At Colledge, a very rainy, morning, at 11 o’Clock Disputed from the question assigned us last tuesday But on which we Did not then Dispute By reason of Mr. Mayhews Being employed in taking an account of the Books and other things, Contained in the Library in order to the Printing a new Catalogue thereof.1
1. Joseph Mayhew (1710–1782), Harvard 1730, tutor to the Class of 1755, had served as tutor since 1739 and fellow of the Corporation since 1742 (Sibley-Shipton, Harvard Graduates description begins John Langdon Sibley and Clifford K. Shipton, Biographical Sketches of Graduates of Harvard University, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Cambridge and Boston, 1873– . description ends , 8:730–734). It was he who administered JA his examination for entrance to Harvard, as described in a famous and charming passage in JA’s Diary and Autobiography description begins Diary and Autobiography of John Adams, ed. L. H. Butterfield and others, Cambridge, 1961; 4 vols. description ends , 3:259–260.
When in 1753 John Rand ’48 succeeded Stephen Badger ’47 as keeper of the College library in old Harvard Hall, Mayhew, along with Tutors Belcher Hancock ’27 and Thomas Marsh ’31, had been appointed to receive an account from Badger “of the present state of the sd. Library and make report of it to the Corporation” (MH-Ar: Corporation Records, Meeting of 21 May 1753). Their “exact survey of the library” or inventory of the books which are “actually in it, which are absent but charged, and also such as are absent and not charged, and also an account of the rarities which are there and which belong to it but are not now to be found there,” was not submitted to the Corporation until the spring of 1754, when they were allowed special compensation of 30s. and an advertisement was ordered placed requiring the return of valuable books that the survey revealed had been for a long time in the hands of individuals (same, Meeting of 1 April 1754). The advertisement appeared in the Boston Evening-Post for 8 April, p. 2, col. 1, and probably in other papers.
No printed catalogue of the Harvard Library for the 1750’s is known. The official records do not, in fact, suggest an intention to use the current inventory for such a purpose. The last printed library catalogue was that of 1735 (actually a second supplement to that of 1723), and no later one was issued until 1773. Since the library was consumed in the fire that destroyed old Harvard Hall in 1764, the only record available of books which were in the library while JA was an undergraduate (beyond those in the 1723 catalogue and its supplements) is Andrew Eliot’s compilation of books in the hands of sophisters at the time of the fire (MH-Ar).