Guest Blogger: Emelyn Schaeffer “Wealth of Colleges: A History of Learning and the Texts that Help Us”

My name is Emelyn Schaeffer and I am from Atlanta, GA. I am approaching my sophomore year at Davidson and I am thinking about double majoring in English and Gender and Sexuality Studies. I am excited about working in Archives and Special Collections this summer, learning more about how the library operates, and discovering more about Davidson’s past.

Davidson’s two libraries, the Main and the Music, house many interesting volumes just waiting to be opened and explored by students eager to learn.  As a student, the Library often feels like more of a social hub than the Student Union, the tables packed with students studying together or planning group projects, sharing fascinations and frustrations about their classes. I have no way of knowing if this is what the library looked like throughout the history of the college, but the Original Davidson College Library gives us a peek into what students of the past studied.

The Original Library used to be housed in the Davidsoniana Room, where the works of alumni and faculty are available for students to use, but was recently moved to the Rare Book Room. This move gave me a chance to compare what my predecessors read to what I read.

Bookshelves containing the Original Davidson College Library and the personal library of President Morrison, the first president of the college

Original Davidson College Library in its new location in the Rare Book Room

 

One of the books we have in common is Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nation, though admittedly the green-covered and gold-embossed copy belonging to the Original Library looks much nicer than my yellow paperback. The work inside the Algebra textbooks also looks rather familiar – one of which, written by Davidson Mathematics professor Major (later General) D.H. Hill, contains the note, “This book was published in 1857 and was considered an excellent text, tho’ it is chiefly notable for the strong sectional feeling it displays (Note Yankee and wooden nutmeg problem 41). James G. Blaine referred to it in the U.S. Senate in an effort to keep alive Northern hatred for the South.”

As is likely expected, there is a plethora of books on historical, religious, and linguistic subjects. Historical texts include Aaron Burr, Benjamin Franklin, Andrew Jackson, and the Marquis de Lafayette. Students simultaneously studied the history of the Church and natural theology, along with the works of several philosophers. Languages studies included Latin, Greek, and Hebrew.

This is just a sampling of the books the Original Library contains. If you want to learn about this or any of our other collections, you can head on over to our website to contact us or schedule an appointment!