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Historical sketch of the Library of Brown University, with regulations online

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BY R. A. GUILD, A.M., Librarian.










[From The University Quarterly for April, 1861.]

[Note. — The following brief sketch has been in part compiled from Prof. Jewett's
"History of the Library of Brown University," which was published in 1843.
Free use has been made of this, and also of its continuation in his " Notices
of Public Libraries in the United States of America," published at Washington in
1850. Mr. Jewett was the Librarian of Brown University from 1841 to 1848, and
thus had access to the College Records and other trustworthy sources of informa-
tion. The Papers of President Manning, to which the present author has had ac-
cess, furnish in addition many interesting facts in regard to the early history of the


In the year 1770, Khode Island College, now called Brown
University, was removed from Warren where it was first es-
tablished, to Providence, a town containing at that time less
than four thousand inhabitants. Here the first College edifice, , q
(University Hall,) was erected, at an expense of about £4500, \£y- * / N")
the principal part of which was raised in the town itself, " an
instance of beneficence," says President Manning, " on the
part of a few Baptists, which, their fortunes considered, is
almost unparalleled."

With the exception of a few books procured in England in
1768-9, through the agency of the Kev. Morgan Edwards of
Philadelphia, the College at the period of its removal from
Warren was destitute of a Library. To supply, as far as pos-
sible, this deficiency, the Providence Library Company, (now
merged in the Providence Athenaeum,) tendered the free use
of its books to the Officers and Students — a privilege which
was continued several years.

The following extract from a letter addressed by the Presi-
dent to Dr. Thomas Llewellyn, a wealthy Baptist gentleman
of London, shows the character and the extent of the Library,
two years later. The letter is dated at Providence, Feb. 21,
1772. "The College edifice is erected on a most beautiful em-
inence in the neighborhood of Providence, commanding a
charming and variegated prospect ; — a large, neat, brick build-
ing, and so far completed as to receive the Students who now

vol. xiv. — no. I. 22


254 The Library of Brown University. [April,

reside there, the whole number of whom is twenty-two. To
this number we have the prospect of some further addition,
although our increase will not probably be large until we are
better furnished with a Library. At present we have but
about 250 volumes, and these not well chosen, being such as
our friends could best spare." Mr. Manning, who was distin-
guished in those early days for his scholar-like attainments
and liberal views, did not overestimate the value and import-
ance of a Librar in connection with an institution of learning.

In the latter part of this year, perhaps through the agency
of Dr. Llewellyn, the College received from the executors of
the Kev. Dr. John Gill, of London, the distinguished Commen-
tator, all his published works, together with 52 folio volumes
of the Fathers, &c. This, in the days of " small things," was
a noble gift, and greatly augmented the treasures of the Li-

The following year, the Rev. Benjamin Wallin, of London,
presented to the Library his published works in 10 vols, " neat-
ly bound and gilt," together with Bunyan's Works, 6 vols.,
Booth's Reign of Grace, and Wilson's Sermons. Donations
were also received from the Rev. Dr. Stennett and others.

In 1774 we find upon the Records of the Corporation, a
vote of thanks to the Rev. Simon Williams, " for his generous
donation to the College Library, of Cudworth's Intellectual
System, in 2 Vols., quarto."

On the 6th of December, 1776, immediately after the occu-
pation of Newport by the British troops, the College was dis-
banded, and the College building, from that time until June,
1782, was occupied as a barrack and hospital for the American
militia and the French troops under Count Rochambeau.
During this confused period, the books were removed to the
country for safe keeping, in the care of the Rev. William Wil-
liams, of Wrentham, Massachusetts, one of the class of seven
that graduated at Warren in 1769, a Baptist Clergyman of
high repute, and for many years a Fellow of the College.

