Leaves of an Hour

Mid Nineteenth Century Literary Collections:
Charles Coffin Jewett and the Catalogue of 1843

Charles Coffin Jewett

Charles Coffin Jewett, class of 1835, was hired in 1841 by the Joint Library Committee at Brown "'to make out a new and improved Catalogue of the University Library, and superintend the printing of the same; and that during the period in which he shall be so occupied, he be charged with the ordinary duties of Librarian.' The catalogue, when completed in 1843, received favorable notice in the North American Review and other publications."(1) "The 560 page catalog, published in 1843, was highly unusual for its time. It listed the library's 10,235 volumes alphabetically by author, gave biographical information on authors and bibliographical information on books, and contained a full, cross-referenced subject index. The Brown University Library catalog of 1843 became the model for other American library catalogs for years to come." (2)

The catalogue's index lists 219 British and Scotch poets (many from the 50 volume series Works of the British Poets, acquired prior to 1826), and only 18 American poets. Fitch's Beauties of Religion (Providence, 1789) had been held since prior to 1793. The remaining titles were very probably acquired since the appearance of the catalogue of 1826. Jewett's catalogue also notes in its introduction that the libraries of two undergraduate literary societies, the Philermenian Society and the United Brothers' Society, held "together, about seven thousand volumes of works mostly in modern English Literature". (3) This is an indication that the practice of the previous century, in which access to literary and popular works was provided by personal libraries of local collectors, was continued in the nineteenth century by the libraries of the literary and debating societies at Brown.

As librarian, "between 1842 and 1848, Jewett made many important purchases for the library. With funds provided by the Library Committee and 'friends of the institution,' in particular John Carter Brown, Jewett made several book-buying expeditions to Europe. In all, he acquired upward of 7,000 volumes in German, Italian, French and English, for the most part in the areas of history, art, literature and language. Among these were a set of the Moniteur Universel (Paris, 1789 - 1826), Luigi Canina's Architettura Autica (Rome, 1834 - 1845), and the Museo Borbonico (Naples, 1844) which detailed the articles removed in recent excavations from Pompeii and Herculaneum. Jewett was particularly pleased to have bought at auction a copy of the Description de l'Egypte (Paris, 1809 - 1828) in twenty six volumes and 500 plates; 'one of the most magnificent and costly works ever published,' according to his notes."

"Of all his purchases, Jewett was happiest with a collection of works by and about Shakespeare, which he described as "one of which any Library may well be proud." This collection, which cost 100 - the funds being provided by Moses Brown Ives - had been assembled over a 20 year period by Thomas Rodd, an eminent bookseller described by Jewett as "one of the most intelligent Booksellers, and probably the best Bibliographer in London." The collection, Jewett believed, was 'almost perfect' and was 'without doubt, by far the richest in this country, and perhaps the richest in the world' in works about Shakespeare. Some gaps in the collection were filled in 1860, when the University purchased - this time with funds provided by John Carter Brown - 150 volumes of Shakespeariana at the sale in New York of the collection of William E. Burton; all but 29 of the Burton volumes were editions of the complete works or single plays. The Brown Ives Shakespeare Collection remains an important resource for the study of early Shakespearean scholarship. "

"At the time of his departure for the Smithsonian in 1848, Jewett left behind a library that had doubled in size, to over 20,000 volumes, in just over five years. Jewett's successor, Reuben Aldrich Guild, Class of 1847 and the first chronicler of Brown's history, was Librarian for 45 years. He established the library's card catalog, oversaw the building of the first structure at Brown to serve exclusively as a library , and greatly increased the collections. He was also a founder of the American Library Association and in 1858 wrote The Librarian's Manual, one of the earliest works on librarianship published in the United States. " (4)


*Brown University. Library. A catalogue of the library of Brown University, in Providence, Rhode- Island. With an index of subjects. Published Providence, [Brown University], 1843.
Brown University Archives

Charles Coffin Jewett. Photograph
Brown University Archives

Titles from the Collection:

