Rare Book Collection

Finding Aid Completed by Eric Roth, February 2004
Volume: Approximately 1,000 titles

Acquisition: The books were donated separately and aggregated together at the repository. Acquisition information for each item is available upon request. Prolific donors include Kenneth E. Hasbrouck, Lisa G. DuBois, Perry D. LeFevre, Annette Innis Young, and Mariana LeFevre.

Provenance Note: The majority of the books in this collection were donated to the Society during the tenure of Kenneth E. Hasbrouck, who served as director from 1951 to 1996 (he also donated over fifty books from his own personal collection). Provenance information can be clearly identified for approximately 600 of the books, primarily from stickers, stamp markings, and handwritten signatures, found on their inside covers. Most of these books with publication dates from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries clearly belonged to individuals and families from the New Paltz area. Surnames such as Bevier, Deyo, DuBois, Elting, Hasbrouck, Jansen, LeFevre, Snyder, and Jansen are most prevalent, but there are over 150 other surnames (or in a few cases, institutions such as churches or schools) represented as well.

Access: Access to the Rare Book Collection is unrestricted, but available only through the inventories kept by the Library and Archives staff on a Microsoft Access database. Researchers interested in learning more about specific titles should contact the Archivist/Librarian. Alphabetical records of provenance and author listings are available upon request. Interested researchers can also request reports of titles organized by publisher, publication place or date, or broad subject category, but should recognize that the library's capabilities in these areas are somewhat limited. The collection also includes books donated from twentieth-century amateur historians and genealogists involved with the Society, including numerous descendants of the New Paltz founding families. Other books were purchased directly by the Society for the Library, but due to their age have been reassigned to the Rare Book Collection.

Copyright: Request for permission to publish materials from these records should be discussed with the Archivist and Director of Historic Huguenot Street.

Collection Description

The Huguenot Historical Society Rare Book Collection consists of approximately 1,000 books with publication dates ranging from the seventeenth to the twentieth centuries. Subjects include history, surveying, business and commerce, religion, education, grammar, cooking, travel, children's stories, and fiction. Although the overwhelmingly large majority of the books are written in English, some of the books with publication dates from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries are written in French, Dutch, German, Greek, and Latin. The main strength of the collection lies in their marginalia ö signatures, stamp markings, stickers, and handwritten notes found in roughly 600 of the books ö which provides information about their historic ownership and use.

The books found in the Society's Rare Book Collection can be described in terms of two main categories. The first category consists of those books collected for the purpose of documenting the reading habits of New Paltz area residents. These books are considered as primary sources in that their historical importance lies mainly in the connection between their provenance and their contents rather than in their contents alone. The second category comprises historical books that, despite their age, serve as secondary sources for current research. However, it should be noted that there is a certain degree of overlap between the two types of books, although this overlap is chiefly limited to works dating between 1860 and 1920, during which there is a gradual shift from books of the first type to those of the second. The historical works found in this second category primarily relate to Hudson Valley and New York history and tourism.

Among the early works in the collection (those predating 1860), the subject of religion is dominant, particularly among those works published before 1800. Bibles, books of sermon, psalm and hymnbooks (some of which include musical settings), and catechisms, as well as works of theological, ideological, or scholarly interest are prevalent. But professional and practical works, and historical writings also appear, particularly among the titles published during the nineteenth century. Educational works are particularly abundant. Among these, instructional works on mathematics and language and writing predominate, but occasional works relating to medicine, surveying, etiquette, law, geography, agriculture, and architecture, and taxidermy, can also be found. There are also works on history and politics, including general works on France, the Netherlands, England, the United States, New York State, New England, and Ancient Rome and Greece. Of particular interest are several biographies of political, military and religious leaders, the latter of which includes specific works on the lives of American ministers, missionaries, and religious women.

In addition to the Rare Book Collection, the Society also maintains several other collections of historic printed or published writings. These include: newspapers, sheet music, bibles, pamphlets, Harper's Weekly magazines, and maps. There is a very significant degree of overlap between all of these collections, particularly in terms of provenance. Finding aids to most of these other collections are also available.

The condition of the Rare Book Collection varies widely from item to item, with some in very poor shape and others in excellent condition. Covers and spines tend be dirty and worn; many exhibit varying degrees of separation from the bindings. Spines of books that have been stored with the Library Reference Collection also contain catalog labels affixed with adhesive tape. The pages in almost all of the books are yellowed, some to a significant degree. Pages are also often otherwise discolored or stained, with some tearing evident, particularly around the edges. Some books have loose or missing pages as well.