At the reorganization of the College in the Autumn of 1782,
the Hon. Asher Bobbins, LL. D., late of Newport, was ap-
pointed to the office of Tutor, and took charge of the Library

1861.] Brown University. 255

as Librarian. It was then kept in the fast chamber on the
second floor of the College building. An addition was made
to the Library soon after his connection with it. At a meeting
of the Corporation in September, 1783, it was proposed by
Mr. John Brown,* to raise a fund by subscription, for the pur-

*The Hon. John Brown was one of the "four brothers," as they are familiarly-
designated in Providence historj-, (Nicholas, Joseph, John and Moses,) whose com-
prehensive views and mercantile integrity contributed greatly to the prosperity of
their native town. He was a merchant of large wealth, and the first in Rhode
Island who traded to the East Indies and China, — "a man of magnificent projects,
of extraordinary enterprise, and of great public spirit." He was the leader of the
party which, in 1772, destroyed the British armed schooner Gaspee, in Narragan-
sett Bay. It was owing in a great measure to his patriotic exertions that Rhode
Island was finally led to adopt the Federal Constitution. From 1799 to 1801, he
was a member of Congress. In common with his brothers he was ever a munifi-
cent patron of learning. He subscribed £300 towards the erection of University
Hall, the corner-stone of which (in May 1770,) he laid. From 1775 till 1797 he
was the Treasurer of the College, and to the end of life his efforts to promote its
welfare were unceasing. He died in 1803, at the age of 67. Nicholas, the oldest
of the "four brothers," and the father of him from whom the University derives
its name, was also an early, persevering and zealous patron of the College. He
was a Trustee from its commencement in 1764 until his decease. He was a man
of sincere and unaffected piety, and his death, which occurred on the 29th of May,
1701, at the age of 62, was universally regarded as a public loss. Joseph, the
second of the brothers, was a Trustee from 1769 until Dec. 3, 1785, when he died,
at the age of 52. Although engaged in business and entirely self-educated, he
was distinguished for his superior intellectual attainments, and especially for his
skill in mechanical science. At the time of his death he was Professor of Experi-
mental Philosophy in the College. The spacious and beautiful house of worship
erected by the First Baptist Church, (of which he and his oldest brother were
members,) in 1775, has remained for nearly a century as a conspicuous monument
to his taste and genius as an architect. Moses, the youngest of the brothers, died
Sept. 6, 1836, at the advanced age of 97. In 1773 he retired from business, and
at the same time joined the Society of Friends, of which he remained throughout
his long and useful life an influential member. He was a munificent patron of the
Yearly Meeting Boarding School in Providence, and was continually engaged in
the various benevolent enterprises of the day. We have extended this note in or-
der to correct certain mistakes which biographers of these brothers have some-
times made, and especially on account of the great influence which they exerted in
favor of this and other similar institutions. " Ever honored," says Prof. Jewett,
"be the Merchants, who in the early days of the College, brought the spoils of
Commerce and laid them upon the altar of Learning 1 Though self-educated men,
they fully appreciated the advantages of liberal culture, and determined to secure
them for their children and the children of their contemporaries. The sons of these
men have nobly emulated the example of their fathers."

256 The Library of Brown University. [April,

chase of books. To encourage liberality, he told the members
to subscribe what they would, procuring by subscription else-
where what they could, and that whatever the amount was, he
would 'subscribe an equal sum. How well he redeemed his
pledge, is seen by the following extract from a letter of Pres-
ident Manning to the Kev. Caleb Evans, dated September 13,
1784. " We have ordered out from London this Fall about
1400 Vols., being a donation from our Treasurer, John Brown,
Esq. £200 was also subscribed by other members of the Cor-
poration, for Apparatus." The list of the above, it may be
added, was made out chiefly by Mr. Manning and the Chan-
cellor, Governor Hopkins, both of whom were well versed in
English literature, and excellent judges of good books.

In the year 1785, a donation consisting of Walton's Biblia
Sacra Polyglotta, with Castell's Lexicon, 8 Vols., folio, Bayle's
Dictionary, 5 Vols., folio, Chambers' Cyclopedia, 2 Vols.,
folio, several Fathers of the Church, &c. &c, was received
from the Bristol Education Society in England.

This Society was founded in the year 1780, in aid of the
Baptist Academy, at Bristol, "to the end that Dissenting
Congregations, especially of the Baptist Denomination, in any
part of the British Dominions may be more effectually sup-
plied with a succession of able and evangelical ministers."
The Society has been eminently useful. It is now in posses-
sion of a very valuable Library, containing the collection of
books, paintings, etc., of the Eev. Andrew Gifford, D. D., for
many years, sub-librarian of the British Museum, and the Li-
brary of Thomas Llewellyn, LL. D., the distinguished Cambro-
British scholar, to whom we have before referred, as the friend
and correspondent of Manning. Concerning this donation the
Kev. Dr. Caleb Evans, of Bristol, also a friend and correspond-
ent of President Manning, thus writes. " At our last annual
meeting, (August 24, 1785,) I obtained a vote in favor of
your College respecting the many valuable books we have to
dispose of, and am empowered to send you such as may meet
with my approval." Such evidences of kind feeling on the
part of those with whom this country had so recently been at
war, are certainly gratifying, even at the present day.

