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May 1998

HAVERFORD COLLEGE

No. 23


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Roberts Vaux (1786-1836)

Making the Connection: Tocqueville, Vaux, and Haverford

On a bright afternoon last October, an enormous yellow bus with the word "C-SPAN" emblazoned on its side rolled in behind Magill Library carrying journalists, technicians, and state-of-the-art video and audio equipment. The bus had arrived at the latest stop on its "Tocqueville's America" tour, a nation-wide journey commemorating the historic U.S. visit in 1831-32 of the observer extraordinaire of the American condition, Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859). Sponsored by the French government and accompanied by Gustave de Beaumont, Tocqueville visited the United States to conduct a study of prison reform. The C-SPAN crew was at Haverford to interview the staff of Special Collections about Roberts Vaux (1786-1836), an extraordinary Quaker social reformer with whom Tocqueville met during his visit.

Roberts Vaux, the son of a well-known Philadelphia Quaker family and connected by marriage to another, the Wistars, was nurtured on the Quaker values of public service and private morality. After working briefly in business, he turned his full energies to reform issues. During his lifetime, he belonged to nearly 50 organizations which reflected the breadth of his interests. These ranged from civic service (elected to Philadelphia City Council and served as a judge in the Court of Common Pleas) to education (president of the Pennsylvania Society for Promoting Public Schools) to social reform (president of the Temperance Society and a delegate to the anti-slavery convention) to religion (officer of the Bible Association).

Roberts Vaux was also Secretary and Commissioner of the Philadelphia Prison Society. Vaux believed strongly that labor coupled with imprisonment and solitary confinement in which to contemplate one's errors would lead prisoners to change their ways. He advocated for the construction of the Eastern State Penitentiary which was built on this idea. Given his involvement in prison reform, it was not surprising that he met with Tocqueville and Beaumont in 1831. Twenty months after their visit, Alexis de Tocqueville and Gustave de Beaumont wrote to Roberts Vaux: "No one more than yourself has aided us in our investigations of prisons and we have been instructed by the aid of your wisdom." As a sign of their gratitude, Roberts Vaux was among those to whom they dedicated their book, On the Penitentiary System in the U.S. and its Application in France

The C-SPAN segment which aired in November 1997 featured an interview which highlighted items from Haverford's Special Collections including a number of letters of Roberts Vaux, a silhouette cut by Auguste Edouard of Eliza Vaux and her nine children, a Tocqueville letter and manuscript, "Questions concerning the situation of Negroes in the United States," an intricate Wistar family genealogical chart, and two letters of Gustave de Beaumont asking questions about African Americans and their Meetings.

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Our Student Employees: The Libraries' Real Treasures

Imagining the libraries without student employees is a rather unpleasant prospect: piles of unshelved books, out-of-service copy machines, computer crashes, a backlog of unprocessed materials, and reduced hours of operation. From the students who work in "the backroom" to those who work the front-line at the circulation desks, student workers keep everyday library operations running smoothly. The one characteristic they all share is indispensability; we just could not get along without them.

Our most visible students are the ones who work at circulation desks checking materials in and out, reshelving and retrieving items, and answering phones. Less visible to library users but no less important to library operations are the student assistants who work behind the scenes in Reference, Interlibrary Loan, Acquisitions, Cataloging, Serials, Government Documents, Administration, Special Collections and the Bindery. These students assist library staff with the many tasks involved in making and, just as importantly, keeping library materials available to library patrons.

As the following examples illustrate, the work of student employees, like all library work, is an interesting mix of the routine and the unique, of age-old art and new-age technology. One of the least glamorous but most important library activities is inventory, the process in which what is actually on the shelf or on loan is checked against our holdings list. Using a hand-held scanning device, student assistants scan the bar-code on each book in a given section. The library computer system, Tripod, compares these bar-codes to library records of our holdings in that section and points out problems such as missing or misshelved books, incomplete Tripod records, and incorrect call numbers. Inventory is time-consuming and tedious. However, with library collections shelved in six different locations on campus and circulated among three college communities, it is the only truly effective way for the libraries to keep records current and identify missing items for replacement.

In contrast to the routine of inventory-taking, bindery work provides students an opportunity to learn the specialized skills involved in bookbinding and conservation. A recent project involved the conservation of a three-volume first edition of Charles Dickens' novel, Great Expectations, which arrived in the bindery with worn and detached covers, a broken binding, and deteriorating paper. Emily Clark '98, working with Bruce Bumbarger, the Library Bookbinder, disbound the books, washed and deacidified the pages, mended tears, and resewed the binding. She reconstructed the covers using a special Japanese paper to reinforce and fill in missing sections of the cover cloth. After reattaching the covers to the resewn pages, Emily built a customized protective box in which the set will be stored in Special Collections.

