The August 2007 issue of American Libraries has an article about the 19th century Frenchman Monsieur Alexandre Vattemare, ventriloquist and library supporter. It describes the man’s interesting career, and focuses on his having pretty well founded the Boston Public Library.
Vattemare supported other libraries in the United States, as well, including the State Library of Pennsylvania. Just two days before the issue of AL arrived at my home, I was looking at the “Report of the State Librarian to the Legislature of Pennsylvania, with a Catalogue of Books, for the year 1854” and serendipitously saw mention of “A catalogue of books received in exchange from M. Vattemare.” Remembering that when I read the article, I went back to look more closely at the Librarian’s report.
Here’s what State librarian Wm. R. De Witt had to say about the exchange:
“Several years since, M. Vattemare, the agent for “international exchanges,” sent to the library, in exchange for books received, a number of books in the French, German and Latin languages. So far as the Librarian can ascertain, there was no list kept of the books given or received. He has, however, collected all he could recognize as received from M. Vattemare, and herewith sends a catalogue of them. Other Librarians have acknowledged their indebtedness to M. Vattemare’s agency in adding to their libraries the most valuable productions of the foreign press.”
(The State Librarian then goes directly into suggesting the use of duplicates from the Library’s collection as the foundation for a further exchange program, and the need for a larger acquisitions budget.)
The printed list includes several hundred volumes received, about half of which are identified as “documents” and half as “miscellaneous.”
The oldest dated item in the ‘catalogue’ is Mariale eximii viri Bernardini de Busti ordinis seraphici fracisi …. printed in Lyon by Johannis Cleyn in 1511. Our call number for the item is RB 232.931 B969m 1511. It looks like there are several earlier editions of this work and at least two later editions, and that the only other OCLC library holding a copy of this particular edition is the Newberry. Our copy can be a wonderful teaching tool in a class on the history of the book.
Thank you, Monsieur Vattemare!