Marks in books

Staff Picks: Jeff Croteau, Director of Library & Archives

RPG Wright title page and ownership label_web
Title page and ownership label from Thomas Smith Webb's The Freemason’s Monitor; or Illustrations of Freemasonry (Salem: Published by Cushing and Appleton, 1816). RARE 14 .W368 1816f. Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, Lexington, Massachusetts.

My favorite object in the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library's collection is a copy of Thomas Smith Webb’s book The Freemason’s Monitor, formerly owned by Richard P.G. Wright (1773?-1847).

This book is my favorite object because it tells a fascinating story that is not apparent at first glance. It is one of four copies in the library’s collection of the 1816 edition of Webb’s Monitor, published in Salem, Massachusetts. But it is only this particular copy that is my favorite, because of its history of ownership. I have always loved the idea that marks in books can tell us something beyond the object itself. As the rare books librarian Roger Stoddard observed in his 1985 book Marks in Books, Illustrated and Explained, “When we handle books sensitively, observing them closely so as to learn as much as we can from them, we discover a thousand little mysteries...”

This copy of Webb’s Monitor has both paper ownership labels inside, as well as handwriting, indicating that the book was originally owned by Richard P.G. Wright, who acquired it in 1822. I was not originally familiar with Wright’s name, and it was only when I noticed that someone had pasted a short newspaper article about African-American participation in Freemasonry into the back of the book that I wondered whether Wright himself was black. I asked myself whether, if I dug a bit deeper, perhaps this book might tell a bigger story. And it did.


RPG Wright and family ownership marks_web
Wright family ownership marks from Thomas Smith Webb's The Freemason’s Monitor; or Illustrations of Freemasonry (Salem: Published by Cushing and Appleton, 1816). RARE 14 .W368 1816f. Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, Lexington, Massachusetts.

A little investigation revealed that Richard P.G. Wright was a black abolitionist and a Freemason who, along with his more well-known son, the preacher Theodore Sedgwick Wright (1797-1847), was active in predominantly white lodges in Schenectady, NY, as early as 1818 until their deaths in 1847. We can assume that this book held important meaning in Wright’s family since this copy of Webb’s Monitor also contains ownership marks indicating that it was later passed down to Wright’s daughter, Lydia L. Thompson, and then to his grandson,  Samuel Thompson.

Inspired by my curiosity from the markings in this book, I eventually followed a trail that showed that, at the same time that they were active Masons, both Richard P.G. Wright and Theodore Sedgwick Wright were heavily involved in the abolitionist movement. Both men were members of the American Anti-Slavery Society and the Committee of Vigilance. Richard P.G. Wright’s Schenectady barbershop was located along the Erie Canal, and was known to be part of the Underground Railroad. Theodore S. Wright came to abolitionism through his father, Richard P.G. Wright, who himself attended abolitionist meetings at least as early as 1816, and who named his son after Theodore Sedgwick, a Massachusetts jurist and legislator who successfully defended an enslaved Massachusetts woman against her master, from whom she had fled.

Richard P.G. Wright, then known as Prince G. Wright, was raised a Master Mason in a lodge of black abolitionists – Boston’s African Lodge No. 459 – in 1799. Yet upon relocating to Schenectady, both he and his son were members of, or visitors to, at least five different predominantly white Masonic lodges or chapters. In Scottish Rite Freemasonry, Wright served as both Treasurer and Tiler in Schenectady’s Delta Lodge of Perfection as early as 1822, serving alongside Giles Fonda Yates (1799-1859), who would later become Sovereign Grand Commander of the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction’s Supreme Council.

Unlike much archival material, books – even the rarest of books – are not unique. However, individual copies of books, with interesting histories of ownership, like this one, can tell a story different from every other copy of this book in existence. We can be grateful that the Wright family wrote their names in this book so that we can tell their story today.

The History of New-Hampshire: Enter Lydia Phillips and Mathew Carey

Last week and the week before, we talked about our copies of the first two volumes of Jeremy Belknap's The History of New-Hampshire. Today, we continue looking at the book, especially at the paper label that is pasted on the inside of the front cover of each of the two volumes.

Our story was left hanging in July 1811, with the death of John Phillips, who had been the proprietor of Phillips Circulating Library for the previous eleven years. Lydia Phillips, John's widow, placed an advertisement on July 15, just ten days after his death. The ad below appeared in the August 16, 1811 edition of Poulson's American Daily Advertiser, with its heart-breaking appeal to the good will of others:

Lydia_Phillips_ad [Transcription: The Subscriber [i.e. Lydia Phillips], having been suddenly deprived of an affectionate husband, now finds the maintenance of a helpless family of six small children dependent entirely on her exertions, which she earnestly solicits the aid of her friends and a liberal public to encourage, by their patronage of the establishment of a Circulating Library, lately conducted by her husband, which she intends to continue at No. 119, South Third Street, opposite the Mansion House Hotel, and to use her best exertions to render it deserving of the support which she thus in behalf of herself and her children most respectfully and with all the solicitude of an anxious mother, solicits.]