1861.] Brown University. 257

During this same year, Granville Sharp, Esq., presented
several of his own publications, together with a set of the works
of his grandfather, Dr. John Sharp, Archbishop of York. He
subsequently sent other valuable presents to the Library. In
1787, the thanks of the Corporation were presented to Mr.
John Francis, (son-in-law of John Brown and father of John
Brown Francis, late Governor of Khode-Island,) for a valuable
donation of books.

In the year 1792, Nicholas Brown, then a recent graduate of
the Institution, and a young and enterprising merchant,
commenced his benefactions towards the College, by the
gift of a Law Library, containing about 350 Vols., of val-
uable books, which he had imported from England for that

The Rev. Isaac Backus, of Middleborough, Mass., author
of the Church History of New England, who died in 1806, in
the 85d year of his age and the 60th of his ministry, be-
queathed to the College a part of his Library. The extent or
value of this bequest' it is now impossible to determine, as no
record was made of it at the •time. Among the books thus
presented, however, there is one which deserves particular men-
tion. It is a copy of Roger Williams' " Bloody Tenent yet
more Bloody," being the copy originally presented by Williams
to his friend and fellow laborer, Dr. John Clarke. On a blank
leaf it contains the following words in Roger Williams' hand
writing: "For his honored and beloved Mr. John Clark, an
eminent Witnes of Christ Jesus, ag'st ye bloodie Doctrine of
persecution, etc."

In 1815, Mr. Nicholas Brown gave $500 for the purchase of
books, and his sister, Mrs. Hope Ives, presented a copy of
Dobson's edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica. Mr. Brown
had ten years previous given a similar sum for the same

The next, and the most valuable of all the donations to the
Library, which we have thus far recorded, is the legacy of the
Rev. William Richards, LL.D., of Lynn, Eng. Mr. Richards*

* See Memoirs of the Life and Writings of Kev. William Richards, LL.D., by
John Evans, LL.D., of Islington. 12mo., Chiswick, 1819.

vol. in. 22*

258 The Library of Brown University. [April,

was a native of South Wales. At the age of twelve he had
been at school only one year. From this time till the 24th
year of his age, when he entered the Academy at Bristol, he
received no instruction. But his application to study was
vigorous and persevering. He remained at the Academy in
Bristol two years. After preaching for a short time as an
assistant to Dr. John Ash, of Pershore, he accepted an invita-
tion from the Baptist Church at Lynn, to become their pastor,
and entered upon his public ministry in that town, July 7,
1776, where he continued to reside — more than half of the
time as pastor of the Church — till his death, which occurred
in 1818, in the 69th year of his age.

Mr. Richards seems to have been a man of considerable
learning, particularly in English and Welsh history, and in the
Welsh language and literature. His writings are historical,
political and controversial.* His most important work is the
History of Lynn, in 2 vols., 8vo. Dr. Evans says of it : " It
is not only well written, the style perspicuous and manly, but
it is replete with information as well as entertainment." His
Review of Noble's Memoirs of fhe Protectoral House of Crom-
well, is characterized by Lowndesf as " severe, but at the same
time just." " His Dictionary of Welsh and English," says
Dr. Evans, " a work of minute and wearisome labor, is in high
repute." Mr. Richards was of the General Baptist denomina-
tion, and a strong advocate of religious liberty. It was his
love of the liberal character of this Institution, which induced
him to bestow upon it his library, as appears from the follow-
ing passage in his Memoirs : " Mr. Richards had corresponded
with Dr. James Manning, once President of the Baptist Col-
lege in Rhode Island. From this gentleman he learned the
liberal constitution of that respectable Seminary, and for some
years previous to his death meant to bequeath to it his library.
He accordingly made inquiry of Dr. Rogers, (of Philadelphia,)
whether it was still conducted on the same liberal footing, in
which case he should cherish the same generous intentions

* For a list of his writings — comprising nearly the whole — see under his name
in the Catalogue.
f Bibliographer's Manual.

