Every once in a while, things fall into place and the good guys do the right thing. Then everybody wins.
Yesterday, my copy of The Manuscript Society News (Vol 33, No 1) arrived in the mail. Among the many interesting articles was librarian Sam Fore’s description of the private and independent Harlan Crow Library in Dallas, Texas, driving home the point that a researcher needs to cast a broad net in search of manuscript material.
For example, while the complete set of autographs from each of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence and each of the sitting Presidents would not be out of place in this kind of collection, the manuscript journal of Georgia delegate William Pierce, Jr. that includes his “character sketches” of all the other delegates to the 1787 Constitutional Convention would no doubt provide a unique insight into the gentlemen who shaped the nation. Similarly, artist Gilbert Stuart’s own handwritten 1795 list of those who were to receive copies of his portrait of George Washington is interesting in its own right.
Note: this is truly a "private" library, attached to the personal residence of real estate mogul Harlan Crow. You see photos of the interior here.
Still, back to the “good guys - do the right thing” idea…
On page 21 of the News, a short paragraph related that the Jersey City (NJ) Free Public Library found a manuscript volume from the 18th century in their collection. Specifically, it was a transcription of the 1749 – 1755 court records of Stafford County Virginia that had been copied in 1795 by the then- Stafford County deputy court clerk John Fox. It had been “liberated” from the Virginia courthouse during the Civil War by a captain of the Fourth New York Regiment and brought north, probably as a “war prize.” Eventually, it came to rest in Jersey City.
In any case, the good folks at the Jersey City Public Library did the right thing and repatriated the volume to Stafford County, Virginia – its rightful owner - after its century and a half vacation in New Jersey.
Why is this important on several levels?
If you do Virginia research, you probably already know that Stafford is one of those “burned” counties where many records were destroyed during the Civil War. In fact, the Library of Virginia lists Stafford as “almost hopeless” in its online research aid. So, any time anything gets back to Stafford, it’s good news.
By the way, for those with an interest in manuscripts, documents, autograph collecting and all historic things hand-written, you might want to investigate becoming a member of the Manuscript Society.
You can learn more by visiting the Society’s website at: www.manuscript.org.