Library of the General Theological Seminary 1893
 

 
No precise date can be given with regard to the founding of this library. That its importance was early recognized by those interested in the seminary will be readily seen as we proceed. At the end of the first academic year of the seminary in New Haven (July, 1821), the trustees report that " though no express provision was made by the last general convention of the church for the formation of a theological library, yet a valuable foundation for one has already been made." In other words, the institution already owned 900 volumes, upward of 300 of which were folios, and many of the books extremely rare and valuable. Two years later (the seminary having been transferred to New York and consolidated with a diocesan school) the annual report gives a total of 2500 volumes. Having in view the delay, difficulty, and expense at this time of getting books from Europe, whence must have come most of the additions, together with the scarcity of funds and the high prices of theological works, it will be seen that this growth was remarkable. From the beginning the library committee has consisted mainly of the faculty, other members being sometimes appointed. The first committee included the professors, librarian, and John Pintard, to whom, more than to any other one man, perhaps, is the seminary library indebted.

Additions were made with considerable regularity, the number of volumes reported each year showing a gratifying increase; the total in 1836 being 5000, half of which were folios and quartos. About this time an effort was made to establish a permanent fund, and the special committee on the increase of the library secured ten thousand dollars, four thousand dollars being for immediate use, and the balance for an endowment. The subscriptions to the fund were quite general, the largest being that of the corporation of Trinity Church, which also contributed a number of books. In 1851,included the professors, librarian, and John Pintard, to whom, more than to any other one man, perhaps, is the seminary library indebted. Additions were made with considerable regularity, the number of volumes reported each year showing a gratifying increase; the total in 1836 being 5000, half of which were folios and quartos. About this time an effort was made to establish a permanent fund, and the special committee on the increase of the library secured ten thousand dollars, four thousand dollars being for immediate use, and the balance for an endowment. The subscriptions to the fund were quite general, the largest being that of the corporation of Trinity Church, which also contributed a number of books. In 1851, with a total of 10,512 volumes in the collection, the librarian reported : "The library has been open daily for the consultation of books, and semi-weekly for the delivery of them." At this time the alumni of the seminary who resided within ten miles of the city were granted the same privileges as the students ; this regulation was abolished in 1874, when the removal of the library disclosed the fact that nearly a thousand books were missing.

When the seminary was removed from New Haven to New York, the books were taken to the belfry chamber of St. John's Chapel, and kept there until the new free school should be completed. The East Building (the first erected by £he General Seminary, and demolished in 1892) was occupied in 1827, and here the library remained until 1874. The steadily increasing number of books made
the accommodation more and more overcrowded, and the value of the collection was so great that in 1852-53 the trustees were strongly urged to provide a fire-proof room for them. The appointment by the trustees of a committee to secure funds to erect a library building of proper size and construction followed, but subscriptions were hard to obtain, and in 1854 the committee was discharged, having accomplished nothing. In 1874, when the number of volumes was reported as 15,132, the confusion resulting from overcrowding was so great that some change was imperatively demanded, and the books were carried over to the West Building, from which they were taken, in 1885, to Hobart Hall. Here, with some alterations which can easily be made in Jarvis Hall adjoining, shelving for 100,000 volumes can be placed, so that the library seems at last to have found a permanent home. That it is a valuable and useful collection is well known to many besides those associated with the seminary; mention can only be made, however, of a few of the more important works. The four great Polyglots may be found here the Complutensian, Le Jay's (the Paris), the Antwerp, and Walton's. The first two were given by Mr. Piutard. There are also many valuable Bibles in various languages, including a beautiful manuscript in Hebrew and Chaldaic on vellum.

Many of the early English editions are wanted, and an effort is being made to make the collection more complete in this department. The section containing patristic literature is quite full, and includes the Benedictine editions and the Abb6 Migne's " Patrologia " (both Greek and Latin), 382 volumes. This latter set was the gift of the Society for Promoting Religion and Learning in the State of New York a corporation which has been very generous in its grants to the library, making possible the acquisition of several valuable works. This will be the more appreciated when it is stated that the original endowment of six thousand dollars in 1836 has not been increased at all ! Is it too much to hope that, in these days of increasing library benefactions, some friend of the General Seminary of our church will provide, by gift or will, for the support and growth of its library?

Al1 the standard works on the councils of the church are to be found here, the last to be secured being a tall paper copy in vellum of Mansi, formerly belonging to Bishop Jebb. There is a good collection of works on Methodism and the Methodists, including some bound volumes of valuable and scarce pamphlets, with a bibliography of the subject, both manuscript and printed. In this connection may be mentioned a copy of John Wesley's prayer-book in good preservation. The shelves devoted to the periodical literature of the church in this country are well filled, and contain complete sets, in bound volumes, of nearly all the early magazines and papers. Current publications, when removed from the reading-room, are reserved for binding, and the files kept complete to date whenever possible. Journals of general and diocesan conventions are preserved in convenient form, and this library can safely claim the most complete collection of such pamphlets in existence.

The librarian reported to the trustees, April 30, 1892, a total of 21,754 volumes, 13,235, or about 61 per cent., of which were in the department of theology, the next largest section being history, including biography. The library is the fortunate possessor of the monumental work descriptive of Egypt which was published by the French government, and also of a set of the "Antiquities" of Graevius, Gronovius, Polanus, Sallengre, and Pitiscus, in seventy-nine folio volumes. Little that is definite can now be said of the pamphlet collection, except that it is large and includes much of value. The more important of its contents are being classified for binding, and as soon as put in book form will be fully catalogued by author and subject.

In 1885, when the books were moved to the new building, the Dewey system of classification and the card catalogue were adopted. The shelves are easily accessible to all who use the library; and while members of the seminary only may borrow books for the purpose of reference and consultation, the library is free to all who do not abuse the privilege. In addition to the books, the library is gradually accumulating a valuable and interesting gallery of portraits, which already includes some of the older professors, English and American bishops, benefactors of the seminary, and a Duns Scotus by Spagnoletto (Ribera), copies of which may be seen in the refectory of Merton College, Oxford (of which he was a fellow), Hampton Court, and a few other collections. In the reading-room are many photographs and prints of eminent American and English churchmen. Rooms in the building (which is fire-proof) have been accepted by the General and New York Diocesan Conventions as depositories for their archives.

 

Website: The History Box.com
Article Name: Library of the General Theological Seminary 1893
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina

Source:

BIBLIOGRAPHY: The Memorial History of the City of New York From Its First Settlement to the Year 1892 Edited by James Grant Wilson Volume IV; New York History Company 1893
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