186J.] Brown University. 259

towards it." This inquiry was answered by Dr. Messer, then
President of the College, in a letter from which it may be well
to extract the following passage : " Though the Charter re-
quires that the President shall forever be a Baptist, it allows
neither him^ in his official character, nor any other officer of
Instruction, to inculcate any sectarian doctrine ; it forbids all
religious tests ; and it requires that all denominations of
Christians, behaving alike, shall be treated alike. The Charter
is congenial with the whole of the civil government established
here by the venerable Roger Williams, who allowed no relig-
ious Tests, and no pre-eminence of one denomination over
another ; and none has ever been allowed unto this day. This
Charter is also congenial with the present spirit of this State
and of this town."

Gratified with this letter, Mr. Eichards bequeathed his li-
brary, consisting of about 1300 Vols., to Brown University.
The original manuscript catalogue of this library, written in a
large round hand, has recently been deposited in the College
archives. It is a singular fact that the will of the donor was
made on the very day on which the honorary degree of Doctor
of Laws was conferred upon him by this College. Mr. Eich-
ards had received no intimation that the honor was intended
for him, nor did he live to hear that it had been bestowed.

The library which he bequeathed to the College is in many
respects valuable. It contains a considerable number of Welsh
books, a large collection of valuable works, illustrating the
history and antiquities of England and Wales ; besides two or
three hundred bound volumes of pamphlets, some of them very
ancient, xare and curious.

About the year 1820 a splendid donation, consisting of 103
Vols., comprising the best editions, mostly in quarto, of the
works of the celebrated French mathematicians, Euler, La-
croix, Lagrange, La Place, etc., besides many valuable theo-
logical works, was made by the Eev. Thomas Carlile, a gradu-
ate of the College in the Class of 1809, and for several years
Eector of St. Peter's Church in Salem, Massachusetts.

About the year 1824, 54 Vols, of valuable scientific works,
including Cloquet's Anatomie, Lamarck's and De Candolle's

260 The Library of Brown University. [April,

Flore Francaise, Cuvier's Regne Animal, and Wilkin's Vitru-
vius, were presented by Mr. John Carter Brown and Mr. Rob-
ert Hale Ives. Often, since that time, the names of these
gentlemen appear among the benefactors of the Library.

For the next valuable accession to the Library— designated
" the subscription of 1825" — the College is indebted to the
efforts of Mr. Horatio Gates Bowen, who was Librarian of the
Institution from 1824 to 1841. At his request several of the
friends of the College subscribed eight hundred and forty dol-
lars, which sum was expended in the purchase of books.

On the return of Professor Elton from Europe, in 1827, do-
nations were received through him, from several distinguished
gentlemen in England, in all 283 Vols. ; besides 85 Vols, of
classical and miscellaneous works purchased by him at the
order of Messrs. Brown & Ives.

The Libraries of the Philophysian and Franklin Societies,
composed of undergraduates, when these Societies became ex-
tinct, were, by provisions of their constitutions, incorporated
with the College Library. They together contained 300 or
400 Vols.

The Government of Great Britain presented in 1835, 110
Vols, of the publications of the Record Commission.

In 1838, Mrs. Elizabeth H. Bartol, wife of Rev. Cyrus A.
Bartol, of Boston, and Mrs. Hepsy S. Wayland, wife of Presi-
dent Wayland, presented 356 Vols, of standard works in
French and Italian literature.

The late Rev. Jonathan Homer, D.D., of Newton, Mass., at
various times made valuable donations of rare and costly theo-
logical books, including some valuable editions of the Bible.
Many of these contain copious and useful manuscript annota-
tions by the learned donor.

About the year 1850, the Hon. Theron Metcalf, LL.D., of
Boston, a graduate of the College in the Class of 1805, pre-
sented to the Library a collection of 38 Vols, of Ordination
Sermons. To this he has since added from year to year, until
it now numbers 61 Vols. These bound volumes contain up-
wards of 1400 discourses preached in the United States, and
mostly in New England, at ordinations, installations and in-