Despite the desperate tone above, things appear to have worked out for Mrs. Phillips. A year later, an advertisement stated that “Mrs. Phillips returns her sincere thanks to her friends and the public, for their generous patronage and hopes to merit a continuance of their favor, by procuring all the NEW WORKS that can be obtained…” She then goes on to mention some new books that have arrived, including a novel called Sense and Sensibility, which had just been published in London and was arriving by ship to American bookstores and circulating libraries.

We now fast-forward to 1820, twenty years after John Phillips founded his circulating library. Mrs. Phillips Circulating Library was clearly still in business at the time, as I found an ad for “Mr. Willis’s Concert,” which mentions that tickets cost $1 and could be had at both Mathew Cary & Son’s Bookstore and Mrs. Phillips’s Circulating Library. Mathew Carey was, among other things, one of the leading publishers in Philadelphia in the early 19th century. (Like John Phillips, Carey was also a Freemason. He also happened to be Catholic, and published Spanish-language Masonic books in Philadelphia in the 1820s.)

PhillipsCareyLabelsecondcrop Which brings us back to our book and this label, which indicates that Lydia Phillips sold this book to Mathew Carey in Philadelphia on November 28, 1821.(Incidentally, this was published in three volumes, but we only own volumes I & II.) As to the specific circumstances surrounding the sale of this book, I have not yet found anything conclusive. But let’s take a quick, closer look at the label. It is interesting to note that, except for Lydia Phillips’ name, everything on the label is printed, and not handwritten. One might assume that that Carey printed these labels and put them in books he was purchasing at the time. But what’s so curious about this label, though, is that the date is also printed, not written, in. This leads me to believe that Carey purchased a number of books on November 28, 1821. I can’t think of why else would he would print the labels with a specific date. (Any thoughts, readers?)

One possibility is that Carey planned on purchasing a number of books at a book auction in Philadelphia on that day. It’s also possible that he may have purchased all or most of Lydia Phillips’ stock from her. If it didn’t have the date, or if the date was written in, I’d assume that Carey perhaps regularly kept these blanks on hand and brought them out when he purchased a book that had someone else’s markings in it. As for why Phillips name is written in, it’s possible that her signature was another way of authenticating his ownership, or simply that he bought from many people on that day and simply had them fill in their names. This, obviously, will require further research.

A couple of final notes, with regard to Carey purchasing this book from Lydia Phillips. I talked to James N. Green, librarian at the Library Company of Philadelphia, and he informed me that an 1822 printed Catalogue of the Library of M. Carey, Philadelphia, Belknap’s 3-volume History of New-Hampshire is listed. We can’t say conclusively, although it seems quite possible, that it may be these volumes bought from Lydia Phillips.

As to the fate of the Phillips Circulating Library, the 1821 and 1822 Philadelphia city directories list Lydia Phillips’ name and “circulating library, &c.” with an address of 119 S. Third St. In the 1823 directory, however, we see that she has moved to 182 Mulberry St. and an occupation is no longer listed.

You can preview two interesting essays about Mathew Carey's publishing business as it relates to Masonry in the book Freemasonry in Context: History, Ritual, Controversy, edited by Arturo de Hoyos and S. Brent Morris, which reprints articles previously published in Heredom:

Paul Rich, Guillermo De Los Reyes, and Antonio Lara. "Smuggling Masonic Books to Mexico: A Philadelphia Publisher and the Inquisition."

Paul Rich and Antonio Lara. "The Mystery of Mathew Carey: Continuing Adventures in Masonic Bibliography."

You can also take a look at that book, as well as all issues of Heredom, in our library:

de Hoyos, Arturo, and S. Brent Morris. Freemasonry in Context: History, Ritual, Controversy. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2003.
Call number: 10 .F74 2003

Info about our two volumes of The History of New-Hampshire:

Belknap, Jeremy. The History of New-Hampshire. Volume I. : Comprehending the Events of One Complete Century from the Discovery of the River Pascataqua. Philadelphia: : Printed for the author by Robert Aitken, in Market Street, near the Coffee-House., M.DCC.LXXXIV. [1784]
Call number: RARE F 34 .B45 v.1 1784

----. The History of New-Hampshire. Volume II. : Comprehending the Events of Seventy Five Years, from MDCCXV to MDCCXC. : Illustrated by a Map. Printed at Boston, : for the author, by Isaiah Thomas, and Ebenezer T. Andrews, Faust’s Statue, no. 45, New-bury-Street., MDCCXCI. [1791]
Call number: RARE F 34 .B45 v.2 1791

