« ForrigeFortsett »
The preparation and publication of this history was authorized by the Proprietors of the Athenæum at the Centennial in 1910. The work of preparation was completed soon after, but circumstances have deferred its publication to the present time.
J. N. A.
The Salem Athenæum was founded in the year Eighteen Hundred Ten. Salem was then a town of between twelve and thirteen thousand inhabitants. Commercially it was an important place, widely known for its extensive trade. Its mariners navigated the seas in every quarter of the globe, and its ships, returning, sailed into the harbor bearing valuable cargoes from every continent; in 1810 there were one hundred and sixty-six foreign entries into its port. But commercial enterprise and adventure did not preclude attention to intellectual development and the acquisition of knowledge. In this year there were twenty-two Salem boys in college, -thirteen at Harvard, four at Dartmouth, three at Bowdoin, and two at Brown. In the seaport town itself there were two libraries, each of which had had long and distinctive life,-the Social Library, formed in 1760, and the Philosophical Library, formed in 1781.
It was as successor to these two libraries that the Athenæum came into being. The collections of these societies originating in Colonial and Revolutionary days and the interest in learning and literature they had fostered, constituted the basis upon which the Athenæum was established. Their traditions were inherited by it, and in it their ideals were blended. Moreover, there was continuity of personnel as well as of property, for the initiating founders of the Athenæum were for the most part
persons who had been active in promoting the earlier societies. In 1810 the early libraries terminated their individual existences; their shares were bought by the Athenæum and their books transferred to it.
But the Salem Athenæum was not merely a union of the Social and Philosophical Libraries. It was far more. It was organized with nearly twice the number of members of these early libraries combined, and with about three times their funds and resources. The Social Library had thirty-nine members and the Philosophical twelve. Eight persons were members of both associations, so that the combined constituency of these earlier societies was forty-three. The number of original proprietors of the Athenæum, however, was eighty-two. And in material matters also, the Athenæum was in marked advance over the earlier organizations. For, whereas the value of the libraries of the earlier societies was estimated to be twenty-five hundred dollars, - the amount paid by the Athenæum for them,- the property of the Athenæum at the time of its foundation was more than three times that amount. The Athenæum was thus established on a scale distinctly larger than that of its antecedents and with a range of influence much wider.
The act incorporating the Athenæum was approved by Governor Gore, March 6, 1810, and on April 11 of that year the first meeting of the Proprietors was held. At this meeting it was voted that the shares of the Athenæum “be one hundred dollars”, and also that the Athenæum “purchase the Philosophical Library and the Social Library at fifty dollars a share”. For the thirty-nine shares of the Social Library the sum of nineteen hundred and fifty dollars was accordingly paid, and six hundred dollars
for the twelve shares of the Philosophical Library, a total of twenty-five hundred and fifty dollars for the two libraries. Payment for the Athenæum shares was made in two instalments of fifty dollars each, the first due May 23, 1810, and the second August 23, 1810. Eighty persons became proprietors on these terms and two others later by the single payment of the entire sum, one on September 14, 1810 and the other on November 27, 1810. These eighty-two original proprietors of the Athenæum either paid in cash or, by the transmission of their holdings in the earlier libraries, were accredited with the payment of the sum of eight thousand, two hundred dollars. The foundation of the Athenæum was thus greater by more than five thousand dollars than the assets of the Social and Philosophical Libraries combined.
On May 7, 1810, the Trustees appointed John D. Treadwell, Joseph Story, and John Pickering, Jr., a committee to make a list of additional books which they might think desirable for the new library to procure. The committee reported at a meeting on the twenty-first of the same month and thereupon it was voted that “the List of Books reported by the Committee, amounting to about six hundred pounds sterling (including all costs and charges and insurance, except freight and duties in the United States) be purchased in London for the Athenæum.” This was the largest single purchase of books ever made by the Library. In addition to this great purchase abroad books were bought of local booksellers, and furthermore somewhat over two hundred dollars in the aggregate were allowed to proprietors for books taken as part payment for shares. In this latter way