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The present Library of Harvard College dates its origin from the destruction of Harvard Hall, with its valuable contents, * by fire, in the year 1764. The General Court, which, in consequence of the prevalence of the small pox in Boston, was then sitting in Cambridge, and occupying the room appropriated to the Library, immediately voted to erect a new building; and Harvard Hall was in a short time fully replaced by the present edifice of the same name. A corresponding zeal was manifested by other friends of the institution, to furnish the new hall with a library and philosophical apparatus. The General Court of New-Hampshire, which at that time had no college of its own to provide for, granted, at the instance of Governor Wentworth, three hundred pounds sterling towards restoring the Library ; “The Society for Propagating the Gospel in
* Library, Philosophical Apparatus, &c. The Library was a very valuable collection of more than 5000 volumes. Among the principal Contributors to it were the Rev. John Harvard, the founder of the University, the Hollises, and several other names of great celebrity, as Sir Kenelm Digby, Richard Baxter, Governor Winthrop, Dr. Gale, Dr. Lightfoot, Dr. Watts, Dr. Mead, Bishop Berkeley, Bishop Sherlock, Dr. Hales. A particular statement of the different benefactions is necessarily deferred for the present. What is now proposed is to give some account of the eristing library.
New England and Parts Adjacent” gave the same sum, and “ The Society for Propagating the Gospel in Foreign Parts,” one hundred pounds sterling ; Thomas Hollis Esq. of London redoubled his generous efforts to assist the College in its distress; other public-spirited and enlightened individuals came forward with their contributions upon the occasion ; so that a very few years supplied the loss of what had been the accumulation of more than a century. The Library increased so rapidly, that, in 1790, when the last Catalogue was printed, it consisted of about twelve thousand volumes,—an amount, which, considering the situation of the country during a great part of the time it was collecting, and notwithstanding the donations from abroad, reflects no small credit on the character and spirit even of those days of patriotism and of public virtue.*
The impulse thus opportunely given, was happily continued; benefactors succeeded benefactors; and the library now contains, besides many thousand tracts, upwards of thirty thousand bound volumes, with every prospect of increasing as fast as it has done at any former period.
Harvard College Library is almost entirely the fruit of individual munificence. Its records exhibit a long list of donors, whose names will be indissolubly associated with the establishment; but the present occasion admits of a distinct tribute to those persons only, whose contributions to the Library have been such, as to form observable stages in its growth, or to attract particular attention for their splendour and magnitude.
* It will be recollected that, during the same period, heavy expenses were also incurred for building the new hall, replacing the philosophical apparatus, &c.; and that the opportunities, subsequently enjoyed for acquiring wealth, had not then been afforded.
The name, which in this connexion first presents itself to the mind, is the ever-memorable one of Hollis in England. Next to that of the immortal founder of the University, it stands pre-eminent for its claims to a grateful recollection. Comprehensive benevolence seems to have been a distinguishing trait of character in the family of Hollis, a benevolence, which was not confined within the limits of party or of country, and which was no less enlightened than it was liberal and enlarged. It was principally to supply the intellectual and moral wants of men, that this benevolence diffused itself abroad, that it crossed seas and oceans, and visited remote countries. Several individuals of that family were benefactors of Harvard College. Two of them displayed a most remarkable degree of rosity. The first was the excellent Thomas Hollis, who founded two professorships, one of Theology, and one of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy, and, besides various other benefactions, contributed largely to the library and philosophical apparatus, which were afterwards burnt. His death took place in 1731. He was great uncle to our other distinguished friend, who bore his name, and inherited his estate and his virtues.
Two large quarto volumes, compiled by Archdeacon Blackburne, are devoted to an exhibition of the latter Thomas Hollis's “ deeds of
peace. In one of the tributes to the memory of this extraordinary man, which appeared soon after his decease, and which are preserved in those volumes, it was justly observed, “ that in his death Liberty lost her champion, Humanity her treasurer, and Charity her steward.” To benefit mankind was, indeed, the great business of his life ; and, possessing a fortune which happily seconded his generous nature, he applied himself to the execution of his disinterested purposes, with all the zeal and dili
gence of the most ardent votary of wealth or of power. One of his principal employments was to collect the most valuable books in the various branches of learning, especially such as were intimately connected with the highest interests of man, and to forward them, as presents, to those places where they were most wanted. This University partook largely of his bounty. It was, indeed, a favorite object of his regard. Immediately after the fire above mentioned, he subscribed two hundred pounds sterling towards replacing the philosophical apparatus ; but, with a just appreciation of the importance of a good library, his chief care was to furnish books. He began to send them as early, probably, as 1758, and continued to do it till within three or four years of his death, which took place in 1774. It appears, therefore, that some of the books, presented by him, were destroyed with the old library; the greater part, however, having been transmitted subsequently to that event, still remain, and in all respects abundantly verify the accounts which have been given of his great care and judgment in selecting and procuring them.*
* Besides the intrinsic value of the works presented by Mr. Hollis, there is much about them, which indicates a lively interest in his benevolent occupation. The binding is always in the best style ; on the covers are curious emblematical decorations; and the books often contain notes and remarks in his own hand-writing. Such expressions as “Ut Spargam!” “ Felicity is Freedom," &c. frequently occur; and sometimes bibliographical and other notices of considerable extent. A few specimens of these will not, it is believed, be unacceptable to the reader.
Stephens's Thesaurus Græcæ Linguæ, for example, is accompanied with the following notice; “T. H. has been looking out, above two years, for a fine copy of Harry Stephens' Greek Thesaurus for Harvard College. At length he has purchased one out of the Library of the learned Dr. Samuel Chandler. It can hardly be