The 1980s

  • Lownes Room, John Hay Library.
    After the renovation of the John Hay Library was completed in 1981, the pre-1801 portion of the Lownes Collection of Significant Books in the History of Science was placed in this room on the second floor of the building. Named the Lownes Room, it is also used for meetings and classes throughout the year. Shown here, displayed in the room, is a selection of rare titles from the Lownes Collection.
  • Vidus Vidius (Guido Guidi), Chirurgia ([Paris]: Petrus Galterius, [1544]).
    Purchased to commemorate the renovation and restoration of the John Hay Library in 1981, Vidius's Chirurgia also was a one of the first major works purchased to complement the recently acquired Lownes Collection of Significant Books in the History of Science. Guidi was court physician to both Francis I of France and Cosimo I de Medici and was a noted anatomist. A proponent of both the restoration of classical knowledge and medicine based upon Vesalian tenets of direct observation of the human body, he improved upon traditional Hippocratic methods for setting fractures and reducing dislocations. He also is credited with inventing an original method of tracheotomy and providing the first scientific description of chicken pox. History of Science Collection.

Renovation of the John Hay Library began in January, 1980, and was completed by September of 1981. The stimulus for the renovation was the library’s successful application to the National Endowment for the Humanities Challenge Grant Program. Matching funds were obtained from private foundations, notably the Kresge Foundation, and from donations from alumni/ae, parents and friends. In addition to restoring historic public spaces, the renovation included installation of air conditioning and environmental controls, fire alarms and security systems, and the establishment of a fine bindery and a paper conservation laboratory. The completed project transformed the John Hay into one of the most sophisticated special collections facilities in the country. To celebrate the John Hay renovation/restoration, a copy of the rare 1544 Paris edition of Vidus Vidius’s Chirurgia was selected because it complemented anatomical works in the recently acquired Lownes Collection, notably Vesalius’s Fabrica (Basle, 1543) and Estienne’s De Dissectione (Paris, 1545).

Even as the renovation of the John Hay Library was cutting-edge for its day, so too was the library system’s adoption of the computer in providing access to its holdings. Beginning in the mid 1970s, books and periodicals were cataloged electronically and added to the national databases. Josiah, the library’s on-line catalog named for Brown’s mythical Professor of Psycho-ceramics, Josiah S. Carberry, increasingly replaced the card catalog as an avenue for access to the collections and the card catalog was formally closed in 1996. Very little of the funding for this costly multi-year project was provided by the University, thereby ushering in another innovation for the Brown Library — a sustained program of fund raising for operational funds. For the online catalog, major grants were received from the Pew Charitable Trusts and the Davis Educational Foundation and large cash gifts were obtained from Paul Dupee, Class of 1966, and Laurance and David Rockefeller.

While the John Hay Library benefitted from the infrastructure provided by Josiah, the unusual non-book formats and complicated nature of many of the antiquarian holdings in Special Collections often required exceptionally sophisticated modes of electronic access. To accomplish this, the library secured a series of federal and private foundation grants, a practice that has continued to the present. Beginning in 1980, the John Hay received a total of 11 grants, totaling well over $1,000,000, from the Title II-C program of the U. S. Department of Education which gave nationwide electronic access to thousands of rare books and broadsides, hundreds of manuscript collections, and significant portions of the University Archives. Additional funds were obtained from the National Historic Records and Publications Commission, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and more recently, from the Institute for Museum and Library Services. These grants have provided for both access to collections, especially manuscript and archival holdings, and the preservation microfilming of tens of thousands of items, thus building upon Librarian Van Hoesen’s pioneering efforts of the 1940s. The many private foundations that have provided support to Special Collections since the 1980s have ranged from the Gulbenkian Foundation to the Ameritech-sponsored American Memory Project awarded through the Library of Congress.

