Two Hundred Years of USC's Libraries

19th Century: Starting a College Library | Some Antebellum Treasures | Intellectual Ambitions | A Working Library | The Later 19th Century

20th Century: The Earlier 20th Century | The Recognition of Heritage | The Millionth Volume | Rare Books and Special Collections | Some Recent Gifts & Acquisitions

Foreword | 200 Years of Librarians | Selected References

A Working Librarys

Building a library, I: the First Separate College Library Building
The library was first housed in the main College building, and from 1817 it was in a new library room over the science hall (where Legare now stands). In December 1836, at the instigation of the new President, Robert W. Barnwell, a committee of the trustees, recommended to the legislature a separate library, which was opened in 1840, at a cost of $23,494. It was then the first separate college library building in the United States, to be followed by Harvard a year later, Yale in 1843-46, and Princeton in 1873. The library was traditionally said to have been designed by Robert Mills, architect for the Maxcy and Washington monuments; it has recently been documented that elements from his ambitious design were indeed used, in the portico and upper library hall, though the plan as a whole was severely pruned for reasons of cost. Shown here is the draft of a letter to the College trustees, presumably from President Barnwell or from Thomas Park (who also acted as College Treasurer), reporting the completion of the building, and requesting transfer of the remaining funds (USC Archives). The well-known painting of the Horseshoeby William Harrison Scarborough (1812-1871) shows the new library on the left, c. 1850.

president BarnwellPresident Barnwell
As President of South Carolina College in 1836-1841, Robert William Barnwell (1801-1883) took the lead not only in obtaining approval for the new library building, but also in establishing increased regular funding for new purchases. "So rapid has been the advance of modern literature," Barnwell argued in his 1836 report, "that those who have access only to the information which our library furnishes, are almost entirely excluded from the existing commonwealth of learning, and are left in profound ignorance of the very commonplaces of modern science." The trustees allocated a stable base of $2000 a year, plus the surplus of the tuition fund, allowing some $4000 to be spent annually. Barnwell served as president again in 1865-73 (technically chairman of the faculty), but instead of returning as president a third time in 1880, in the post-Reconstruction South Carolina A. & M., he preferred to be librarian, holding the post for the last three years of his life. He was succeeded as librarian first by his daughter Eliza (1883-1886) and then his son John (1886-1888).

Henry Campbell DavisA student librarian in the 1840's
At intervals during the 19th century, the librarian was one of the students. Joseph Lowry, for instance, was librarian 1806-1808. The librarian in 1844-1848 was Henry Campbell Davis, son of the physician at the asylum, who graduated from the College in 1849. His son would become professor of history, and a grandson professor of English.

a bill from Wiley and PutnamBuilding a library, II: Buying Books
Quite early in the library's development, the College employed agents and bookdealers elsewhere to procure books for the library. After Nott's buying trip in the 1820's, the College used the London dealer Henry Stevens, Auguste Vattemare of Paris, and the New York and London firm of Wiley and Putnam. Shown here is a bill Wiley and Putnam sent to President Robert Henry in the 1840's, listing their imports in British pounds, and then converting the total at just under $4 to the pound. (USC Archives).

McMasterFitz McMaster as a young man
One of the most active of the antebellum librarians was Fitz W. McMaster (1828-1899), an 1847 graduate, who was librarian from 1848-1856. McMaster subsequently served in the Confederate forces and became very active as an alumnus in the post-Civil War period.

report of the librarianAcquisitions in the 1840's
Fitz W. McMaster,
Report of the Librarian of the So- Car- College- Novr 29th 1848.
Manuscript, 6 leaves. USC Archives.
--McMaster submitted reports like this to the Trustees every six months. He listed every title purchased; in the previous half-year, he had added 264 volumes, including 8 in the huge elephant folio size, for a total cost of $1519.82. The average cost of the books, excluding the folios, had been, $4.50. The large folios, by contrast, had averaged $32 each.

Basilica of St. PeterOne of the last complete sets of Piranesi's Works 
Piranesi, Giambattista, 1720-1778.
Basilica of St. Peter, Rome,
from vol. 16, Vedute di Roma, in Opere di Giambattista Piranesi.
29 vols. in 26. Parigi: Da'Torchi de' Fratelli Firmin Didot Libraj, Stampatori dell' Instituto di
Francia, 1835-37. Quarter calf, marbled boards, stamped South Carolina College Library.
--the eighteenth-century engraver Giambattista Piranesi worked directly on the plates, rather than preparing full-scale paintings or drawings first. Now best known for his dark views of prison vaults, and his record of classical ruins, he was most influential in his own time for his views of Rome and his engravings of classical antiquities. Following his death, his son, and then the Paris firm of Firmin-Didot, issued collected editions of his works printed from the original copper plates. The South Carolina College set, acquired during President Barnwell's tenure in late 1830's, was the final such collection. Among the library's other important large-scale illustrated antiquarian works were D'Hancarville's Etruscan, Greek and Roman Antiquities from the Cabinet of Sir William Hamilton (1766-67), Kingsborough's Antiquities of Mexico (1830-48), and Champollion'sMonuments de l'Egypte et de la Nubie (1835-45).