Gift of Mrs. Alice Lund

Phillips Circulating Library: A Brief History

PhillipsInkStampLast Tuesday, we started looking at two volumes in our collection that were formerly owned by Phillips Circulating Library. Today, a brief history of that library:

A Brief History of Phillips Circulating Library
In the late 18th century, John Phillips was a "Ladies’ and Gentlemen’s Hair Dresser" doing business at 55 Arch Street in Philadelphia. In an advertisement dated November 18, 1800, Phillips announced that he had moved his business to 22 South Fourth Street where, in addition to selling items as various as gentlemen’s neck cushions, pomatum by the pound and ounce, and Church’s pectoral pills, Phillips stated that “as a repository for second hand books and odd volumes has long been wished for by many persons in this city…the subscriber [i.e. Phillips] having on hand several hundred volumes, proposes the commencement of such a plan.” This appears to be the beginnings of Phillips Circulating Library.

A month later, Phillips advertised a “Repository of Literature,” stating, in part, that his business could be a means for “holding forth a cheap means of information to the less wealthy part of the community.” Three years later, in 1803, Phillips took out an ad for his “New and Increasing Circulating Library” in which he mentions that he just received a new shipment of books from England. Additionally, the advertisement states that “He has the honor of informing his patrons that for the convenience of those who wish to study the French language, he has opened a French Circulating Library, and has selected the best novels in that Language.”  In this same ad, Phillips mentions that a catalogue “will be ready for delivery in a few days.”

By 1809, Phillips Circulating Library seemed to be doing quite well. He advertised a number of novels that he had recently received via ship from England, and mentioned that a new catalogue would be ready shortly, which suggests that his catalogue from 1803 was no longer an adequate reflection of the library’s contents. In June of 1810, Phillips relocated his library to 119 South Third St., opposite the Mansion House.

Phillips_obit A year later, however, Phillips was dead. His obituary in the July 6, 1811 Poulson’s American Daily Advertiser reads “Died, last evening, Mr. John Phillips, Librarian. His friends and Masonic brethren are invited to attend his funeral this morning, at 8 o’clock, from his late dwelling opposite the Mansion House.” It was not until I read Phillips obituary that I discovered that he was a Mason. (Image of obituary from America's Historical Newspapers.)

The story of Phillips Circulating Library doesn’t end here however. You may ask, what became of Phillips’s family and his business after his death?

Next Tuesday: Mathew Carey, the well-known Philadelphia publisher, enters the picture.

Belknap, Jeremy. The History of New-Hampshire. Volume I. : Comprehending the Events of One Complete Century from the Discovery of the River Pascataqua. Philadelphia: : Printed for the author by Robert Aitken, in Market Street, near the Coffee-House., M.DCC.LXXXIV. [1784]
Call number: RARE F 34 .B45 v.1 1784

----. The History of New-Hampshire. Volume II. : Comprehending the Events of Seventy Five Years, from MDCCXV to MDCCXC. : Illustrated by a Map. Printed at Boston, : for the author, by Isaiah Thomas, and Ebenezer T. Andrews, Faust’s Statue, no. 45, New-bury-Street., MDCCXCI. [1791]
Call number: RARE F 34 .B45 v.2 1791

Gift of Mrs. Alice Lund

The History of New-Hampshire: Tracing ownership marks

[Note: This is the first of a three-part post. The story will continue next Tuesday.]

HistoryNHtp A close look at our copy of the first two volumes of Jeremy Belknap's three-volume The History of New-Hampshire reveals former ownership marks that, with a bit of research, uncovers an interesting story about who owned these books before they eventually came in to our collection. The book is marked with both an ink property stamp as well as a paper label. Today, and next week we'll focus on the story behind the ink stamp. Two weeks from now we'll look at the paper label.

The ink stamp clearly shows that this book was owned by Phillips Circulating Library (volume II is shown here, and volume I contains the same mark). While the idea of for-profit libraries may sound odd today, circulating libraries - as such for-profit libraries were commonly called in the early 19th century - were partly able to thrive due to a lack of free, public libraries in the United States during the first half of the nineteenth century.  The first half of the nineteenth century was the heyday of the circulating library in America - a period during which circulating libraries in America were established in both large cities and small villages. Circulating libraries were almost always run in conjunction with another business, usually a bookshop.  While circulating libraries were most often run by men out of their bookshops, many examples of women-run circulating libraries also exist, some in conjunction with bookshops and others out of businesses that were more likely to serve a predominantly female clientele, such as millinery shops, music stores, and fabric shops. Our story includes a female proprietor of a circulating library, which we'll address in more detail next week.

