later, that gift led to the class presenting to the Chapin Library, on the occasion of their 50th reunion, a substantial fund in support of the Library’s Americana collection. Brooks later established a Chapin fund of his own, which we use to obtain works in his special areas of interest: the American Revolution, the Civil War, the slave trade in America, and the civil rights movement.

When Brooks asked me to speak at his memorial service, he suggested a few things that I might say about him. One was that as an obstetrician and gynecologist, he made a pretty good historian. (That’s verbatim.) By all reports, he was a pretty good obstetrician and gynecologist too. But history was important to him, in particular the history of his country and the use of contemporary manuscripts, books, and documents in its teaching. All of Brooks’s gifts to Williams College illuminate moments in history. They are snapshots of civilization and stones in the foundation of learning. On behalf of everyone at Williams, I am here to say how grateful we all are – how grateful countless students of the future will be – to the generosity of Brooks and Jane Hoffman; and personally, how honored I am to have known Brooks, as a donor and friend, for more than thirty years.

Wayne Hammond, Interim Custodian of the Chapin Library

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An obituary of J. Brooks Hoffman may be read here.

The Heritage Collection

Weary Blues jacket
An exhibition of selections from the Chapin Library’s Heritage Collection of black literature and culture will be on view in the Chapin Gallery (Sawyer 406) from July 27 to September 25, 2015. An opening reception will be held in the Gallery on Tuesday, July 28, from 3:00 to 4:30 pm.

Born in the Netherlands in 1931, Paul Breman was led from a love of blues music to a study of black poetry. He met and corresponded with important figures such as Langston Hughes, William Waring Cuney, and W.E.B. Du Bois, he translated black poetry (into Dutch) and edited anthologies, and he published the Heritage Series of Black Poetry between 1962 and 1975. In the process, he formed a significant collection of books, pamphlets, broadsides, ephemera, and recordings, which came to the Chapin Library in 2012 through the generosity of the collector’s family, the efforts of Robert Volz, former Custodian of the Chapin Library, and the advice of Prof. Darra Goldstein, a friend of Paul Breman’s widow, Jill Norman.

The Heritage Collection is available for use in the Archives/Chapin reading room (Sawyer 441). Its printed items are entered in the Williams online catalog FRANCIS under the local call number “Heritage”. Finding aids for manuscripts and other materials in the collection are being prepared for posting on the Chapin Library website. – WGH

Shown is the dust-jacket for The Weary Blues by Langston Hughes, with art by Miguel Covarrubias.

Declaring Independence

British Reply2For the twenty-ninth consecutive year on the 4th of July, actors from the Williamstown Theatre Festival will read the Declaration of Independence, the British replies of September and October 1776, and the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution, in conjunction with a display of these and other founding documents of the United States from the collection of the Chapin Library. Actors Eric Bogosian and Jessica Hecht, appearing in the WTF production of Daniel Goldfarb’s Legacy, and Daniel Sharman and Mary Wiseman, appearing in William Inge’s Off the Main Road, will perform beginning at 1:30 p.m. from the south steps of Stetson Hall (Sawyer Library, 26 Hopkins Hall Drive). In the event of rain, the reading will be held in the atrium of Sawyer Library. Original copies of the documents will be on view on July 4th in the Chapin Gallery (Sawyer Room 406) from noon to 1:00 p.m. and from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m. Wayne Hammond, Interim Custodian of the Chapin Library, will be on hand to answer questions and put the documents in context. The reading and display are free and open to the public.

Also currently on view in the Chapin Library/College Archives galleries are Chapin Library 1915-2015, commemorating one hundred years since Alfred Clark Chapin (Williams Class of 1869) conceived of a library of rare books and manuscripts for his alma mater; Scholarship and Statesmanship: James Abram Garfield, from the collections of the Williams College Archives; and the Audubon Birds of America “double elephant” folio. – WGH

Shown is the declaration of 19 September 1776 by the King’s Commissioners for Restoring Peace, in reply to the colonists’ declaration of independence from Great Britain. Gift of J. Brooks Hoffman, M.D., Class of 1940.

