News from the West Virginia Libraries: Collection Highlight and Special Events

Book from Thomas Jefferson’s Library at WVU Libraries

The Rare Book Room in the West Virginia and Regional History Center owns many treasures from Austen to Diderot, and Linnaeus to Shakespeare. Among these gems is a two volume legal dictionary once owned by the author of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson — a first edition of A New and Complete Law-Dictionary by Timothy Cunningham, printed in London in 1764-1765. It was among the books in Jefferson’s personal library. He gave it to his nephew, Peter Carr, as evidenced by Jefferson’s gift inscription penned inside the front cover of both volumes.

Peter was the eldest son of Dabney Carr, (1743-1773) a childhood friend and brother in law to Jefferson, after his marriage to Jefferson’s sister Martha in 1765. After Dabney Carr’s early death, Jefferson contributed to his nephew’s education, giving Peter this law dictionary to support his studies. Following his father, who served in the House of Burgesses, and uncle into politics, Peter served as Justice of the Peace for Albemarle County and representative to the House of Delegates.

Endrina Tay, Jefferson scholar and Librarian at Monticello, notes that Jefferson began supervising Peter Carr’s education about 1783, when letters among Jefferson’s correspondence mention ordering books for Carr on languages and the classics during Jefferson’s mission to Paris at the time.

In association with Ms. Tay, the West Virginia University Libraries Jefferson law dictionary is now listed in the Thomas Jefferson Libraries Project, based at Monticello. The listing can be found at Monticello’s Jefferson Library at the LibraryThing website:

Adapted from the blog on the West Virginia and Regional History Center website, May 2014.

Celebrating William Shakespeare’s 450th Birthday at WVU Libraries
April 23, 2014 marked the 450th anniversary of the birth of William Shakespeare. Born in 1564 and considered the greatest writer in the English language, Shakespeare is the author of such well known plays as Romeo & Juliet and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

The WVU Libraries, the West Virginia and Regional History Center, and the Department of English celebrated Shakespeare’s birthday on April 23 in the Robinson Reading Room located in the Downtown Campus Library. The celebration included a lecture by English Professor Dr. Sarah Neville, and an exhibit of the WVU Libraries’ collection of Shakespeare’s Folios. The Shakespeare Folios refer to the first published collections of Shakespeare’s plays. The First Folio, printed in 1623, is the most famous among the four folios published after his death in 1616. Subsequently, three more printings of the collected plays were published following the first printing of 1623. Shakespeare’s collected works are called “folio” due to the large size of the paper used in the printing process. A folio size paper sheet is 15 inches tall; it is then folded in half to make two leaves, or four pages, producing a large book. This exhibit marks the first occasion that all four of WVU’s Shakespeare Folios were on public display.

Shakespeare’s birthday celebration began in March when Dr. Neville brought her English 680 Research Methods class to the Rare Book Room to examine firsthand WVU’s collection of Shakespeare’s Folios. They were under the guidance and supervision of Stewart Plein, Rare Book Librarian.

Dr. Neville’s class in the Rare Book Room

The Shakespeare Folios were a gift from alumnus Arthur S. Dayton, whose collection of works by William Shakespeare and Mark Twain established the Rare Book Room at WVU in 1951.

Adapted from the blog on the West Virginia and Regional History Center website, April 2014.

Lecture on the 7th West Virginia Cavalry

On May 15 Steve Cunningham lectured on the 7th WV Cavalry in the Civil War in the Archives and History Library in the Culture Center in Charleston. The program was free and open to the public.

Raised and organized in the Kanawha Valley in 1861, the 7th West Virginia Cavalry served during the Civil War in numerous battles, campaigns, and raids including the Shenandoah Valley Campaign of 1862, Cross Keys, 2nd Bull Run, White Sulphur Springs, Droop Mountain, the Salem Raid, Cloyds Mountain, and the Lynchburg Campaign. At war’s end, they facilitated the paroling of more than 5,000 returning Confederate soldiers to the Kanawha Valley region. Cunningham shared his research for his upcoming book on the unit, entitled “Loyalty They Always Had: The 7th West Virginia Cavalry in the U.S. Civil War.”

Steve Cunningham has been conducting research on the 7th West Virginia Cavalry for about 20 years, maintains an active Web site about the 7th, and has hosted several events for descendants of the unit. He is a past president of Kanawha Valley Civil War Roundtable, where he was involved in the organization of the centennial rededication of the West Virginia monuments at Gettysburg, and co-authored the book, Their Deeds Are Their Monuments: West Virginia at Gettysburg. He also is the author or co-author of several articles on the Civil War, including “The 1st West Virginia Cavalry in the Gettysburg Campaign” for the scholarly journal Civil War Regiments.

Adapted from the newsletter West Virginia Archives and History News, May 2014.
Traveling Exhibit Highlights Historic Preservation Strategies for West Virginia

The traveling exhibit “Preserving West Virginia: Saving Communities,” made available by the Preservation Alliance of West Virginia, is touring various West Virginia counties in 2014. It focuses on how historic preservation is beneficial to West Virginia, and on strategies for re-using historic sites, while highlighting the West Virginia Endangered Properties List, a collection of at-risk historic resources threatened to be lost through demolition, neglect, and other environmental/human factors. Concrete examples are included to demonstrate how historic preservation has been a successful revitalization and economic development tool in West Virginia. The exhibit is financially supported by the West Virginia Humanities Council, and by the National Coal Heritage Area Authority.

Adapted from the website of the Preservation Alliance of West Virginia, May 2014.

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