Because circulating libraries were for-profit businesses, they left many traces of their existence through advertisements. Using America's Historical Newspapers, a subcription-based searchable database of early American newspapers, I was able to trace some of the history of Phillips Circulating Library over approximately 20 years. 

Next Tuesday: A brief history of Phillips Circulating Library

Belknap, Jeremy. The History of New-Hampshire. Volume I. : Comprehending the Events of One Complete Century from the Discovery of the River Pascataqua. Philadelphia: : Printed for the author by Robert Aitken, in Market Street, near the Coffee-House., M.DCC.LXXXIV. [1784]
Call number: RARE F 34 .B45 v.1 1784

----. The History of New-Hampshire. Volume II. : Comprehending the Events of Seventy Five Years, from MDCCXV to MDCCXC. : Illustrated by a Map. Printed at Boston, : for the author, by Isaiah Thomas, and Ebenezer T. Andrews, Faust’s Statue, no. 45, New-bury-Street., MDCCXCI. [1791]
Call number: RARE F 34 .B45 v.2 1791

Gift of Mrs. Alice Lund

Exciting Discovery - Artist of Mark Book Identified!

A92_001_1T1Tabbot One of the staff’s favorite objects in the Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives collection at the National Heritage Museum is the mark book for King Hiram Royal Arch Chapter (see Archivist Catherine Swanson’s previous post about the book).  For several years, we theorized that the artist of the book, an “M.S. Harding” who signed several pages, might be a young woman.  The technique exemplified in the drawings and the use of watercolors to create them suggest the kind of work taught in numerous New England academies for young ladies during the early 1800s (see an image of one page on the left).

New research has led to the exciting discovery that “M.S. Harding” was indeed a young woman, Martha S. Harding of New Salem, Massachusetts.  Born in 1813, Martha was the daughter of Alpheus Harding (1780-1869) and Sarah Bridge (b. circa 1788).  Her father belonged to King Hiram Royal Arch Chapter, which was established in nearby Greenwich, Massachusetts in 1815.  Massachusetts history buffs will recognize Greenwich as one of the towns submerged in the 1930s to create the Quabbin Reservoir.  Alpheus Harding, the pastor of New Salem Congregational Church, chose a mark that reflects his vocation.  It shows a lamb holding a Christian cross.  Two other pages from the book are shown here; the one on the right depicts the mark chosen by Thomas Thwing and shows Martha’s signature at the bottom.A92_001_1Thwing

Alpheus also served as a preceptor at New Salem Academy.  School records show that his children - including Martha, who was a pupil from 1822 to 1829 - attended.  It is possible that she learned to draw and paint while at the Academy, perhaps even making the mark book while she was a student.  When she was 25, in 1838, Martha married Asarelah M. Bridge (1810-1865), who was a student at New Salem Academy in 1830.  Sadly, Martha contracted consumption soon after her marriage and died in 1841 at the young age of 27.  But her drawings live on in the King Hiram Chapter mark book, allowing us to admire her artistic skill and teaching us that the families of 19th-century Freemasons were familiar with the symbols and values of the fraternity.

Left: Mark of William K. Talbot, King Hiram Royal Arch Chapter Mark Book, 1825-1838, Martha S. Harding (1813-1841), New Salem, Massachusetts, Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives, National Heritage Museum, Museum purchase, A92/001/1, photograph by David Bohl.

Right: Mark of Thomas Thwing, King Hiram Royal Arch Chapter Mark Book, 1825-1838, Martha S. Harding (1813-1841), New Salem, Massachusetts, Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives, National Heritage Museum, Museum purchase, A92/001/1, photograph by David Bohl.

First Masonic book published in America

Franklinconstitutions Among the many gems in the library's collection is the first Masonic book printed in America. The book is called The Constitutions of the Free-Masons and was printed in June 1734 by Benjamin Franklin.

Why did Franklin print this book? It seems likely that Franklin had perceived that copies of the first edition of the Constitutions (which was published in 1723 in London)  were not easily available in the British colonies and, businessman that he was, he decided to print a new edition.

Franklin’s Constitutions was printed when Franklin was only 28 years old, almost exactly at the time that Franklin became Grand Master of Pennsylvania. Interestingly, Franklin did not give himself credit anywhere within the book for being the printer.  How do we know then that Franklin printed this item? One way we know is that scholars have attributed this book to Franklin’s press on the evidence of the type used – a sort of typographical forensics. There is also further, secondary evidence, such as the series of advertisements for Franklin’s Constitutions which first appeared in Franklin’s newspaper, the Pennsylvania Gazette in May 1734, all explicitly stating that the book is “Reprinted by B. Franklin.” It's interesting to note that Franklin called his edition a "reprint" (and didn't give himself credit as the printer anywhere in the book). In fact, if you compare his "reprint" to the 1723 edition, you can see that he tried to mimic the look of the original. (Speaking of mimicking the look of the original, a very well done digital (but not digitized) copy of Franklin's 1734 Constitutions is available here.)