The War between the States

Sutler's tent stereoThe surrender by General Robert E. Lee of his Army of Northern Virginia to Union General Ulysses S. Grant following the Battle of Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865 – one hundred fifty years ago this month – is often celebrated as the end of the American Civil War. In fact, other Confederate forces continued to fight for months thereafter, and tens of thousands of Union soldiers proceeded to occupy the South. President Andrew Johnson did not declare a formal end to the War between the States until August 20, 1866.

The Chapin Library has significant resources concerning the Civil War. These include printed books and broadsides, prints and maps, newspapers, and manuscript letters written from both the North and the South. Also available in the Chapin are numerous stereographs from 1861 to 1865, photographs which when viewed with a special device create a three-dimensional image. Six of these stereo views are currently on display in the window of the Archives–Chapin reading room, Sawyer Library Room 441. One of the most interesting is the view shown here, of a Union army sutler, or storekeeper. The description printed on the reverse of the card reads:

The Sutler or army storekeeper was the fellow who got the most of the soldier’s pay. Sardines, canned peaches, ginger cakes, condensed milk, plug tobacco, etc., etc., at extremely high prices, found ready sale on pay day and for the few days thereafter that the money lasted, but with condensed milk at a dollar per can, and other things in proportion, thirteen dollars per month did not prove sufficient to keep a fellow in cash more than one or two days per month. This is the tent of Johnson, the sutler of the 2d Division, 9th Corps.

Stereo views were a popular form of entertainment during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and remain very collectible. Many firms produced or published them: here the publisher was the War Photograph & Exhibition Company of Hartford, Connecticut (typically, the photographer is not identified). This particular card was made, as explained on its reverse, more than a quarter century after the end of the Civil War, when the Hartford firm felt able to justify higher prices due to the increasing difficulty of printing from deteriorating negatives made in the field some three decades earlier.

Our thanks go to Williamstown photographer Nicholas Whitman for suggesting this display, drawn from the extensive collection of stereo views given to the Chapin Library by Robert P. Fordyce, Class of 1956. – WGH

Exhibit Featuring the Life and Legacy of James A. Garfield

Scholarship and Statesmanship: James Abram Garfield

James Abram Garfield

James Abram Garfield

The Williams College Archives and Special Collections is hosting an exhibit April-August 2015 that details the life and legacy of Williams Alum, James Abram Garfield (Class of 1856). The exhibit will feature highlights from his time as a student at Williams, service in the military during the Civil War, his campaign and service as U.S. President, political life, and his tragic assassination and death.

The title of the exhibit was inspired by a letter that former Williams College President and trusted friend, Mark Hopkins, wrote to James Garfield shortly after he had been elected U.S. President. In his congratulatory letter, Hopkins stated “this honor is the result of no accident, but of achievement by steady work in scholarship and statesmanship so that when the occasion called, the man was there.”

The exhibit is made possible by the numerous donations the College Archives has received over the years (mostly from Williams Alumni) of Garfield memorabilia and documents.

The exhibit is located in the Schow Gallery on the fourth floor of Sawyer Library. We hope you can stop by and see some of the interesting stories and artifacts we’ve chosen for the exhibit. Please send any questions to archives@williams.edu.

Scholar, Printer, Publisher

Vergil 1501 AldusTo commemorate the 500th anniversary of the death of the great humanist printer Aldus Manutius, the Chapin Library, in conjunction with Williams Classics professor Edan Dekel, has mounted the exhibition Aldus Manutius: Scholar, Printer, Publisher: A Quincentenary Celebration. This will be on view in the Chapin Gallery (Sawyer Room 406) and the adjacent Archives/Chapin Instruction Gallery through April 24th.

Aldus (as he is familiarly called) was the leading publisher in Renaissance Venice, and his Aldine Press was responsible for issuing the first printed editions of nearly every major classical Greek author. Among his innovations were the development of italic type, the introduction of inexpensive, small-format editions of Greek and Latin authors that could be carried in one’s pocket, and the application of scholarly standards to the editing of the texts Aldus published.

