Brown Univeristy Library

Three for Three Million: Introduction

     What is a library then? A library. . . is really just a collection of voices preserved down through the ages from all over the world, ready to speak to any or all who can appreciate or need them . . . the voices of those who help us understand what it means to be human, to rejoice in the world. . . and to provide guidemarks and danger signs for our ongoing journey into the future.
     The existentialists were wrong, you see. The human condition is not one of loneliness and despair, but of community. John Donne had it right when he said that no man was an island, that we are joined to the whole -- and it just so happens that the joining, the connection to the whole, is made possible by our libraries.

David Kohl, Dean of Libraries, University of Cincinnati 
"Celebrating Libraries: A Link with Humanity, Past and Present" 
Association of Research Libraries News
, March, 1994

In October 1997, the Brown University Library -- our own collection of voices "connecting us to the whole"-- celebrates the acquisition of its Three Millionth Volume. It is not so very long ago (May 1988) that we held our Two Millionth Volume event, with Vartan Gregorian, then the president of The New York Public Library, as speaker at a special Commencement Forum. The fact that we have achieved another such milestone in less than a decade has much to say about the number of books that continue to be published in this computerized age, and about the enduring importance of the book as a transmitter of knowledge. But perhaps more important, this milestone also speaks of the University's commitment to the Library, of the hard work and dedication of concerned faculty and library staff, and of the generosity of literally thousands of donors, from faculty to alumni to current students to individuals who have no connection with Brown at all. When we honor the acquisition of the Three Millionth Book, we honor all these contributors.

Although the Library has purchased several hundred thousand books since 1988, over that same time period we also received 230,351 gift volumes, many of which were added to the collections (duplicate volumes and titles not appropriate for the collections were given to other libraries or sold to benefit the Brown University Library, with the consent of the donors). Over the same period, more than $6,759,362 was donated to the Library, much of it going to acquisitions, making possible the purchase of titles which otherwise would not be here. Indeed, it is hard to overemphasize the role of our many friends in getting the Library where it is today.

Nor do we celebrate the growth of the book collections, alone. Today's libraries, more than ever, are immense information buffets offering the variety of formats human beings use to transmit information, because of new capabilities in technology, the special needs of a discipline, or because of the nature of the information itself. In addition to the three million volumes now held by the Library, members of the Brown University community also have access to 1.5 million microforms, more than 132,000 maps, 864,000 graphic items, over 51,000 audio recordings, over 13,000 current serial subscriptions, some 3,000 videos and over a mile, in linear feet, of manuscript collections. As if this were not enough, the Library offers nearly 2,500 computer files, these not only containing millions of pieces of information but, thanks to the sophisticated searching and indexing capacity of such databases, permitting study and research approaches which simply were not feasible with print resources.


John Babington
Pyrotechnia, or A discourse of Artificial Fire-works...
London: Thomas Harper forRalph Mab, 1635

The Three Millionth Book. This is the first work in English to deal exclusively with the subject of "Fireworks for Pleasure".

Title Page

St. George and the Dragon, figures suspended on rope and illuminated with fireworks.

When Paul R. Dupee Jr. '65 made his generous contribution to the Library as part of the Campaign for the Rising Generation, and indicated his willingness to purchase the official Three Millionth Book, we realized that, through this milestone, we not only had an opportunity to enrich our collections but to make a significant statement about the Brown University Library of yesterday, today, and tomorrow. In fact, we celebrate this occasion with the acquisition of a trio of collections that not only incorporate the Three Millionth Volume, but that have something to say about the role of libraries, the changing world of information, and the growing internationalization of the University. Each of these collections is described more fully later in this publication, but briefly, our Three Millionth acquisitions are as follows:

The Paul R. Dupee Jr. '65 Collection on Fireworks was almost certainly the largest collection of its kind in private hands and an acquisition in keeping with the Library's existing strengths in history of science, military history, performance magic, and mathematics. Covering a wide range of titles from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries, and addressing subjects from recreational fireworks to the science of artillery, the Dupee Collection on Fireworks serves to illustrate the importance of collectors and libraries in preserving the many expressions of humankind's cultural and intellectual history. The collection is significant in part because it incorporates titles, now of considerable interest to scholars, that were not created as scholarly works and that survive only because of the vision of collectors and librarians. Chris Philip, author of the standard reference work on fireworks literature and the creator of the Dupee Collection, wrote: "It is perhaps ironic that, despite the great popularity of these books, they are today very scarce . . . it is probable that their very popularity literally wore the books out and they were then thrown away, whereas the learned leather-bound . . . treatise looked good on the bookshelf but was seldom read and has thus survived." The Library's acquisition of the Dupee Collection on Fireworks means that these rare titles will survive for the use of faculty and students for many generations to come.