Franklin’s Constitutions is an exceedingly rare book. Three fairly recent bibliographic censuses have been done for this book – in 1971, 1974, and 2003 (see the end of this post) – each of which counted less than twenty existing copies of this book in the world.  That being said, there may be more copies of the book in private hands. Our copy was described in the 1971 census by Harold V.B. Voorhis as follows. You will notice that many aspects of marks in this book are noted:

14 – Academy-Borneman Copy
I found this unbound copy in the Academy Bookshop in New York in 1933. It was purchased with a library in Long Island, New York, bound with other items and removed after purchased by the bookshop. It was sold to Brother Borneman of the Committee on Library of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania for $500. After his death it was sold at auction in the Parke-Bernet Galleries to an unknown bidder for $500. It is now rebound. On page 30 is the signature of “Lewis Evans” and on page 86 there is an unidentified word at the bottom. Several pages of the book contain circular water-marks about the size of a silver dollar. The circle is quartered by diagonal lines and in the quarters are the letters “S-P-D-S” starting at the top, reading left to right.

I will briefly address the watermark mentioned above, if only to say that while this is certainly evidence of a very interesting kind (although I’ve not been able to trace which paper maker used this watermark), it does not give evidence of who owned the book, but rather who had a hand, in a way, in making the book.

I'm interested in "marks in books" - those traces of evidence that tell us more about a book's past (for example, who owned a particular book before it came to reside in our library), and so I was excited to find out that, as mentioned above, our copy of Franklin's Constitutions contains the signature of a former owner of the book, Lewis Evans, as well as the date 1741. Lewis Evans was an important early mapmaker, draftsman, and geographer. He was an associate of Franklin's as well - and Franklin published the book that accompanied Evans's famous 1755  A General Map of the Middle British Colonies (another item in our collection, that we'll address in a future post).

A question that I'd like to answer, but haven't yet, is why did Lewis Evans purchase Franklin’s reprint of the Constitutions? I haven't found evidence that Evans was a Freemason. Also, why did Evans obtain this book in 1741, as he presumably did, seven years after the book was published? Franklin most likely printed the Constitutions with the hope that members of various colonial Masonic lodges would buy up the edition. As late as 1750, though, Franklin was still advertising remaindered copies for sale.

Did Evans buy his copy out of curiosity about Freemasonry? Or, because he was a business associate of Franklin, did Evans obtain the book at a reduced cost or possibly even receive it for free, since Franklin was clearly not having an easy time selling out the edition he printed? These are questions I don't have answers for yet. I'm hoping that, with further research, more answers may possibly come to light.

Sources for censuses of Franklin's Constitutions:

Voorhis, Harold V.B. "Benjamin Franklin's Reprint of Anderson's Constitutions of 1723: The First American Masonic Book." Transactions of the Quatuor Coronati Lodge, Volume 84 (1971), pp. 69-74.

Miller, C. William. Benjamin Franklin's Philadelphia Printing, 1728-1766: A Descriptive Bibliography. Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 1974. Cat. no. 80, pp. 39-40

Walgren, Kent Logan. Freemasonry, Anti-Masonry and IIluminism in the United States, 1734-1850: A Bibliography. Worcester, MA: American Antiquarian Society, 2003. Vol. 1, cat. no. 1, p. 3.

'Light on Masonry', the old and the new

Light_paper The advertisement at left first appeared in the Anti-Masonic Champion on May 7, 1829.  It was one of many attempts to publicize a newly published exposé on Freemasonry, and it appeared in one of the dozens of new newspapers that sprung up (mostly in the Northeast, N. Y., Pennsylvania and Ohio) during the Anti-Masonic reaction to the Morgan Affair.   'Elder D. Bernard' was David Bernard, a Baptist minister and Freemason from Utica, N.Y. and the publication was Light on Masonry: a Collection of all the Most Important Documents on the Subject of Speculative Free Masonry, Embracing the Reports of the Western Committees in Relation to the Abduction of William Morgan, Proceedings of Conventions, Orations, Essays, etc. etc.  Bernard included the craft rituals William Morgan exposed along with several higher degrees.  It was not the first exposé issued at the time, but arguably the most successful.  Light on Masonry, at over 500 pages, went through five editions alone in 1829!

Grand Archivist and Grand Historian of the Southern Jurisdiction of the Scottish Rite, Arturo De DehoyosHoyos, has just published a new look at Light on Masonry: the History and Rituals of America's Most Important Masonic Exposé (19 .D5 2008).  The recently published work provides a facsimile of the 5th edition of Bernard's 1829 work along with an extremely interesting and informative introduction.  Of particular interest is correspondence between J.J.J. Gourgas (then Grand Secretary General of the Supreme Council and later third Sovereign Grand Commander) and Giles F. Yates (Sublime Grand Master of Delta Lodge of Perfection in Schenectady, N.Y. and later Sovereign Grand Commander of the Supreme Council, NMJ) after Light on Masonry appeared.

