I am delighted to announce that we have nearly completed cataloging the whole of the Younghee Kim-Wait/Pablo Eisenberg Native American Literature Collection. As of this morning, 1,372 titles are now included in the Five College Libraries Catalog and the books themselves are on the shelves in the Archives & Special Collections ready to be used. (Except for those on display in our current exhibition: Native Voices/Native Books, on view through July 31.) Our spectacular catalogers expect to wrap up cataloging the last few items by the end of May.
As soon as the cataloging of the Kim-Wait/Eisenberg books is finished, we will turn our attention to working through the 500+ books we recently purchased to build on that collection. Last month we took delivery of another 20 cartons of books, this time from the personal collection of Joseph Bruchac, noted author, editor and publisher. Bruchac’s personal papers — his manuscripts, correspondence, and other documents of his deep involvement with Native American writing — are held by the Beinecke Library at Yale University. The books we acquired were owned by Joseph Bruchac, but are generally not particularly rare or valuable in and of themselves.
So why did we purchase this collection?
Because of items like these:
The stated goal of our collection is to document as thoroughly as possible the full spectrum of Native American writing and intellectual life from the 18th century to the present. These two books are excellent examples of what we mean when we say “as thoroughly as possible.” These two items tell us something about popular perceptions of Native writing in our own time, just as a first edition of Black Elk Speaks (1932) or The Life, History, and Travels of Kah-ge-ga-gah-bowh (1847) tells us something about those perceptions in the past.
I particularly like Masterpieces of American Indian Literature, because all of the titles collected in this anthology are available in first editions in the Kim-Wait/Eisenberg Collection, enabling scholars to compare the ways these texts are packaged for different purposes and different audiences.
I find the use of terms like “Classics” and “Masterpieces” here fascinating. How have books like these altered the canon of American literary studies over the last 30, 40, 50 years?
Another item from the Bruchac collection illustrates the broader history of Native American writing as a subject for academic study and research:
This volume of essays includes several that specifically address Native writers, but there are also essays on African-American writers, Asian-American writers, Chicano writers, and more. We want scholars to use our collection to study not just the original texts of Native authors, but the processes by which those texts disappear and resurface throughout history.
These are just three of the more than 500 books in the Bruchac collection, which also includes books by Native writers not already held in the Kim-Wait/Eisenberg Collection, along with many more examples of anthologies, textbooks, and secondary sources that provide context for the study of Native intellectual life.
As exciting as the Bruchac collection is, I am equally excited by a single volume that we acquired earlier this month:
The earliest item in the Kim-Wait/Eisenberg Collection is the copy of the 1772 fourth edition of Samson Occom’s A Sermon: Preached at the Execution of Moses Paul, An Indian… We also hold two copies of the 1788 London edition of the same Sermon, but I was amazed to learn that it was then translated into Welsh in 1789. While we hold out hope that we may someday add a copy of that 1789 Welsh edition to our collection, we are greatly pleased to have acquired the 1827 reprint of that Welsh edition. According to Worldcat, only two other libraries in the entire world hold copies of this edition.
So when we say we want to document as thoroughly as possible the full spectrum of Native American writing and intellectual life from the 18th century to the present, this is what we are talking about. We will continue to add books, both rare and common, to meet that goal.