Thursday, March 19th, 2015...1:25 pm

The Sarah Orne Jewett library project

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The following is the fifth part in a series on books from the library of Sarah Orne Jewett (1849-1909) and her family.

Houghton Library is home to many author’s libraries or portions of libraries—Bronson Alcott, William James, Thomas Carlyle, the Dickinson family, John Keats, and more. Houghton “inherited” a number of these author libraries from the Widener Library Treasure Room and, as staff time has permitted, the Rare Book Team has been doing “clean up” on these collections, making sure that all the volumes are represented in HOLLIS, and updating the records to make the books more easily findable.

The most recent project was the Sarah Orne Jewett library, a Treasure Room legacy with its own classification, SOJ. Houghton has been in discussion with several other New England repositories, including Historic New England and the University of New England, about a collaborative digital project centered on Jewett’s manuscripts and correspondence; knowing more about the Jewett library might be helpful.

The books came to the Harvard College Library in 1931, the bequest of Sarah Orne Jewett’s nephew Theodore Jewett Eastman. The books were classed “SOJ” and a handwritten shelf-list made. Or that was what we assumed!

During his work on the Jewett library, Library Assistant Noah Sheola discovered that many books that were part of Eastman’s bequest were not listed in the SOJ shelf-list. It appears that the shelf-list may not have been created until after 1935, and that before that date many books were given Widener classification numbers and placed in the Widener stacks. Some of these were later transferred to Houghton, and some no doubt remain in the Widener stacks. Sheola was able to track down a few with the help of an article that appeared in the Colby Library Quarterly that describes the Jewett family library in some detail. See Bowditch, Mrs. Ernest (1961) “The Jewett Library,” Colby Quarterly: Vol. 5: Iss. 12, Article 6

A search of the annual report of the College Library for 1931-1932 revealed that the Eastman bequest numbered 5,561 volumes and 1,008 pamphlets. A search by Harvard University Archives reference staff uncovered  “A list of books from the Bequest of Theodore Jewett Eastman that bear the marks of ownership of Sarah Orne Jewett” (UAIII 50.29.33.10), a typescript of 57 pages and about 1,100 titles, compiled in 1933. About 300 Jewett books can now be found at Houghton; 180 of the books are classed SOJ, the rest were classed and re-classed over the years. Most of these are to be found in the AC85.J5554 range, the Houghton class for Jewett, but some found their way into STC (pre-1640 books), or Inc (pre-1500 books), or were classed under their respective authors.

Most, but not all, of the Jewett books had records in HOLLIS, but few records indicated Jewett’s ownership. Each record was edited to provide copy-specific information and, most importantly, added entries supplied so that one can now search HOLLIS for “Sarah Orne Jewett, former owner” in All Items—Keyword—Author and find the books.

This accounts for some 300 of the 1,100 books identified as belonging to Sarah Orne Jewett in 1933. What happened to the rest? The search continues.

Contributed by Leslie Morris, from information supplied by Noah Sheola.

1 Comment

  • I think an account of the approach to collections management under which the collection in the bequest was distributed into the stacks of Harvard libraries—as well as something of the story of who did this—would ve interesting.