books books books

As he lay dying with consumption in 1638, a thirty-one-year-old Puritan clergyman directed that half his estate and all of his books, four hundred volumes comprising 329 titles, be given to a college then being built on a one-acre cow yard in Newtowne, across the Charles River from Boston. Whatever good works the Reverend John Harvard performed during his brief ministry to the New World were not recorded for posterity, but this thoughtful gift, made on his deathbed, endowed the first library to be formed in British North America. In tribute, the General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony ordered that the college take the minister’s name, and honored the city of Cambridge, England, where Harvard had been educated, by declaring that Newtowne thenceforth be known as Cambridge.

–          A Gentle Madness Bibliophiles, Bibliomanes, and the Eternal Passion for Books by Nicholas A. Basbanes

a gentle madness


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