The Hunting of the Grizzly Bear"The Most Celebrated Book on Indian Life and the American Frontier"
Karl Bodmer,
"The Hunting of the Grizzly Bear," Plate 36,
from Maximilian, Prince of Wied, 1782-1867, Travels in the interior of North America. . . .
Translated from the German, by H. Evans Lloyd
London: Ackermann, 1843.
--Prince Maximilian's account of his travels in the United States in 1832-34, first published in German in 1839, is now chiefly known for its stunning illustrations. The illustrator was a previously little-known Swiss artist, Karl Bodmer, who traveled with Maximilian up the Missouri on the steamboat Yellowstone. The plates were hand-colored aquatints, with the legend in three languages. The library's set, originally purchased for $150, has been mounted and framed for a previous exhibition. Other significant related works in the library include M'Kenney and Hall's Indian Tribes of North America (1836-44) and Schoolcraft's Indian Tribes of the United States (1851-67).

a bill for bindingBuilding a library, III: Binding
Many of the College books purchased during the 19th century were rebound in sturdy full calf, with the name of the library stamped in gold on the front cover. (For an example, see case 4.)
Shown here is a bill from April 1848, for $61.09, both for binding recent purchases and for repairs and rebinding for older items that had been heavily used during the library's first half-century (USC Archives).

college bound itemThe College bindings
Haywood, Francis, 1796-1858.
An analysis of Kant's Critick of pure reason, by the translator of that work.
London: William Pickering, 1844. Contemporary brown calf.
--this volume represents the hundreds of current publications in many fields purchased for the College in the mid-19th century. In their handsome and distinctive College bindings, with the addition of successive layers of library shelf-marks and loan instructions, most remained in the general stacks for well over a century. The purchase of books by and about Kant is significant; James Henley Thornwell (1812-1862), professor of philosophy and later president of the College, was concerned to build up collections in religion and philosophy following the departure of the deistic Thomas Cooper.

1849 catalogueBuilding a library, IV: Cataloguing
[? Fitz W. McMaster, 1828-1899],
Catalogue of the Library of the South Carolina College.
Columbia, SC: A.S. Johnston,1849. Recently rebound.
--the sharp increase in the library's holdings during the 1840's necessitated a new printed catalogue. The 1849 catalogue, listing some 6,600 titles (some multivolume sets), abandoned the infuriating Baconian subject-arrangement of Johnson's 1836 publication for a simple alphabetical sequence. Among very recently published books listed on this page is Tennyson's The Princess, which had only appeared in 1847. The library's interleaved copy of this catalogue, with manuscript insertions for further acquisitions, survives in USC Archives. By 1858, another 1,850 titles had been added. Taking account of multivolume sets, holdings before the War significantly exceeded 20,000 volumes.

catalogue of SC College, 1853The Library and students in the 1850's
Libraries, from Catalogue of the Trustees, Faculty and Students of the South Carolina College, January, MDCCCLIII.
Columbia, SC: Steam-power press of R. W. Gibbes, 1853. Original wrappers.
--By 1853, the library was open to students three times a week. The notes on the curriculum and set texts carried over from the previous page show the range of topics now being studied in one class or another. The College library itself was supported by the libraries of the two college literary societies, the Clariosophic and the Euphradian.

contemporary readingFrom the Clariosophic Society Library
Lockhart, John Gibson, 1794-1854.
Peter's letters to his kinsfolk.
3 vols. 3rd ed. Edinburgh: William Blackwood, 1819. Contemporary half calf.
--student intellectual (and social) life in the antebellum period relied heavily on the two college literary and debating societies, the Clariosophic (with its hall in Legare) and the Euphradian (with its hall in Harper). The libraries that the societies maintained for their members included, alongside standard texts, lighter and more contemporary reading than that available in the main college collection.

government report 1853-1856A government report of the mid-nineteenth century 
United States War Dept.
Reports of explorations and surveys: to ascertain the most practicable and economical route for a railroad from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean made under the direction of the secretary of war, in 1853-6.
12 vols. In 13. Washington: A.O.P. Nicholson, printer, 1855-1860. Calf half-binding with marbled boards.Alfred Chapin Rogers Collection.
--the library has been collecting government publications and documents since at least the 1830's, though it only began to receive them systematically in the later 19th century. This spectacular supplementary volume from the military survey of routes for a transcontinental railroad, with lithographed views of the Rockies and western landscape, is not the original College copy, but a better-preserved example, from a gift collection.

loan ledgerWhat the faculty were reading: Preston and La Borde
South Carolina College Library
Loan Ledger, 1837-1848. USC Archives.
--This loan ledger recording the books borrowed by the College faculty (and trustees) indicates something of the range of faculty interests. Displayed are sample pages of loans to William Campbell Preston (1794-1850), the former governor and US senator who became president of the College in 1845, and Maximilian La Borde (1804-1873), the longserving professor of rhetoric who would become the College's first historian. Preston was himself a notable book collector, and a 1494 volume of works by Albertus Magnus that he presented to the college is shown elsewhere in the exhibit, though most of his books, donated to the Columbia Athenaeum, were lost in a fire in 1858.

Tycho BraheTycho Brahe in the South Carolina College Library
Tycho Brahe, 1546-1601.
Tychonis Brahe Dani De mundi aetherei recentoribus phaenomenis, liber secundus qui est de illustri stella caudata ab elapso fer? triente Novembris anni 1577, usq; in finem Ianuarii sequntis conspecta.
Uraniburgi: Christophorus Uveida, 1588. Contemporary manuscript annotations. Modern calf.
--the mid-19th century College did not only buy current publications but continued its quest for important books of all periods. Among its greatest treasures are several early editions of works by the aristocratic Renaissance Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe, whose private island and observatory of Uraniborg had its own printing-house. This title prints reports on the comet of 1577. The Brahe works do not appear in the library catalogues of 1836 and 1849; the bookdealer's invoice of January 1856 also displayed shows onlyWorks of Brahe, in 5 volumes (cost $25, for the set, in quarter russian leather bindings), but Walker's subsequent manuscript catalogue (in next case) spells out the separate volume titles, and makes clear that this 1856 purchase was indeed the early Brahe editions still in the library.


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