THE CONCORD SOCIAL
53. Report of the Standing Committee of the Concord Social
Library, in Emerson’s hand, January 6, 1851. Ink on paper.
From the records of the Concord Social Library, transferred to the Concord
Town Library in 1851 and to the Concord Free Public Library in 1873.
Proprietary libraries—libraries owned jointly and used by shareholders—served the reading needs of many New England towns before the public library movement gathered momentum in the 19th century. The Concord Social Library was established in 1821, absorbing the collection of the earlier Charitable Library Society. In 1851, the Social Library transferred its collection to the Concord Town Library, the town’s first public library.
Emerson was connected with the succession of libraries in Concord from the 1830s until his death. He was a member of the Standing Committee of the Social Library, and served one term as its president. Bookseller and stationer John Stacy was librarian. The Social Library was housed in Stacy’s store on the Mill Dam; much of the collection was purchased through Stacy.
The January 6, 1851 report of the Standing Committee—written in Emerson’s hand—suggests that the Social Library didn’t pander to lowbrow tastes. Among the books added over the course of the previous year were Humboldt’s Aspects of Nature, Ledyard’s Nineveh and Its Remains, Dickens’s Pickwick Papers, Hawthorne’s Scarlet Letter, and a selection of British and American journals.
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