The Dupee Collection on Fireworks is also the source of our official Three Millionth Volume, John Babington's Pyrotechnia, Or a Discourse of Artificiall Fire-Works (London: 1635), the first English work to deal with recreational fireworks and one of the most elaborate, and scarce, of the early major books in the field.

Luys Collado
Prattica Manuale dell'Artiglieria...di Fuochi Artficiali; e di varij secreti ....
Milan: Filippo Ghisolfi and Giovanni Battista Bidelli 1641.

The eleventh chapter in this influential artillery manual deals with rockets and other
pyrotechnic displays, and features a wood-cut of a girandole - a thick walled tube filled with a slow burning composition and drilled with many angled holes each of which contains small rocket.

Title Page.

Illustration of a girandole.

As indicated earlier, today's libraries are no longer exclusively repositories for the printed word, and to exemplify the transformation of libraries and scholarship as we enter the twenty-first century, we selected as our second Three Millionth Book acquisition a group of databases from the British publisher, Chadwyck-Healey. The four databases that form the Paul R. Dupee Jr. '65 Digital Reference Collections - Literature Online (LION), Patrologia Latina, Archives USA, and the Periodicals Contents Index - represent in the finest way the consolidation of the old and the new that is taking place in the Brown University Library and in other research libraries around the world. The Patrologia Latina Database, for example, contains the complete text of the work which has long been the standard reference for the majority of medieval authors, from Tertullian in 200 A.D. to Pope Innocent III in 1216, but thanks to this new format this important resource can be searched in new and different ways. LION, among its other resources, includes the complete English poetic canon from 600 A.D. to 1900, 21 different versions of the Bible in English, and over 40,000 American poems, from the Colonial period to the early twentieth century. While the Library is making these databases available, students and faculty don't have to come to the Library to use them; they can be searched via the Worldwide Web, from any point on the campus network or from the user's own home.

In 1994, Professor Thomas J. Biersteker, director of Brown University's Watson Institute for International Studies, wrote: "Every day we encounter reminders of the importance of global forces that affect our lives...the Institute was established in 1986 to ensure that the University continuously develop its international dimensions to benefit students, faculty, and society." Over the course of the last twenty years, Brown's international programs have grown and
flourished, from the Center for Latin American Studies to the Watson Institute's World Hunger Program to the Program in South Asian Studies. Academic Departments such as Portuguese and Brazilian Studies and East Asian Studies introduce students to the literature and culture of these vital parts of the world, and produce new scholarship that enhances our understanding of these nations and of ourselves. Today, more than twelve hundred Brown University students come from countries outside the United States. As the University grows more international both in population and in scope, so does its Library, and in celebration of this transformation we acquired our third Three Millionth Book collection, the Paul R. Dupee Jr. '65 Mexican History Collection.

G.F Lyon's Sketch Book, London 1827.  "An Indian of the village of Tanjuro"

The Dupee Mexican History Collection expands the John Hay Library's holdings in post-Independence Latin American history with sources for the study of the Mexican republic. No other Latin American republic has contributed so many of her sons and daughters to the population of the United States; our music, language, and political life are more strongly influenced each year by the cultural heritage of U.S. citizens of Mexican descent. The Dupee Mexican History Collection, with titles dating back to 1809, fills a gap in our resources for Mexico's history and reminds us, as well, of the interdependence of our two nations. The acquisition of this fine collection renews our commitment to supplement the collections of the John Carter Brown Library in the history of the American republics. Moreover, it is a sign of Brown University's recognition that the multi-national heritage of our country is a matter of pride and interest to the university community and to the nation.

As these three acquisitions illustrate, the Brown University Library enters the twenty-first century continuing to play the role it has filled in the University since 1764: providing a wide variety of materials for teaching, research, and private study; serving as a microcosm of ongoing University academic interests and as a reflection of worldwide research and scholarship; and preserving the recorded thought and achievement of our era for the benefit of tomorrow's students and scholars. As my colleague David Kohl wrote, "A library. . . is really just a collection of voices preserved down through the ages from all over the world." Through its Library, Brown University has done its own significant part to preserve a great many of the world's precious voices.

As for those learned scribes. . . it has come to pass that their names will endure forever, although they are gone, having completed their lives. . . they made heirs for themselves of the writings and books ... which they made.... Their... memorial tablets (are) covered with dust, their chapels forgotten. But their names are pronounced because of these books of theirs. . . more profitable is a book than a graven tablet, than a chapel-wall well built. . . a man has perished, and his corpse has become dust. . . but writings cause him to be remembered in the mouth of the story teller.

Papyrus Chester Beatty IV, translated after A. H. Gardiner in 
W. K. Simpson's "Literature of Ancient Egypt"

By Merrily E. Taylor, Joukowsky Family University Librarian

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