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An American Sampler from Four Centuries
The First Americans
The library and manuscript collection formed by American Catholic historian John Gilmary Shea, acquired by purchase and gift in 1892 and 1893, gave Georgetown one of the most important extant collections on Native American linguistics, supplemented by a rich body of materials relating to Native American history and culture.
Traitez de paix conclus entre S. M. le Roy de France et les indiens du Canada, Paix avec les iroquois de la Nation Tsonnont8an. A Quebec le vingt deuxiéme May 1666. Paix avec les iroquois de la Nation d’Onnei8t. A Quebec le douziéme Juillet 1666. Paix avec les iroquois de la Nation d’Onnontague. Le treiziéme Decembre 1666. Paris: Par Sebastian Mabre-Cramoisy Imprimeur du Roy, 1667.
The printed record of one of the earliest European attempts to deal with Native Americans as independent peoples, at least on paper; Louis XIV’s desire to secure the southern boundaries of France’s settlements in Canada by whatever means possible had more to do than respect for “les indiens” with this essay in diplomacy. From the library of John Gilmary Shea.
A very nearly complete set of the first two volumes of the first newspaper published by and for Native Americans, supplemented by less complete holdings of volumes 3, 4, and 5, at which time the Phoenix ceased publication. Bound in contemporary boards; spine perished, upper cover detached. From the library of John Gilmary Shea.
Letter signed, Sault Ste. Marie, to Governor Lewis Cass, 25 October 1822, 4 pages plus a 12-page appendix.
Contemporary (or near-contemporary) copy of Schoolcraft’s original letter to Cass, enclosing a “classified” Ojibway (or Chippewa) vocabulary, about which Schoolcraft says “to rescue it from that oblivion, to which the tribe itself is rapidly hastening, while yet it may be done with a prospect of success, will constitute a novel & pleasing species of amusement, during the long evenings of that dreary cold winter.” From the collection of John Gilmary Shea.
History of the Indian Tribes of North America, with Biographical Sketches and Anecdotes of the Principal Chiefs. Embellished with One Hundred and Twenty Portraits, from the Indian Gallery in the Department of War, at Washington. By Thomas L. McKenney, Late of the Indian Department, Washington, and James Hall, Esq., of Cincinnati. In Three Volumes, Volume I. [ – III.] Philadelphia: Published by J. T. Bowen, 1848-1850.
First octavo edition of the classic early illustrated work on Native Americans, originally published in folio size in the 1830s. The image of the buffalo hunt has entered completely into the collective American mythology. In a later, and defective, binding. From the library of John Gilmary Shea.
“A Grammar of the Choctaw language . . . A few peculiarities of the Choctaw language.” Manuscript, 47 pages, probably before 1870.
An early version, in an unknown hand, of Byington’s grammar, first published in 1870. The final page (not reproduced in the printed version) reads:
The relation of a daughter in law to their father and mother in law by marriage, is acknowledged by those who sustain the relation, when they speak of one another in family & to some others by the addition of the syllable oh or ho to the verbs, which they use in thus speaking. The syllable is prefixed. According to ancient usage the son in law & mother in law, after the marriage has taken place, never more speak to each other, or even look at each other. From the collection of John Gilmary Shea.
Grammar of the Choctaw Language, by the Rev. Cyrus Byington. Edited from the original MSS. in the Library of the American Philosophical Society, by D. G. Brinton, M. D. . . . Philadelphia: McCalla & Stavely, Printers, 1870.
First printing, in the original printed wrappers. As published, the text displays–beyond much greater length–some substantive differences, and a real loss in marriage lore, from the manuscript version. From the library of John Gilmary Shea.
A longstanding source of pride to the library has been its collection of American, and particularly Roman Catholic, editions of Scripture. A concerted effort to acquire the earliest Catholic editions virtually reached completion as early as the 1930s, and since that time further additions have kept the collection alive and growing.