1861.] Brown University. 261

augurations, constituting without doubt the largest collection
of the kind that has ever been made. He has also presented at
various times during the past twenty years, 80 Vols, of Funeral
Sermons arranged in classes as follows, viz. : Ministers, Boston
Ministers, Ministers' Wives, Women, Presidents of the United
States, Judges, Miscellaneous ; 22 Vols, of Century and Half-
Century Discourses ; 20 Vols, of Dedication Discourses ; 12
Vols, of Missionary Sermons ; 12 Vols, of Fourth of July
Orations, including all delivered before the municipal authori-
ties of Boston from 1800 to 1860 ; 5 Vols, of Discourses on
Washington ; 5 Vols, of Phi Beta Kappa Addresses ; 27 Vols,
of Miscellaneous Pamphlets, Plymouth Discourses, Addresses
to Alumni, Fast and Thanksgiving Sermons, &c, &c. The
entire collection presented by Mr. Metcalf now numbers 306
Vols., containing about 8000 separate pamphlets. They have
recently been indexed and catalogued in a most thorough
manner. The importance of making, preserving, and render-
ing available for use collections of this kind, in connection with
the ecclesiastical, civil and literary history of the country, can
hardly be over estimated.

The donations which have thus far been mentioned were for
the most part unsolicited. Some of them at the present day
seem of trifling value. They are not placed on record as pos-
sessed of great interest in themselves, but as a just tribute to
friends in the mother country, and to men, who, in times of
less prosperity than that which the College now enjoys, con-
tributed liberally towards laying the foundations of an honored
and useful Institution.

The Library Fund next claims our attention.


Soon after the accession of the Rev. Dr. Wayland to the
presidency of the College, efforts were made to increase the
efficiency of the Library, and thus provide enlarged means of
liberal and generous intellectual culture, by raising a Fund for
the purchase of books. At a meeting of the Standing Com-
mittee of the Corporation, held Jan. 10, 1831, it was unani-
mously resolved :

1. That immediate measures be taken to raise by subscrip-

262 The Library of Brown University. [April,

tion, the sum of twenty-five thousand dollars, to be appropria-
ted to the purchase of books for the Library, and apparatus
for the philosophical and chemical departments of Brown

2. That the Chairman and Thomas P. Ives, be a Committee
to carry the foregoing Resolution into effect.

Soon afterwards, a meeting of the friends of the Institution
was called for the purpose of seconding this effort. At this
meeting the wants of the Library and the importance of sup-
plying them, were presented and urged by Francis Wayland,
D.D., President of the University, Alexis Caswell, D.D., Pro-
fessor of Mathematics, etc., and John Pittman, LL.D., Judge
of the United States District Court and a member of the
Board of Fellows. Previously to this, however, the Hon.
Nicholas Brown had, with his wonted munificence, subscribed
ten thousand dollars towards the Fund. The subscription was
opened with the following conditions :

1. The whole amount shall be invested in a permanent fund,
of which the interest shall be, from time to time, appropriated
exclusively to the objects stated in the Besolution.

2. The selection of books and apparatus shall be made by
joint committee of the Corporation and Government of the

3. One third of the amount subscribed shall become due on
the first day Of October, 1832, another third on the first day
of October, 1833, and the remainder on the first day of Octo-
ber, 1834.

4. A copy of the subscribers' names, and of the sums sub-
scribed by each, shall be deposited in the Library, and another
among the archives of the University.

The following are the names of the largest subscribers.
Most of the subscriptions were obtained through the exertions
of Dr. Wayland and Dr. Caswell :

Nicholas Brown, Providence, $10,000

Thomas Poynton Ives, Providence, 1,000

John Bowen, New York, 1,000

James Arnold, New Bedford, 300

1861.] Brown University. 263

Nathaniel K. Cobb, Boston, $250

Francis Wayland, Providence, _ 200

Moses Brown Ives, Providenc s, _. 200

Bobert Hale Ives, Providence, 200

Samuel Ward, New York, 200

John B. J ones, Boston, _ 150

Richard Fletcher, Boston, — 150

Thomas Burgess, Providence, 150

Amasa Mason, Providence, __ 150

William Baylies, Bridgewater, Mass., 150

Richard James Arnold, Providence, 150

William Taylor Grinnell, Providence, 150

William Giles Goddard, Providence,. 125

Alexis Caswell, Providence, 125

The whole number of subscribers was 99, the smallest sub-
scription being ten dollars. The sum thus obtained, amounting
to $19,437,50, was placed at interest until it had accumulated
to twenty-five thousand dollars, and was then invested in a
permanent fund, in the stock of the Blackstone Canal Bank,
in Providence, according to the provisions of the subscription,
as already specified. The first dividend became due in July,


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