rummaging through venerable dust

I found these exquisite calling cards at the American Antiquarian Society web site, but it wasn't easy. 

First, some background I found interesting: The AAS, in Worcester, Massachusetts, is a library and learned society whose collection focuses on the "printed record of what is now the United States from 1640 through 1876." Founded in 1812 by a Revolutionary War patriot and printer named Isaiah Thomas, the Society had its start in a time of gentlemen scholars. "Amateurs" in the true sense of the word, they loved books, history, ideas-on-paper. Thomas, for example, donated his collection of 8000 books. The succeeding president, the colorful Christopher Columbus Baldwin, wrote to a friend "...an Antiquary should not pester himself with a wife: he should do nothing that may diminish his affections with venerable books." Clearly nothing diminished his ardor as he rummaged around in one sweltering attic for five August days ("the thermometer at ninety-three, I had a pretty hot time of it") on the scent of a promising trove. After searching through "trunks, bureaus, baskets, tea chests and old drawers" he carted away an astonishing forty four hundred and seventy six pounds of material for the collections. "Every thing was covered with venerable dust, and... I have never seen such happy moments." Unhappily, Baldwin's flame of historical passion was snuffed out the following year (1835) in a stage coach accident.

So, today the Society's collections now comprise 3 million items. The AAS site is sprawling--and comprehensively cataloged— but very spotty when it comes to online access to items. And its confusing. I got lost down many a blind alley thinking I was going to browse, say Book Salesman's Samples, or Rewards of Merit, only to be met by a few paragraphs and a treacherous sinkhole of links to inventories of related material. There are several "online exhibitions" some of which have enlargable images, many not. Also to be found through the AAS is the thoroughly engrossing Farber Gravestone Collection which I wrote about fairly extensively here

But, Dear Reader, I suggest you try rummaging around for yourself because you sometimes get the prize: a full, accessible roster of images-- as is the case for daguerreotypes...

Nero, the Barton family dog, c. 1880


la_sale_bete said...

Wow, what terrific finds!
Thanks for sharing them. I'm going to the AAS this fall as a research fellow, and now I'm extra excited to explore their collections!

angela said...

Oh I'm jealous!
What will you be researching?

la_sale_bete said...

I'll be spending most of my time with their children's literature and McLoughlin Bros collections.


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