Biblia, Das ist: Die ganze Göttliche Heilige Schrift Alten und Neuen Testaments, nach der Deutschen Uebersetzung D. Martin Luthers; Mit jedes Capitels kurzen Summarien, auch beygefügten vielen und richtigen Parallelen: Nebst einem Anhang Des dritten und vierten Buchs Esrä, und des dritten Buchs der Maccabäer. Dritte Auflage. Germantown: Gedruckt und zu finden bey Christoph Saur, 1776.
The so-called “Gunwad Bible,” from the (probably, for the book is most definitely not rare) apocryphal story that “most” of the sheets of the Bible were used for quite temporal purposes during the fighting around Germantown in the Revolution. The third American edition of the Bible in German, in a much-repaired contemporary binding of calf over wooden boards. Purchase.
Pair of hand-written altar cards mounted on wood, Goshenhoppen, Pennsylvania, ca. 1743.
Schneider, a Jesuit from Heidelberg, came to Pennsylvania in 1741 and served there until his death. In the first years of his tenure on the missions he created to supply the liturgical needs of his congregations hand-written service books and a suite of altar cards similar to these, many of which survived in the archives of the Maryland Province of the Society of Jesus and of Georgetown University.
The Holy Bible, Translated from the Latin Vulgate: Diligently Compared with the Hebrew, Greek, and Other Editions, in Divers Languages; and First Published by the English College at Doway, Anno 1609. . . . Philadelphia: Printed and Sold by Carey, Stewart, and Co., 1790.
The first American Catholic Bible, demonstrably one of the rarest early American editions of Scripture. This copy, rebound in Britain in the 1960s, came to Georgetown in 1892 with the library of John Gilmary Shea.
Biblia Hebraica, secundum ultimam editionem Jos. Athiae, a Johanne Leusden denuo recognitam, recensita variisque notis latinis illustrata ab Everardo Van der Hooght, V. D. M. Editio prima Americana, punctis Masorethicis. Tom. I [ – II] Philadelphiae: Cura et impensis Thomae Dobson edita ex aedibus lapideis. Typis Gulielmi Fry, 1814.
The first American edition of the complete Hebrew Bible, originally part of the extensive library of the Jesuit house at Bohemia Manor, in northern Maryland, from whence it was transferred to Georgetown. In the original gilt-stamped sheep binding, probably as furnished by the publisher.
The first edition of this uniquely American contribution to the corpus of sacred writings, in the original sheepskin binding. On loan from the Woodstock College Library.
A sammelband of Cherokee-language publications from the New Echota, Georgia, press, incorporating besides Matthew The Acts of the Apostles (1833), Select Passages from the Holy Scriptures (i.e., Genesis 1-3, 1833?), and Cherokee Hymns (fourth edition, 1834), bound in the original unbleached muslin. This copy presented to the library of Georgetown College by one John Ridge, Esq., in March, 1835.
Of Vetromile’s Noble Bible. Such as happened Great-Truths. Made by Eugene Vetromile, Indian Patriarch. . . . For the Benefit of the Penobscot, Micmac, and Other Tribes of the Abnaki Indians. Old Town, Indian Village, and Bangor. 1858. New York-Village: Rennie, Shea & Lindsay, 1860.
First printing of the heavily illustrated “simplified version” of the Bible created by the principal Catholic missionary to the Abnakis (shown in his furs in the frontispiece); in the original cloth. Among Vetromile’s unique evangelical efforts was the successful introduction of Gregorian chant to the liturgy conducted for (and by) the Abnakis. From the library of John Gilmary Shea (who oversaw the publication of many of Vetromile’s writings).
Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s pioneering attempt to re-interpret the Bible so as to counteract the commonly accepted Biblical justifications for the subjection of women. The front flyleaf of the first volume bears an autograph inscription by Stanton, dated June 25, 1898: “Progress is the victory of a new thought, over an old superstition.” In the original paper wrappers. Source not determined.
The Civil War
If only because of its age and location, Georgetown almost necessarily harbors a great deal of material relating to the Civil War, even though the active collecting of such materials has only been commenced in recent years.