*Brown University. Library. A catalogue of the library of Brown University, in Providence, Rhode- Island. With an index of subjects. Published Providence, [Brown University], 1843.
Brown University Archives

Detail from the subject index: Poetry
Bailey, Isaac, class of 1810. A poem, delivered before the Philermenian Society of Brown University, September, A.D. 1812. By Isaac Bailey, Esq. ; Published by request of the Society. Providence : Printed by David Hawkins, Jun., 1812.
Brown University Archives
Bayley, Peter. Poems, by Peter Bayley. Philadelphia, Printed by T. & G. Palmer, for J. Conrad & co.; M. & J. Conrad & co., Baltimore; Rapin, Conrad & co., Washington; Sommervell & Conrad, Petersburg; and Bonsal, Conrad, & co., Norfolk, 1804.
Starred Book Collection
Bryan, Daniel. The mountain muse : comprising the adventures of Daniel Boone; and the Power of virtuous and refined beauty / By Daniel Bryan. Of Rockingham county, Virginia. Harrisonburg: [Va.] Printed for the author by Davidson & Bourne, 1813
Harris Collection of American Poetry and Plays
Bryant, William Cullen. Selections from the American poets. New-York, Harper & brothers, 1840.
Harris Collection of American Poetry and Plays
*Byles, Mather. Poem on the death of King George I. and the accession of George II. [Boston, 1727]
Harris Collection of American Poetry and Plays
Durfee, Job, class of 1813. Whatcheer, or, Roger Williams in banishment : a poem. by Job Durfee, Esq. Published Providence, R.I. : Printed and published by Cranston & Hammond, 1832.
With the author's manuscript corrections inserted.
Harris Collection of American Poetry and Plays
Hitchcock, David. The shade of Plato: or, A defence of religion, morality & government. A poem in four parts. By David Hitchcock. To which is prefixed, a sketch of the author's life. Hudson [N.Y.] Printed at the Balance-Press, 1805.
Harris Collection of American Poetry and Plays
Pabodie, William Jewett. Calidore; a legendary poem: by William J. Pabodie. Boston, Marsh, Capen, Lyon, and Webb, 1839.
"Poem pronounced before the Society of United brothers, of Brown univ., Sept. 3, 1839"
Sidney Rider Collection
Phelps, S. Dryden (Sylvanus Dryden), class of 1844. Eloquence of nature, and other poems. Hartford, Gurdon Robins, 1842.
Brown University Archives
Snowden, Richard. The American revolution: written in scriptural, or, ancient historical style... By Richard Snowden. Baltimore: Printed by W. Pechin, no. 10, Second-street, [n.d.]
Harris Collection of American Poetry and Plays
Trumbull, John. The poetical works of John Trumbull, LL. D. Containing M'Fingal, a modern epic poem, revised and corrected, with copious explanatory notes; The progress of dulness; and a collection of poems on various subjects, written before and during the revolutionary war. Hartford: Printed for Samuel G. Goodrich, by Lincoln & Stone, MDCCCXX.
Starred Book Collection
The untaught bard, an original work. New York, Deare and Andrews, 1804.
Harris Collection of American Poetry and Plays


1. Encyclopedia Brunoniana Online

2. Special Collections at Brown University : a history and guide.[ Leslie T. Wendel, editor] Providence, R.I. : Friends of the Library of Brown University, 1988.

3. Brown University. Library. A catalogue of the library of Brown University, in Providence, Rhode- Island. With an index of subjects. Published Providence, [Brown University], 1843.

4. Special Collections at Brown University : a history and guide.

Early Literary Collections:
The Williams Table & the 1973 Catalog
Early 19th Century Collections:
The 1826 Catalog
Mid 19th Century Collections:
Charles Coffin Jewett & the Catalogue of 1843
The Harris Collection:
The Original Collectors
The Harris Collection &
Late 19th Century Literary Collecting
The Harris Collection:
Harry Lyman Koopman
The Harris Collection:
S. Foster Damon
Contemporary Collecting:
Building on the Past
Leaves of an Hour

Last Updated: Wednesday, 25-May-2005 12:25:13 EDT.
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