  • Japanese Scroll (Second half of the 19th century).
    This 20-foot scroll contains thirteen watercolors illustrating the visit of Commodore Perry and his squadron to Japan in 1853–1854. It is only one of a great many original works of art on paper that came to the John Hay Library with the Anne S. K. Brown Military Collection. Anne S. K. Brown Military Collection. Gift of Anne S. K. Brown.
  • Theodore De Bry, Admiranda Narratio (Frankfurt-am-Main: Johann Wechel for Theodor de Bry and Sigmund Feyerabendt, 1590-1596).
    This hand-illuminated copy of the Grand Voyages, from a set of six volumes probably done for a member of the House of Hapsburg and later housed in the famed Austrian monastery of Klosterneuburg, shows a ritual dance performed by Indians native to Virginia. Anne S. K. Brown Military Collection. Gift of Anne S. K. Brown.
  • Ivan Petrovich Pavlov, Lektsii o Rabote Glavnykh… [Lectures on the Function of the Main Food-Digesting Glands] (St. Petersburg: Typografia Ministerstva Putei Soobsheniia, 1897).
    Purchased in celebration of the Brown Library's 2,000,000th volume, the exceedingly rare first Russian-language edition of Pavlov's pioneering study of conditioned and unconditioned reflexes further extended the John Hay's burgeoning history of science holdings. The significance of Pavlov's research on reflexes extends well beyond medicine and physiology to comparative psychology, especially behaviorism, the philosophy of the mind as noted by Bertrand Russell, and even influenced such literary works as Aldous Huxley's Brave New World and Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow. History of Science Collection.

Important as these initiatives were, and continue to be, building the collections remained at the heart of the enterprise, and the 1980s were especially important in this regard. Mrs. John Nicholas Brown had begun transferring control of her personal library of books and prints dealing with military iconography to Special Collections as early as 1967. However, it was not until after the building renovation was complete that the Anne S. K. Brown Military Collection was finally installed in the John Hay Library. At its inception, the focus of this collection was on the history of military uniforms of all nations from the 17th century to the present. However, in the course of over 60 years, the collection has come to include material on military and naval history, political and military biography, portraits and caricatures, as well as on heraldry, architecture, general costume and other unexpected topics. The 20,000 volumes, 60,000 prints, photographs, drawings and watercolors, and over 6,000 military miniatures mark this as one of the pre-eminent collections of its kind in the world.

Merrily E. Taylor was appointed University Librarian in July of 1982, remaining in that post until 2004. It was during her tenure that the John Hay Library celebrated its 75th anniversary and the collections of the library system grew exponentially, both in electronic and print form. The two millionth acquisition was celebrated in 1988, the iconic token volume being the extremely rare first edition, in Russian, of Ivan Pavlov’s seminal work on stimulus response in which he pioneered the concepts of unconditioned and conditioned reflexes. Here again, the library chose to enhance the Lownes Collection of Significant Books in the History of Science and to honor its donor who had donated the token 1 millionth title in 1954.

The final three years of the 1980s were particularly significant for the acquisition of several major collections for the John Hay Library. In 1987, the American Mathematical Society agreed to donate its archives to the library, thus adding a new and more contemporary dimension to the strong historical mathematics holdings of the John Hay. The Society, founded in 1888, promotes growth of mathematical research in America and is the principal professional society for academic mathematicians. It publishes the prestigious Mathematical Reviews as well as various specialty journals and monographs on an annual basis.

  • Andreas Vesalius, De Humani Corporis Fabrica (Amsterdam: Apud Ioannem Ianssonium, 1642).
    With the historical collections of the Rhode Island Medical Society, the John Hay Library received this edition of Vesalius's great Structure of the Human Body. De Jong Rare Book Collecton. Gift of the Rhode Island Medical Society.
  • Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (London: George Newnes, Ltd., 1892).
    Among the surprises of the Rhode Island Medical Society Library is the subordinate Davenport Collection of non-medical books written by physicians. Shown here is the first edition of Conan Doyle's The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Davenport Collection: Gift of the Rhode Island Medical Association.
  • Gorham Manufacturing Company Archive. Photograph of the main showroom of the Gorham retail store in New York, decorated for the Christmas holidays, circa 1900.
    The store was located at 5th Avenue and 36th Street. Manuscripts Collections. Archive of the Gorham Silver Company. Gift of Textron, Inc.
  • Gorham Manufacturing Company Archive. Presentation drawing for an enameled art nouveau loving cup, circa 1900.
    Manuscripts Collections. Archive of the Gorham Manufacturing Company. Gift of Textron, Inc.