Autograph letter, signed, Washington, D.C., to Major General George B. McClellan, 20 January 1862, 1 page plus McClellan’s autograph reply to the President, 2 pages, not dated, all on a single fold of letter paper.
An exchange between Lincoln and the man who would run against him for the presidency in 1864, concerning the potential benefits of finding a place for “a loyal South Carolinian,” George Patten, in the Union Army. Gift of Mrs. Morton Fearey.
Carte-de-visite photograph and clipped signature, in an album, ca. 1865.
A formal portrait of McClellan and his wife in an album containing about 50 similar photographs of Union Army generals, many with similar clipped signatures to enhance them. Gift of Dr. Eugene G. Boss.
Tintype photograph, probably 1864.
The photograph, mounted in an embossed pin for the presidential campaign of 1864, was further modified by placement on a black crepe rosette, in which form it was worn by one F. A. Brewer at Lincoln’s funeral in Springfield, Illinois, in 1865. Gift of Dr. Eugene G. Boss.
The Great Event of the Age! Negro Emancipation Proclaimed! Newburyport: Published and Sold by A. J. Haynes 
An early Massachusetts broadside printing of Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. Source not determined.
To the People of Talbot County! [Easton?] 1863.
Printer’s proof of a broadside requisitioning slaves in Talbot County, Maryland, for forcible work with the Union Army; the Emancipation Proclamation did not extend to areas of the country which were not “in rebellion,” and Maryland’s Eastern Shore, while a center of Southern sympathy, never went quite that far. Source not determined.
Pencil and colored chalk drawing of unidentified Confederate general, ca. 1862.
One of the early artistic efforts of a then 17-year-old young man from Buffalo, New York, who had walked south to enlist in the Confederate Army in 1861, and who later taught for a number of years at the Corcoran School of Art. Gift of Mary Willis Shelburne.
Medal of honor, brass and enamel [New York: Tiffany?] 1863.
Inscribed on the reverse: “The Congress to Bvt. Brig. Gen. Horace Porter U.S.A. Chickamauga Sep. 20, 1863.” As the following item shows, Porter rose from lieutenant to brevet brigadier in a matter of 17 months, a truly meteoric course of promotion. Gift of Mrs. Horace Porter Mende.
Dress sword, handle of ivory and brass, probably American, before 1862.
Captured from a Confederate officer at the capture of Fort Pulaski, bearing the subsequent inscription on the metal scabbard: “Fort Pulaski April 11th 1862 / Gen. Q. A. Gilmore / to / Lieut. Horace Porter / For gallant and meritorious conduct.” Gift of Mrs. Horace Porter Mende.
Panoramic series of lithographs with hand (stencil?) coloring, ca. 1862.
The Civil War equivalent of television footage for the most famous naval battle of the conflict. A pair of handles (now missing) enabled the viewer to scroll through a series of images giving a narrative view of the battle, the whole “boxed” in an elaborate carton, now sadly damaged. Source not determined.
“Confessionario.” Autograph manuscript, probably San Antonio Mission, California, late 18th century.
A guide to confession prepared in the Native American Antoniano language by one or another of the missionaries, supplemented by a variety of prayers, essays at a vocabulary, and other matters. The manuscript was “collected” by A. S. Taylor in 1856, from whence it passed into the collection of John Gilmary Shea.
Joining The Oceans
Thanks to the lifelong interest–and generosity–of Captain Miles Duval (USN Ret.) the library has been able to develop a nearly comprehensive collection of materials relating to the development of the Panama Canal, which finally won out over schemes to build in present-day Mexico, Colombia, or Nicaragua.
A Defence of the Scots Settlement at Darien with An Answer to the Spanish Memorial against it. And Arguments to Prove that it is the Interest of England to Joyn with the Scots, and Protect it. To which is Added, A Description of the Country, and a particular Account of the Scots Colony. Edenburgh [sic] 1699.
One of a flurry of editions printed in the same year, of which this one is perhaps the scarcest. One Scots “argument” is that Scotland does not pretend to establish an East India trade from their Colombian base, a proposal refuted, at least theoretically, in the following sentence. The colony failed nonetheless. Purchase.
