Beacon Street Diary
I thought I spotted something interesting this afternoon and soon learned that it certainly was a unique book. As I was re-shelving, I turned around and sighted a small book with a marbled cover. When I pulled it from the shelf, I saw the title, The Old Librarian's Almanack 1774. I brought it back to my office to examine and was impressed by the title page stating that this was a reprint of "a very rare pamphlet." Now I was curious and thinking in terms of money (was this worth a lot of money?), I searched for it in WorldCat. I was slightly disappointed that there were over 200 copies available in libraries but thought there could be some value in selling our copy. I then check the web site of a used book dealer and the first title that came up was The History of a Hoax, Edmond Lester Pearson, John Cotton Dana, and the Old Librarian's Almanack. Our little find was a hoax, a literary hoax, created by librarians. See further information on Hugo Cunningham's quotations site. Reading this book makes me laugh and I've enjoyed sharing such advice as, "Let no Politician be in your Library, nor no man who Talks overmuch," with other staff members. This book has added humor to our day. (FYI: copies sell in the range of $20-$40.)
My efforts last week were focused on completing the catalog records for a section of Hymn Books. A large part of the collection is comprised mainly of hymn books from the 19th century with a few 17th and 18th century editions included. The books range from miniature books that make you wonder how good the eyesight was of the person using this book to the large and heavy that cause you to wonder about arm strength. Hymnals capture the history of worship, popularity of verses, and family histories. May of the hymnals I handled last week had inscriptions from mothers and fathers to daughter or son, uncles and aunts to nieces and nephews and between cousins. Some of these held further inscriptions to others from the original recipient and a few named churches. Marbled end papers and gilt edges created beautiful books often with leather bindings stamped with the owner's name. The process makes me want to learn more about these old books. In many of these hymn books, I noted a book plate "New England Psalm. Hymn and Tune Books -- Collection of Rev. Collins G. Burnham". Since these were the hymnals without music, I'm looking forward to the wonderful books I may catalog in the section of hymnals with music.
We have three interns from Simmons College Graduate School of Library and Information Science this semester. The archive interns are Kristin and Diana. Kristin continues to organize the Park St. Church collection that she began working on last semester. We are happy to have her back. Diana is working on the manuscript collection of sermons. She started the program at Simmons in January. Michelle is our records management intern. She is reviewing and organizing the local Boston church history materials in the library.
The first images have been added to our photo gallery. They are of the current reading room and one of a former reading room (from the 19th century). There will be more to come!
- Jessica Steytler, archivist and web wrangler
Welcome to the Congregational Library blog. We've started this blog to share and communicate the news of the library and to allow our patrons to comment on activities, books, and ideas of interest to the constituencies of the library. We plan to post pictures and images from our collections. You'll be informed on the progress of the automation of the card catalog and other projects. We invite your comments.