Also in 1987, the members of the Rhode Island Medical Society voted to donate their library of more than 30,000 volumes to Brown. The more recent books and serials, including journals issued by national and state medical associations, were added to the Sciences Library to support the University’s Program in Medicine. However, rare or unusual books collected by the Society for well over a century were added to Special Collections. Especially important were the contents of the Society’s De Jong Rare Book Room. Examples of significant additions to Brown’s holdings in the history of science included medical classics such as Pliny’s Historia Naturale (Venice, 1501), Avicenna’s Liber Canonis (Venice, 1555), Vesalius’s De Humani Corporis Fabrica (Amsterdam, 1642), and works by Celsus, Harvey, Boerhaave, Paré, Morgagni, and Osler, along with other authoritative texts including the ubiquitous Anatomy, Descriptive and Surgical (London, 1858) of Henry Gray.

The Society’s general collection also contained numerous important 18th and 19th century medical treatises published in America, from Nicholas Culpeper’s Pharmacopoeia Londinensis (Boston, 1720) to the “ether controversy” of the 1850s and beyond. There is also a substantial selection of pamphlets dealing with homeopathy, hydropathy, naturopathy and other less orthodox medical doctrines more frequently practiced in the 19th century.

A third major gift of 1987 was the archive of the Gorham Silver Company, an enormous body of material that continued to arrive over the next several years. By far the largest and most complete corporate archive to survive from the heyday of Rhode Island’s industrial prominence, the Gorham archive consists of documentation that illuminates every aspect of the company’s activities for much of its 175-year history. There are some 8,000 drawings, 1,000 manuscripts, and tens of thousands of photographic prints and negatives as well as catalogs, blueprints, index cards, and corporate records ranging from early personnel records to reports relating to the company’s own silver mines. President Howard Swearer and Robert S. Ames, Vice-Chairman of the Friends of the Library and an executive with Textron, Gorham’s parent company at the time, were instrumental in securing the Gorham archive for Brown.

  • Reginald Scot, The Discoverie of Witchcraft (London: William Brome, 1584).
    One of the rarities in the Smith Magic Collection is this first state of Reginald Scot's Discoverie of Witchcraft, intended to expose witchcraft as the work of charlatans who employed trickery to dupe the public. As such, it is considered to be the first published work about magic and sleight of hand. Scot's aim, however, was to prevent the persecution of innocent eccentrics, the poor, deranged, or simple-minded, many of whom at the time were still being officially accused of witchcraft and were often executed. Because of is controversial nature, all obtainable copies were seized and burned in 1603, hence the rarity of the book. H. Adrian Smith Collection of Conjuring and Magicana. Gift of H. Adrian Smith, Class of 1930.
  • Smith Magic Collection.
    The focus of the Smith Magic Collection is performance magic, although it also complements the John Hay Library's related collections on early scientific thought, the occult, and popular entertainment culture. Shown here is a selection of non-print items from the collection, including tricks and videos. H. Adrian Smith Collection of Conjuring and Magicana. Gift of H. Adrian Smith, Class of 1930.

In 1988, H. Adrian Smith, Class of 1930, gave his remarkable collection of books and related materials on magic to the John Hay Library. The Smith collection is primarily focused on performance magic but also includes strong holdings that link it to the occult and the pseudo-sciences as far back as Hero of Alexandria. Rivaled only by the collections of the Library of Congress among publicly accessible institutions, the Smith Collection has the distinction of serving as a link among the John Hay’s other performance-related holdings as well as its great strengths in the history of science and the occult. Chronology and subjects range from Reginald Scot’s The Discovery of Witchcraft (London, 1584) to Houdini’s Handcuff Secrets (London, 1910) to more recently acquired video tapes and DVDs of contemporary magicians.

As the decade of the 1980s drew to a close, the library system sought to establish a means of recognizing those who had brought the library to its position of current eminence. With this in mind, the library created the William Williams Award in 1989, to acknowledge those who had aided the library substantially over a long period of time. Like William Williams of the Class of 1769, who protected the library during the American Revolution, the support of these individuals had made a lasting contribution to the Brown Library — financially, through donated collections, and through contributions of time and devotion. Several of those recognized in the first award ceremony were great benefactors of Special Collections: Lyman G. Bloomingdale, Anne Seddon Kinsolving Brown, John M. Crawford, Jr., and Albert E. Lownes. Of the 37 award recipients to date, 25 have made significant contributions to Special Collections.