“The Guard Gate, Gatun.” Etching, 1912. Edition of (?) 60, this impression pulled by the artist.
One of a series of prints by Pennell of Panama Canal subjects, principally construction of some of the massive locks. Acquired by exchange.
Documents Relating to Steam Navigation in the Pacific. Lima: Printed by Joseph M. Masias, 1836.
Wilson was British Consul General in Peru, and his opening memorandum begins “The attention of the British Merchants and Residents in Peru is, hereby, requested to the annexed copies of despatches upon the subject of opening, through Panama, a direct communication between Great Britain and the Western coast of South America.” Original wrappers (damaged), with a presentation inscription from the author. Purchase.
Union of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, at or near the Isthmus of Panama, Examined and Discussed . . . In a Series of Letters Addressed to the National Institute, at Washington. . . . [Washington: Office of the “American Journal,” 1843]
A publication motivated in part by patriotic concern over the explorations and other activities of the author and artist of the following item, whose publication was delayed for unknown reasons, but who certainly put some fear into the Americans on the scene. Purchase.
Panamá, Nicaragua, and Tehuantepec; or, Considerations upon the Question of Communication between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. . . . London: Simpkin and Marshall, 1849.
Liot was among the first to understand that the “answer” was a ship canal dug through Panama, and almost equally unique in understanding that the project was far in the future. Two folding panoramic lithographs by E. M. Geachy. In the original cloth, with a presentation inscription from the author. Purchase.
Percement de l’isthme de Panama par le canal de Nicaragua. Exposé de la question. . . . Paris: Aux bureaux de la direction du canal, 1858.
Belly proposed the Nicaragua canal as a logical counterpart to the Suez Canal, which was at that point not yet built; such thoroughgoing “futurism” met with the usual lack of success, guaranteeing the rarity of his publication, here in the original wrappers, with the folding world map of sea lanes and canals. Gift of Nicholas B. Scheetz.
Canal interocéanique par l’isthme du Darien Nouvelle-Grenade (Amérique du sud.) Canalisation par la colonisation. Paris: Chez France, libraire, 1860.
A French proposal for a colony/canal scheme not wildly different from the failed Scots attempt of the late 17th century. In the original wrappers (torn), with a presentation inscription by the author. Purchase.
Le Canal de Panama; l’isthme américain; explorations; comparaison des tracés étudiés; négotiations; état des travaux. . . . Paris: Librairie Hachette, 1886.
Probably the most elaborate French study of the Panama question, here bound with the author’s report in 1891 on yet another Darien canal scheme. With (as usual, it seems) a presentation inscription from the author. Purchase.
All Things Washington
Georgetown has never attempted to collect "local history" in any serious way. But by virtue of being in business at the same address for a little over two centuries, a certain amount of material relating to the District of Columbia, to Washington, and to Georgetown has come together, some of it of considerable interest.
Autograph letter, signed, Philadelphia, to William Thornton, 26 December 1796, 2 pages plus autograph address leaf.
A remarkable presidential letter to a member of the Washington Board of Commissioners urging that officers of the Federal government ought to be compelled to reside in the District of Columbia, in part for the convenience of members of Congress, “for it is of little significance to prepare a house for that body to sit in, unless there are others for their beds & board.” Gift of Thornton’s niece, Mrs. Adelaide Talbot. With the keepsake published for the first annual meeting of the Georgetown University Library Associates, May 22, 1976.
Plan of the City of Washington in the Territory of Columbia. Ceded by the States of Virginia and Maryland to the United States of America, and by them established as the Seat of their Government after the Year MDCCC. Boston: Engrav’d by Saml. Hill 
The earliest large-scale rendition of the “L’Enfant Plan” for the capital city, with (probably) contemporary hand coloring and some minor repairs. Gift of Eric F. Menke.
A mildly scurrilous, and more than mildly amusing, Washington rarity, a poem lampooning the apparent cowardice of the Federal government in the face of the British invaders. While James Monroe is a special target (and Dolly Madison something of a heroine), the tone is amply conveyed by the following quatrain:
The CABINET on horseback sat,
And there they reason’d high,
If for the camp they should set out,
Or northward straight should fly.
