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Some preliminary research and some help needed

Libraries of Early America

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Oct 4, 2008, 8:20pm Top

I have been trying to find some North Carolina libraries to add and have tracking some of them down. The Moseley/Hasell library seems to have been dispersed and parts of it destroyed by fire. There is a possibility that a catalog exists of the remnants available in 1908, but I'm still looking for it.

Archibald D. Murphey's library was partially sold to repay debts, but Justice Thomas Ruffin, who acquired most of his estate may have inventoried the books prior to it. 102 of them were purchased by the State Library and a list of them exists in a letter to Gov. Swain.

The most hopeful one is the Johnston or Hayes Plantation library. It was started by Royal Gov. Gabriel Johnston and included some volumes from his step father in law Royal Gov. Charles Eden. Fortunately for us, he had only one heir, his nephew, Gov. Samuel Johnston. Gov. Johnston was elected but turned down the office of President of the United States under the Articles of Confederation. His library went to his son upon his death in 1816 and came through his descendants intact until 1999. It was then donated along with most of the Hayes Plantation library to the North Carolina Collection at UNC.

Now for the help part, I have contacted UNC and they are considering whether this is a project that would be beneficial for the collection and if so will mail me a copy of the catalog. There was another catalog done of part of the library, 1,527 out of 4,500 books, by a Rev. Philip W. Alston. According to "Libraries and Literature in North Carolina in the Eighteenth Century" this was done "before the war" so approx. 1855-60 and was sent to Edmund M. Barton of the American Antiquarian Society of Worcester. Does anyone have any idea about this organization and if its papers are in any library around MA? Thanks for any help.

I can't wait until it expands to institutions as I have found some of the State Library's catalog before the State Capitol burned and may be able to get UNC's early catalog.

Oct 4, 2008, 9:35pm Top

Cool. If you need me to be in touch with UNC, please let me know - I've been contacting the other institutions and will be happy to help however I can. The AAS does still exist; I'll email my contact there to see if the Alston catalog is around (it's not in their online catalog).

Institutions are a very long way down the road. The focus is going to be on individuals for the forseeable future, because there are lots of them (here's the wiki-list I've started) and because it's more interesting to see what people had in common, then and now. I'd love to add institutions, and if we get to a point where we've really run out of individuals and have enough resources and support to continue, we'll do it, but I suspect it'll be quite some time before that's the case.

Oct 5, 2008, 4:59pm Top

Here are the WorldCat listings for books which include the subject phrases "private libraries" and "North Carolina." I think the library of William Tryon looks pretty cool, and it's only 11 pages.

Oct 5, 2008, 5:33pm Top

I've started a state-by-state chronological sweep for these libraries, and will be adding them to the wiki list as I go. Since the Libraries of Early America project is going to be a little more "official" in the sense that we have institutional partners, &c., if anyone is interested in working on any of these libraries, please contact me before starting. There will be some additional editorial oversight policies in place, among other differences with the Legacy Libraries in general. And since we're really just getting started with this, I'd ask everyone to hold off for a little while until I can get those plans hammered down.

Oct 5, 2008, 6:51pm Top

So . . . you're saying I should delete that copy of Twilight I added to Ben Franklin's library? ;)

Oct 5, 2008, 10:10pm Top

Heh! He probably would have found that very amusing (or at least very puzzling).

Jul 13, 2012, 12:33am Top

New Library

Has anyone, besides me, ever heard of Blennerhassett Island in the Ohio River. The island was the sight of the estate and mansion of Harmann Blennerhassett who had assembled a substantial library. Blennerhassett settled on the island in 1791 and after involvement with Aron Bur lost the island and the mansion burned in 1811.
The library was considered to be the largest library west of the Appalachian Mts

Has anyone ever heard of or seen an inventory of this library?


Jul 13, 2012, 6:00am Top

Hmm, good question. I've never seen an inventory of it. There are HB papers at LC:

I've just fired off a note to the folks at the Blennerhassett Island site to see if they know of a list, as well. I'll let you know if I hear back.
- Jeremy

Edited: Jul 13, 2012, 6:57am Top

Added a page for HB at http://www.librarything.com/legacylibraries/profile/1517 so we can track sources, &c. I've also contacted the Western Reserve Historical Society, which reportedly has a list of property confiscated from HB's estate.

This, from the West Virginia Archives page, is also very interesting:

Wood, Warren. Letters concerning Burr and Blennerhassett books, 1901. Letter to Warren Wood, Ravenswood, from Charles Felton Pidigin Boston, concerning Wood's library of Burr and Blennerhassett books, 1901.
Collection #: Ms80-169
Location: In box with manuscript collections 80-131 through 80-1

Anybody live in WV? Their rules for out-of-state research requests are fairly onerous ...

Jul 14, 2012, 2:13pm Top

Hey Jeremy

Thanks for the great work in tracking this. I'm impressed with how fast
you got info on this. I don't seem to be able to get into the data you did.
I will be driving cross country in Sept and will try to route
myself through Charleston, WV later this summer. Assuming I can make some
arrangements to visit there, I'll make a research stop and dig into it........


Oct 29, 2012, 9:41am Top

Just a quick update: I just heard from someone at the Blennerhassett Museum, and they're working on getting a list together for us. So, stay tuned!

Oct 30, 2012, 1:10pm Top

Cool. Sounds interesting!

Dec 12, 2012, 6:11pm Top

Sounds great jeremy

I've been traveling and out of touch.



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