The new Light on Masonry also provides details about each of the printings and editions, so armed with it and Kent Walgren's Freemasonry, Anti-Masonry and Illuminism in the United States, 1734-1850, I decided to take stock of our holdings of the early editions.  While our catalog listed eight first editions, one 2nd edition, and six 3rd editions, I discovered we actually own four of the initial stage of the 1st edition, two of the 2nd stage and seven of the 3rd stage, along with two 2nd editions and three of the 3rd edition.  Fortunately for us De Hoyos decided to use a 5th edition to replicate as we don't own any of that rare imprint.

When you gather 18 copies of any book published in 1829 and check each for provenance and Light_spink markings, you're bound to find something interesting.  Not surprisingly for our library, several of the first edition copies were from the libraries of William L. Cummings, Alphonse Cerza, and William G. Peacher since our collection is comprised of significant holdings from each.  Two owners had interesting notes in their copies:  in one of the stage one copies is handwritten 'The Property of Saml. D. Spink, To be kept in the family' (as shown at right); one of the stage three copies has 'A. Parker, Go ye into all parts of the world and tell what Freemasonry has done.'

Everett_bookplate The most well-known previous owner of one of our copies, however, is Edward Everett (1794-1865), well-established as an Anti-Mason, and whose bookplate appears at left.  Everett's resume is about as stellar as any you'd find in 19th-century America:  educated and later taught at Harvard, represented Massachusetts in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate, Governor of Massachusetts, Minister to Great Britain, President of Harvard, Secretary of State under Millard Fillmore, and always known as a great orator.  To many though, Everett is best remembered as the person who spoke for two hours at the dedication of the national cemetery in Gettysburg on Nov. 19, 1863 -- the one who spoke before Abraham Lincoln.  To Everett's credit, it's often reported, he told President Lincoln, "I should be glad if I could flatter myself that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion in two hours as you did in two minutes."

Sources mentioned above include:

Anti-Masonic Champion, Vol. 1, No. 10, Thursday, May 7, 1829.  Printed and Published by Patterson & Dewey, Union Village, Washington Co., NY.

Bernard, David.  Light on Masonry: A Collection of all the Most Important Documents on the Subject of Speculative Free Masonry, Embracing the Reports of the Western Committees in Relation to the Abduction of William Morgan, Proceedings of Conventions, Orations, Essays, &c. &c.  Utica:  William Williams, 1829.  Call number:  RARE 19 .B518 1829 [Online edition]

De Hoyos, Arturo.  Light on Masonry: The History and Rituals of America's Most Important Masonic Exposé.  Washington, D.C.: Scottish Rite Research Society, 2008.  Call number:  19 .D4 2008

Walgren, Kent Logan.  Freemasonry, Anti-Masonry and Illuminism in the United States, 1734-1850: A Bibliography.  Worcester:  American Antiquarian Society, 2003.  Call number:  Ref 04 .W165 2002 v. 1 & 2

Library copy of Light on Masonry with Edward Everett bookplate was a gift of Augustus P.Loring, 85-211SC

Dust jacket image of Light on Masonry used above with permission of the author.

A Union Soldier's Masonic Book

Freemasons_monitor_1859_hartwell_la In the front of an 1859 edition of Thomas Smith Webb's The Freemason's Monitor are some interesting ownership marks that reveal evidence of a Union soldier who owned this book during the American Civil War.

The book once belonged to Hartwell L. Lattime of Newburyport, Massachusetts. As you can see in the photo here, he has written "Roanoke Island, Dec 13, 1862" on the inside cover and drawn the Masonic square and compasses with a G set in it, below that. On the opposite page he has written his name and hometown.

A little research reveals that Hartwell Lattime enlisted as a Private on August 24, 1862 at the age of 22. He belonged to Company A of the Massachusetts 8th Infantry Regiment. According to a history of this unit, Companies A and C of the 8th Regiment detached from the regiment and were stationed at Roanoke Island, N. C., December 4, 1862 to July 12, 1863.

The Battle of Roanoke Island was fought on February 7-8, 1862, ten months before Lattime arrived. The Union Army, after winning the battle of Roanoke Island, quickly occupied the island. Hartwell served with the Massachusetts 8th Infantry Regiment until August 7, 1863, when he and the rest of the regiment mustered out after having been ordered home on July 26, 1863.