From the library of John Gilmary Shea.
The Washington Directory, Showing the Name, Occupation, and Residence of Each Head of a Family and Person in Business; the Names of the Members of Congress, and Where They Board, Together with Other Useful Information. . . . Washington: Printed by William Duncan, 1822.
The first Washington directory, and probably the rarest, in its original binding of printed boards with a red roan spine stamped in gilt. Source not known, but part of the Georgetown library collection prior to 1836.
A Full Directory, for Washington City, Georgetown, and Alexandria: Containing The Names, Residence, and Occupation of the Inhabitants, Alphabetically arranged . . . and the Time of Arrival and Departure of Stages, Etc. By E. A. Cohen & Co. . . . Washington City: Wm. Greer, 1834.
The earliest directory to include Georgetown as well as Washington. Near the top of the right hand page is shown the entry for a well-to-do Georgetown attorney, Francis Scott Key. Gift of Patricia G. England.
Part of a state dessert service ordered by President and Mrs. James K. Polk through the New York firm of Alexander Stewart and Co. The first presidential china to incorporate the national shield; floral decorations at center vary from piece to piece. One of a pair, both gift of a Miss Aylmer.
A painstaking list of the original collection of the Library of Congress, which extended when this document was published to some 972 printed volumes supplemented by 9 maps and charts. Gift of the estate of Mangum Weeks.
The catalogue of the “second” Library of Congress, the collection purchased from Thomas Jefferson to replace the original library collection, lost when the British burned the Capitol in August, 1814. Rebound, probably at Georgetown, where it entered the collection prior to 1836.
The University Archives has been part of the library’s Special Collections Division since 1971. In addition to preserving university records the archives have served as a magnet for attracting gifts of other items that help to flesh out the university’s history.
The first separately-issued Georgetown prospectus, also issued in French and Spanish versions in hopes of drawing additional students from the Caribbean and South America. Louis Guillaume Valentin DuBourg, a Sulpician then serving as Georgetown’s third president, was himself a recent (1796) immigrant from Cap Haitien, Santo Domingo.
A Catalogue of the Nasmes of the Authors, & of the titles of their works, for the new-College Library. Autograph manuscript, ca. 1830, about 160 pages.
The first written catalog of the university library, written out by its newly-appointed librarian, supplanted almost immediately afterwards by an alphabetical listing which unfortunately was never completed before cataloging (such as it was) ceased, in 1836.
Georgetown . . . Yale. Washington: A. B. Graham Photo. Lith., 1901.
One of a series of four posters designed by Sheridan, a former Georgetown student who had just moved to a commercial art job in New York; shown here in a reproduction to preserve the original, which in each case is the only known copy.
Certificate for 503 shares, issued 11 March 1912, to President and Directors of Georgetown College.
Though the stock had a nominal issuing value of $20 per share (or $10,600 for Georgetown’s 503 shares), the net return as shown in the overstamping was $125.75–or 25 cents a share “paid on account of dissolution” in March 1913. Source not determined, but probably a matter of either gift of mischance.
Part of a “limited edition” of typewriters put out in Georgetown blue and gray, purchased and used at Georgetown by Francis I. McGarraghy (AB ‘29, LLB ‘33). Gift of Mrs. McGarraghy.
A Realistic Approach to Student Government. [Washington, 1967]
Flyer produced by (or for) Georgetown’s most famous alumnus in his unsuccessful bid for the presidency of the student council in 1967.
Oil on wooden panel, Georgetown, ca. 1831, 33.75 x 29.5 inches.
The surviving fragment of the door to the “new” College Library opened in 1831. Names of Jesuits on the faculty grace the folios on the bottom shelf; the then librarian, James Van de Velde, S.J., known for his florid penmanship, is awarded the volume on calligraphy. Painted by Georgetown’s first teacher of fine arts.
