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University of South Carolina, Columbia, S.C. Spring 2002

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Library Receives Major American Literature Collection

 


Left to right: Provost Jerry Odom and Dr. Joel Myerson

Thomas Cooper Library's Department of Rare Books and Special Collections announces the addition to its American literature holdings of a rich new collection featuring works by major 19th-century writers.  The collection is coming to the library through a gift-purchase agreement with Carolina Distinguished Professor of American Literature and former chair of the Department of English, Dr. Joel Myerson.  Professor Myerson, who is one of the country's leading scholars in 19th-century American literature, has built up the collection over a period of 30 years.

The Myerson Collection brings to the University comprehensive collections of first editions for Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), Margaret Fuller (1810-1850), Theodore Parker (1810-1860), Walt Whitman (1819-1892), and Emily Dickinson (1830-1886), along with manuscripts, letters, proofs, later and posthumous editions, and associated scholarship.  With these core collections are smaller collections for lesser-known writers of the Transcendentalist movement, such as Christopher Pearse Cranch (1813-1892), significant groups of early editions from other writers of the period such as Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry David Thoreau, Bronson and Louisa May Alcott, Herman Melville, and Harold Frederic, and a seven thousand-volume reference collection of the scholarly publications about the period.  

Among the outstanding items in the Myerson Collection are the first edition of Emerson’s Phi Beta Kappa Address, “The American Scholar” (1837), and Emerson’s corrected proofs for its second edition; Margaret Fuller's own copy of Woman in the Nineteenth Century (1845), inscribed by her; the first edition of Whitman’s Leaves of Grass (1855), making Thomas Cooper Library one of very few to hold both variants of this edition, along with galley proofs and wrappered issues from Whitman's later additions; and Emily Dickinson's first and only lifetime publication in book-form, together with both British and American issues of the first posthumous Dickinson collection.  For Emerson alone, there are fifty original autograph letters and signed documents.  The logo Professor Myerson has selected for the collection, Cranch's caricature depicting Emerson's“transparent eyeball,"  is from the original pen-and-ink sketch in the collection.

The Myerson Collection, totaling more than 11,000 volumes, was conservatively appraised in 2000 at more than $750,000.  

Professor Myerson, who came to USC in 1971, has published some 60 books on 19th-century American literature, from his early studies of Margaret Fuller to such recent titles as Transcendentalism: A Reader (2000), Whitman in His Own Time (2000), and The Later Lectures of Ralph Waldo Emerson (2 vols., 2001).  He has published the standard scholarly bibliographical studies on each of the main authors he has collected, and he established and edited the major scholarly journal in the period, Studies in the American Renaissance (20 vols., 1977-1996). 

 

This page updated February 5, 2002 by Amy W. Yarbrough.
This page copyright © 2002, The Board of Trustees of the University of South Carolina.
URL http://www.sc.edu/library/reflections/major.htm