Reconstruction and After
The catalogue that might have been
The Revd. Charles Bruce Walker (1820-1875), a South Carolina graduate and Episcopal clergyman, was librarian from 1862-1873. The massive manuscript catalogue that he compiled, displayed here, gives the fullest picture of what the library's nineteenth-century supporters had accomplished, but it was never printed. In print, it would have drawn renewed national attention to the College, which as late as 1875 was still the twelfth largest college library in the country (USC Archives).
The library after the War, I: the report of 1874
This two-page committee report summarizes the much fuller account compiled by Major Erastus W. Everson (U.S.A.), a former Republican journalist who became librarian in 1873-1874. Everson's defensive audit found that, of the 26,819 books in Walker's catalogue, 26,186 were still on the shelves, usefully listing the missing volumes (some 90 had been on loan in 1865, and were lost in the February fires). Remarkably, "this valuable library escaped the vandalism that destroyed so many others," but its physical condition was deteriorating badly, and Everson presciently argued that "the duty of its preservation should not be lost sight of in the joy of its present existence" (USC Archives).
The library after the War, II: a spectacular gift
Maius, Junianus, fl. 1475.
De priscorum proprietate verborum.
Treviso: Bernardus de Colonia, 1477. Contemporary oak boards, calf spine. Presented to the University of South Carolina by Fisk P. Brewer, June 1874.
--Among the donations listed in Everson's report was this handsome incunabula in its original binding, for many years the oldest book owned by the library. Fisk Brewer, professor of ancient languages in the Reconstruction university, 1873-1877, also researched the library's 1479 edition of Pliny, publishing an account of his discoveries in the New York Tribune.
The library after the War, III: Richard Greener
Richard T. Greener (1844-1922), the first Harvard African-American graduate, was professor of philosophy in the Reconstruction university, and took over as librarian also after Everson left unexpectedly in May 1875. Everson's 1874 report had recommended recataloguing the library, in "the form . . . used in the Harvard Library, . . . that obviates continual duplicating as time wears on," but he had only succeeded in disarranging the previous system. It was Greener who, with modest student help, rearranged the library, began the library's first card catalogue, and wrote a report for the federal Bureau of Education that showed South Carolina as still ranking twelve among college libraries nationwide. After the Reconstruction University was closed, Greener (who had taken a law degree at Carolina) became both instructor and dean in the Howard University law school, and later served as US Consul in Bombay and agent in Vladivostock. His daughter, Bella da Costa Greene, became prominent in the antiquarian book world as librarian, agent and adviser to J. Pierpont Morgan. Displayed here are a card to Greener from the great Charles A. Cutter of the Boston Athenaeum, just one year before Cutter's ground-breaking Rules for a Printed Dictionary Catalogue (1876), together withan acknowledgement from the newly-founded Johns Hopkins University, for a copy of La Borde'sHistory of South Carolina College that Greener had sent to help found the library, expressing the hope that one day Johns Hopkins would be able to reciprocate (USC Archives).
The old college and new methods
Isaac Means (1826-1898), an 1846 graduate and former secretary of state (1858-61), took over the librarianship from the Barnwell family in 1888. Means's brother Beverly had been librarian in 1857-1862. Means, with his daughter as assistant, served through ten of the library's leanest years; the acquisitions budget for 1895 had totalled only $71. His successor, Margaret H. Rion, daughter of a prominent graduate, was librarian 1898-1912, one of only two women to hold the post thus far. With the encouragement of President Woodward (who was titular librarian for her first two years), Miss Rion greatly modernized library procedures, with a card catalogue and Cutter subject-classification numbers.
A student tribute to "the new century in library administration"
This description, from the Garnet and Black yearbook for 1900, hails the card catalogue and the new courses being offered in "library science" (i.e. reference and research skills). The collection now totalled 32,744 volumes, but the photograph on the facing page reminds one that the building remained in its original form, without later additions.