A Naval Hero
The first decades of the 19th century saw the United States at war in the Mediterranean with several North African states, and then with Britain in the War of 1812. In these struggles the young nation found first a naval hero, Stephen Decatur, and then a national anthem.
Commendatory letters from a variety of governmental bodies sent to Stephen Decatur following his victory in the frigate United States over the British frigate Macedonian, one of the series of single-ship triumphs that allowed Americans to feel that we really “won” the War of 1812. Gift of the commodore’s widow, Susan Wheeler Decatur.
A souvenir of Stephen Decatur’s campaigns against the Barbary pirates; although probably manufactured in Germany, the pistol was further decorated with an Arabic inscription in gold, perhaps in Egypt or Turkey. Gift of Mrs. Decatur.
[“The Star-Spangled Banner”] Autograph manuscript, signed, Washington, 29 August 1842, 1 page.
One of five known manuscripts of the national anthem, originally written during the British bombardment of Baltimore in 1814; this one a later copy made for a Mr. Espy and the only one not in the Maryland Historical Society in Baltimore. Gift of the recipient’s daughter, Mrs. Elizabeth McCalmont Espy Nunn.
James A. Garfield has never enjoyed the great public renown accorded two other American presidents, Abraham Lincoln and John Fitzgerald Kennedy, whose lives, like Garfield’s, were shortened by an assassin’s bullet. Georgetown, however, has a remarkable collection of materials by and about Garfield’s assassin, Charles Guiteau.
“To the American People.” Autograph manuscript, signed, 16 June 1881, 3 pages.
At the top of the third page we find the lines which are still Guiteau’s best-known statement of his case: “This is not murder. It is a political necessity.” A manifesto written, if its date is accepted, more than two weeks before Guiteau actually shot President Garfield. Gift of William B. O’Connell.
The Death of James A. Garfield. An Original Poem. [n.p., 1881?]
Possibly one of the worst poetic effusions of its kind ever perpetrated, as the following lines amply demonstrate:
O his countenance and his picture, what a fine impression!
He lost his sweet life without any aggression.
Source not determined, but in the University Archives at a very early date.
Autograph letter, signed, Washington, to General William Tecumseh Sherman [2 July 1881] 1 page, with autograph envelope.
A remarkable letter, written immediately after the shooting, which Guiteau confesses in the opening lines. He ends: “I am going to the Jail. Please order out your troops and take possession of the Jail at once.” With a memorandum in Sherman’s hand regarding the receipt of the letter and an enclosure not now present. Gift of William B. O’Connell.
Autograph letter, signed, Washington, to Richard T. Merrick, 28 January 1882, 1 page.
Guiteau’s attempt to retain Merrick for his defense, but not hesitating to tell the lawyer what “the points are.” Merrick was a noted Washington lawyer (and Georgetown graduate (LLD, 1873). Gift of Rev. John Daley, S.J.
The library’s greatest single treasure is, beyond doubt, the autograph manuscript of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, now the keystone to a large and significant collection of literary manuscripts, correspondence, and first editions by a wide range of American and British authors.
The Aventures [sic] of Tom Sawyer. Autograph manuscript, Hartford, 1873-1876, about 900 leaves.
Twain’s original manuscript, the copy from which the American first edition was set by the printer. With a brief note from Twain to the publisher including the text for the book’s dedication. Gift of Mrs. Genevieve Garvan Brady.
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain. Hartford, Chicago, Cincinnati: The American Publishing Company; San Francisco: A. Roman & Co., 1876.
The first printing of Twain’s classic tale of boyhood, on wove paper, text block with gilt edges, in the original decorated cloth binding. Purchase.
Portrait of Mark Twain. Watercolor and whiting on board, ca. 1950.
Ward illustrated Tom Sawyer as well as a book about Mark Twain, and the Georgetown collection of Ward’s work includes a number of images of the author. Here he appears with Tom Sawyer’s famous literary friend, Huckleberry Finn. The “signature” was added by Ward’s wife, May McNeer Ward. Gift of Nanda Ward and Robin Ward Savage.