While materials conservation involves using the techniques of the past, other aspects of library work involve the latest technologies of the present. Jon Willis '98 was originally hired to assist with routine computer maintenance. However, the job has grown to encompass much more than routinely updating software and cleaning the occasional dirty keyboard. Jon assists with computer problems and projects ranging from troubleshooting software and hardware problems to updating library web pages. Last summer he worked on redesigning the library homepage (www.haverford.edu/library/web/library.html) and is largely responsible for the look and feel of the current version. In addition to working on the library website, Jon has assisted librarian Margaret Schaus with the software-related aspects of producing the Medieval Feminist Index, an online index to research about women, sexuality, and gender in the Middle Ages (see Newsletter, no. 20), and initiated improvements in its organization and functionality.

As one can clearly see, student employees are vital to the work of the campus libraries. Among the libraries' many resources, they truly are one of the most valuable.

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Summer Concert Series

If you visited Magill Library last summer, you may have wondered at the grand piano and rows of folding chairs by the lobby fountain. Concerts in the Library? Yes! During June and July, we offered a series of nine noontime recitals by members of the Haverford community. Thanks to the generosity of the student, staff, and faculty musicians who volunteered their talents (and the Music Department which loaned us the piano!), the Library resonated with all kinds of music from pop to classical.

Plans are underway for this summer's concert series. As this newsletter goes to press, we already have a number of musicians lined up to perform. Kristin Fehlauer '99, will give a piano recital; Edward Collins-Hughes, Circulation Services Specialist, will give an organ recital; Emma Lapsansky, Professor of History and Curator of the Quaker Collection, will present a program entitled "Love Songs from the '90s;" Donna Fournier, Music Librarian, will be joined by friends in a performance of music for three viole da gamba; Curt Cacioppo, Professor of Music, will give a piano recital; and the Facultones, a faculty a cappella group, will sing classical and popular choral works. We hope you can include these concerts in your summer plans. A final schedule will be available in May . To obtain a copy, contact Donna Fournier at 610-896-1005. See you by the fountain!

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The Case of the Accidental Acquisition

In the usual course of events, Haverford's manuscript collections increase by gift and purchase. However, the occasional acquisition has been known to happen by accident. Such was the case of the gift in 1944 of two handwritten manuscripts by British mystery writer Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930). Written in Doyle's own hand, the manuscripts -- a nine-page manuscript entitled "An Iconoclast" and a one-page manuscript entitled "Giant Maximin" -- are bound together in vellum with the words, "An Iconoclast, A. Conan Doyle," neatly inscribed by Doyle on the cover. Both manuscripts have page numbers and word tallies (2,800 for "An Iconoclast"; 6,000 for "Giant Maximin") written by someone else, perhaps an editor, in blue pencil. A little typed note laid in with the manuscripts states that they were published in Last Galley in 1911.

Here were the clues and still some questions: If the word count did not tally for "Giant Maximin," where were the rest of the pages? Who bound these scripts together? How did they get to Haverford? What was the connection between this British novelist of intrigue and violence and a quiet Quaker college across the Atlantic?

These mysteries remained unsolved and undisturbed until 1997 when we received a letter from the Newberry Library in Chicago. They had all but one page of "Giant Maximin" and proposed a reunion with the page in Haverford's collections. So it was that the case of Haverford's accidental acquisition was reopened fifty years later.

According to College archives, the gift came to Haverford through the auspices of Christopher Morley, Haverford class of 1910, a well-known American author. A search revealed that the donor of the Haverford Doyle manuscripts had presented a number of important literary collections to libraries during the 1940s. While the donor appeared to have no direct connection to Haverford, he was well acquainted with Morley. A Sherlock Holmes enthusiast who had written introductions to modern editions of Doyle's works in the 1940s, Morley was also loyal to his Alma Mater. In a recently acquired 1943 letter, Morley suggested to the donor of the Doyle manuscripts that if he did not have another institution in mind to enrich with his munificence, he might consider Haverford College. Consider he did, and in 1944 Haverford's manuscript collections were increased by the two Doyle manuscripts.

There are parts of the story that remain mysterious; we may never know who counted words and numbered the pages or who made the binding mistake. However, as with any mystery, we were pleased when, more than a half-century after it began, the story came to a good ending. The first page of "Giant Maximin" was sent off to Chicago to be reunited with its peers, and two rare book repositories continued their history of collegiality.

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Errata

Emma Lapsansky apologizes to Baltimore Monthly Meeting for mislabeling it Baltimore Yearly Meeting in the last issue of the Newsletter (no. 22). Lapsansky also wishes the readership to know that the word "wreak" should replace the word "reek" in the last paragraph on page two.

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