By looking at all of the evidence above, we can conclude that it appears that just a week after his arrival at Roanoke Island, Lattime wrote the date, his location, his name, and his hometown in the book. But when did Lattime become a Mason?

According to the records at the Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts, Lattime was raised and became a member of St. John's Lodge in Newburyport on November 6, 1862. At a time when there was usually a one-month delay between receiving each of the three degrees, Lattime received all three degrees in one day. By looking at the history of the regiment that Lattime belonged to, we can see that he became a Mason while still in Massachusetts, stationed at Camp Lander in Wenham, Massachusetts, just a few months after enlisting, and just a couple of weeks before the 8th Regiment boarded the steamship Mississippi in Boston on November 25, 1862 to head down to Morehead, NC. While we don't know for sure, it's possible that Lattime became a Freemason on a visit home while his company was stationed at Camp Lander where the 8th Regiment was stationed from September until late November.

Naturally, there is much more that could be explored about Lattime's time while on Roanoke Island if further research were conducted. Seeking out possible regimental histories or diaries of other soldiers stationed on Roanoke Island at the same time as Lattime would go a long way in pulling the thread that started with just a few notations that a Union soldier wrote in the front of a book one day in 1862.

As it turns out, the history of Roanoke Island after the battle in February becomes quite compelling. Lattime's time on Roanoke Island overlaps with the beginning of an interesting community that was established on the island:

"During the first few months of the Union occupation of Roanoke Island, over 250 former slaves settled in a camp close to Union headquarters. By the end of the year, the number had grown to 1,000. Most of the former slaves had escaped to the island from the North Carolina mainland; many were strangers to each other. Nevertheless, they set about to establish a thriving community, including their own school and several churches."

The quote above is from Patricia C. Click's website about the Roanoke Island Freedmen's Colony, where you can go to find more information about this interesting period in the history of Roanoke Island and the Civil War.

If you're looking or more information about Civil War regiments and soldiers, a good place to start online is the National Park Service's Civil War Soldiers & Sailors System.

Today's illustration is the inside front cover of:

Webb, Thomas Smith. The Freemason's Monitor : or, Illustrations of Masonry. Boston: Abner W. Pollard ; Brown, Taggard & Chase ; Geo. C. Rand & Avery [printer], 1859.
Call number: 14 .W368 1859
Gift of the Lattime Family of Newburyport, Massachusetts and West Port, New York

Daniel Fenning's The Universal Spelling-Book

Universalspellingbook_detail Daniel Fenning's The Universal Spelling-Book : or a New and Easy Guide to the English Language was originally published in London in 1756. This book was among the earliest spelling books available in the colonies. (Frances Austin gives a nice account of both Fenning and his book here.)

Our copy is a 4th edition, published in London by S. Crowder in 1760. Interestingly, I wasn't able to find a copy of this edition listed in either WorldCat or the English Short Title Catalogue, although, curiously, I did find it in the British Library's online catalog. Still, it leads me to me to believe that our library is one of the few that own a copy of this edition.

Our copy has several inscriptions in it as well, which tell us a little bit more about this particular copy. The first inscription reads "Elisha Harris, His Book: Bought in Providence, cost 40, In February the 24 Day in the year 1762." At that time it wasn't uncommon that most of the stock of a bookstore in the colonies would consist of books published in England and imported to America. It was also common at that time for bookstore owners (who were very often also printers themselves) to take it upon themselves to publish a copy of a book that was popular. In the American Antiquarian Society's collection, they hold a copy of Fenning's The Universal Spelling-Book that has an imprint "London, printed: Providence (Rhode-Island) re-printed and sold by John Carter, at Shakespear’s Head, near the Court-House., MDCCLXXXIII. [1773]." I haven't looked into how many booksellers were in Providence in 1760, but it's possible that our copy, bought by Elisha Harris in 1762, may have been bought from John Carter. And it's possible to speculate that Carter started publishing Fenning's book because he recognized, as a bookseller, just how popular the book was - with people like Elisha Harris buying up the London editions that he had imported to sell in his bookstore.

Pictured above is a detail from the wonderfully illustrated "Life truly painted, in the Natural history of Tommy and Harry," a moral tale that can be found in Fenning's 1760 Universal Spelling-Book.

Fenning, Daniel. The Universal Spelling-Book: Or a New and Easy Guide to the English Language. London: S. Crowder, 1760. 4th edition, with additions.
Call number: RARE PE 1144 .F4 1760

J.J.J. Gourgas and his books

Gourgas_32i_3 J.J.J. Gourgas' signature, initials (shown at left), bookplate, notes and even reviews appear in the dozens of books from his collection held in our library.  His handwriting is distinctive and noteworthy.

