A few weeks ago, I got an email at the library from a librarian working towards a Masters Degree in American Studies. She was researching Mark Twain, and specifically whether public libraries during his life censored his works.
She was contacting all the libraries in the country that were open at the time (Chelmsford's Adams Library is usually dated at 1894, but various library associations in the town date to the 1790's), hoping our accession records would indicate which Twain books were held by the library, and whether they were shelved as adult or childrens books.
Up until this question, I had a vague understanding that we had old library records, but I didn't know how extensive they were, what condition they were in, or what was in them. So I was happy to get this question, as in the course of helping someone, I also had an excuse to check out these records.
It turns out, there is a lot in the library archive. Much of it are treasurer reports or invoice logs, and were either uninteresting (to me) or indecipherable (just columns and columns of numbers). But I also found library member rolls from the late 1800's, and one ledger even had the circulation history of the patrons (all done in longhand).
But getting down to brass tacks, I was very happy to find book lists from the era, which listed the books, author, publisher, date, call number, and a few other things. And it turned out that there were two libraries operating in Chelmsford at the time, which were later merged into the single library I work in today. So, I was able to research this question in both sets of records.
But here's the best part: one book in the archive was entitled "List of Books (not all juvenile) for Boys" and was prepared by Librarian Emma J. Gay. It consisted of handwritten pages broken up into sections (Stories, History, Biography, Travel, Scientific, Natural History, Games and Amusements, and Miscellaneous). The title page, along with a title page for each section, was professionally typeset and printed, and the whole book was professionally bound in hardcover.
In the Stories section, there is the following entry:
Clemens, S. L. (Mark Twain)
Adventures of Tom Sawyer 1505 [accession number]
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn 1803 [accession number]
I really want to do something with this book, but I don't know what. I'm guessing it dates to the 1880's, and it was interesting flipping through seeing what books back then appealed to boys.
And for the record, here are the Mark Twain holdings I could locate in the archive:
|Adventures of Tom Sawyer||S. L. Clemens (Mark Twain)||1881||c625.2||NCLA|
|Adventures of Huckleberry Finn||S. L. Clemens (Mark Twain)||1885||c625.1||NCLA|
|A Tramp Abroad||Samuel L. Clemens (Mark Twain)||1889||c914.8||NCLA|
|The Innocents Abroad||S. L. Clemens "Mark Twain"||1894||c625.2||NCLA|
|Prince and Pauper||Samuel L. Clemens (Mark Twain)||1895||c55.7||CFPL|
|Adventures of Tom Sawyer||Samuel L. Clemens (Mark Twain)||1895||c55.13||CFPL|
|Sketches New and Old||Samuel L. Clemens (Mark Twain)||1895||c55.9||CFPL|
|American Claimant||Samuel L. Clemens (Mark Twain)||1895||c55.1||CFPL|
|Joan of Arc / Personal Reflections of||Samuel Langhorne Clemens||1896||c55.2||CFPL|
|A Tramp Abroad||Samuel Langhorne Clemens||1896||c87.22||CFPL|
1: It was interesting to see the different ways his name was written, and that "Mark Twain" was always secondary
2: Most of these are a mystery to me
3: NCLA: North Chelmsford Library Association; CFPL: Chelmsford Free Public Library
Some of the records were too fragile to use, and some of the handwriting illegible, so I don't think this is a complete list. I emailed what I found to the patron, and she was very happy, and it was fun to this kind of real historical research for a change.