Above all, Aldus strove to make the great works of classical literature, as well as important Italian ones, widely available to readers in the Renaissance. In that respect, he is perhaps the person most responsible for the spread of Greek learning in the sixteenth century and beyond, and he stands at the head of a tradition that established classical texts as one of the foundations of the liberal arts education as we know it to this day. – WGH

Shown is the opening of Vergil’s Aeneid in the “pocket” edition published by Aldus in 1501. A complementary article by Julia Menemo may be read here.

Greetings from the new College Archivist

Katie_Nash13As I enter my third week as the new College Archivist and Special Collections Librarian, I’d like to take a moment and introduce myself as well as reflect on my journey at Williams College thus far. Prior to arriving at Williams, I was the Special Collections Librarian and Archivist at Elon University where I had worked since 2005. In my position at Elon, I was responsible for building the collections, services, and outreach from the ground up. I was a “lone-arranger” for several years, but when I left Elon I was supervising three full-time staff and the Archives and Special Collections was on the map for the entire Elon community.

My first day at Williams was October 6 and I am 100% sure that I have landed in a good place. Everyone I’ve met so far has been welcoming, friendly, supportive, and most importantly loves working at Williams College. I have experienced the nurturing and intellectual spirit of the College in almost every situation–something many newbies at other institutions probably don’t experience so early on.

I had the opportunity to be part of a Williams Alumni event on October 10 in which the Mike Reily Room was dedicated in the new Weston Field House. This event brought together members of the Williams Class of 1964, friends and family of Mike Reily, as well as others from the Williams community.  The College Archives has a scrapbook (created by Reily’s mother) all about Mike Reily’s high school days at Woodberry Forest and his college days at Williams. I was responsible for bringing the scrapbook to the event so attendees could view the amazing item first-hand. The reaction was simply stunning–everyone was impressed not only with how carefully the scrapbook was originally put together, but also how well it has been preserved by the College Archives. During the events that evening, it became clear to me very quickly what a special place Williams College is. The dedication to faculty, students, staff, research, alumni, and the community is remarkable.

In the coming weeks, months, and years I have no doubt I will continue to meet amazing people, experience and actively participate in the nurturing and intellectual climate, and grow in leaps and bounds both professionally and personally. I can’t think of a better place to do this than Williams College!

Visit the College Archives online, and feel free to make an appointment and we can discuss your research needs, support for library instruction, and any project you may be working on.


The Laws of Williams College, published 1795 on display in Sawyer Library

The Laws of Williams College, published 1795, is on display for a limited time in conjunction with exhibit The Libraries of Williams. Located in the level three entrance directly across from the circulation desk, the exhibit showcases the original printing of the Laws, images from old Sawyer Library, images from Stetson Library, and an image of the College’s first dedicated library space in Lawrence Hall.

Libraries of Williams College

One of the largest sections of the College’s first printing of its’ laws pertains to the Library and use of library materials. Books were not allowed to be removed from the Library without permission from the College Librarian. No more than three books could be charged out at one time, and it was illegal to take a book out of town.

The exhibit is on view during regular Sawyer Library hours. To protect the fragile condition of The Laws of Williams College, the book will be on display for Convocation weekend until September 22.

LawrenceHall Photo002





In support of the Book Unbound initiative, Professor Edan Dekel and College Archives co-curated an exhibit highlighting the first library collection of Williams, now known as the 1794 Collection. Purchased by the first Williams President, Ebenezer Fitch, the catalogue lists a diverse assortment of over 360 volumes, divided into such categories as: arts and sciences, voyages and travels, divinity and ecclesiastical history, history, languages, and poetry. The exhibit is now on view in the Archives/ Chapin instruction gallery on the 4th floor of Sawyer Library. Archives/ Chapin galleries are open Monday- Friday, 10am-5pm. On September 20th, the galleries are open from 1pm-6pm.