John James Joseph Gourgas (1777-1865) was an important figure in Scottish Rite Freemasonry.  He was the first Secretary General and served as third Sovereign Grand Commander of the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction from 1832 to 1851.  In fact it's difficult to overstate his contributions to Scottish Rite Freemasonry.  At the 125th anniversary of the founding of the Supreme Council, August 5, 1938, Sovereign Grand Commander Melvin M. Johnson stated  “…the outstanding personality of the founders was John James Joseph Gourgas.  It was he who kept the Scottish Rite alive during the years when – but for him – it would have faded out.  It was Gourgas, assisted by [Giles Fonda] Yates, who re-vivified the Rite after the great anti-Masonic agitation, and then started our Supreme Council on its career to become the strong, virile and successful organization which it now is.”

Gourgas_plate2_2 According to biographer J. Hugo Tatsch, Gourgas was born in Switzerland to a family of French Huguenots and moved with several family members to America in 1803.  He stayed briefly with them in Boston then moved to New York City where he started as an accountant and later prospered as a merchant.  He first became a Mason in 1806 with initiation into Lodge L'Union Francaise but made rapid progress so that seven years later he was elevated to the 33rd degree.  Gourgas remained in New York City for most of his life but often summered at the 'Gourgas Place' in Weston, MA.  He died in New York on February 14, 1865 and is buried in the family plot in Jersey City, New Jersey.

The colored bookplate (shown at left) is one of three known Gourgas family plates.  According to Tatsch, his plate "is identical to the oldest (that of his grandfather Jean Louis Gourgas) except for the deletion of “Jean Louis” and the substitution of the [his] initials."

J.J.J. Gourgas seems to have continued the family tradition of acquiring and maintaining a fine library where he could place his bookplate as well.  Peter Ross, in A Standard History of Freemasonry in the State of New York (available online here) notes "the magnificent library which he gathered around him was evidence of his studious habits and his faculty for study and research.  His written and printed productions show him to have been a man of wide reading, a thinker, and a scholar and one who was full of the purest aspirations for the Masonic banner whether it covered Lodge, Chapter or Consistory.”  Tatsch maintains "He was continually buying books in Paris; others were procured from London and in America.  He was deeply interested in the history of the Crusades and the Knights Templar, and was doubtless a believer in the descent of Freemasonry from the chivalric orders.”

Gourgas_29_3 His signature appears (to the left) on the title page of Toland's History of the Druids but his notes about the book cover the endpapers and appear throughout in margins.  His review of the preface?  "A modest and sensible preface with a large body of notes which display very considerable ingenuity and learning."

Gourgas_36_3 One book in our current collection (shown at right) found it's way here by way of a purchase.  Tatsch explains, “Early in Dec., 1937, a copy of M. Zimmerman’s Solitude Considered with respect to its Influence on the Mind and the Heart, bearing the Gourgas bookplate was called to our attention by a Boston bookseller and promptly acquired.  It settled what had been a perplexing question, for on the title page is the inscription, “J.J.J. Gourgas, To Louise Marie Gourgas, my dear daughter.”  There had been some confusion about the number of children Gourgas had and the identity of Louise Marie, buried in the Gourgas plot with her husband, who also was her cousin.

The Northern Jurisdiction of the Scottish Rite awards the Gourgas Medal, the highest honor it confers, for "Notably distinguished service in the cause of freemasonry, humanity or country."

Many resources exist on J.J.J Gourgas and still others about his extended family.  A few used here include:

Ripley, Emma.  Weston, a Puritan Town.  Weston: The Benevolent-Alliance of the First Parish, 1961.  Call number:  F 74 .W74 R5 1961

Ross, Peter.  A Standard History of Freemasonry in the State of New York.  New York: Lewis Pub. Co., 1899.  Call number:  17.0775 .R825 1899

Tatsch, J. Hugo.  John James Joseph Gourgas, 1777-1865: Conservator of Scottish Rite Freemasonry.  Boston: Supreme Council, 1938.  Call number: 16.5 .G715 T219 1938

Also, the Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives hold the Gourgas documents and correspondence [SC 083, 084].  Please contact our Archivist for more information.

The books where the images shown above are found include:

Initials:  Robison, John.  Proofs of a conspiracy against all the religions and governments of Europe, carried on it the secret meetings of Free Masons, Illuminati, and reading societies.  N.Y. : George Forman, 1798. Call number: RARE 19 .R666 1798

Signature:  Toland, John. A new edition of Toland's history of the Druids: with an abstract of his life and writings and a copious appendix, containing notes, critical, philological, and explanatory.  Montrose: Printed by J. Watt for P. Hill, 1814.  Call number: RARE BL910 .T7 1814

Dedication to daughter:  Zimmerman, J.  Solitude considered with respect to its influence upon the mind and the heart. Boston : Printed for Joseph Bumstead, 1804. Call number: RARE BJ 1499 .S6 Z53 1804