The library and the heart

The Bulletin of Abilene Christian College, June 1928, for the upcoming 1928-1929 academic year describes the campus facilities. It includes this description of the library:

Description of the library, Bulletin, Abilene Christian College, June 1928. p. 18.  See

About six months hence most of the library would be lost in a devastating fire.  Plans were already underway to relocate to a new campus northeast of downtown Abilene, but the 1929 fire hastened the exit from the First Street campus.  The library contained “nearly nine thousand volumes, about two thousand pamphlets and bulletins, and about fifty magazines and other periodicals on the essential fields of study and activities…”  The Bulletin hails “two distinctive features” of the collection: 1) the “unusually large Bible department” and 2) the “careful selection,” further stating “Many volumes are denied place on the shelves because [they are] not standard, not moral, or not true to scholarship and constructive Christianity.  Like the heart, a library is as valuable for what it keeps out as for what it has within.”

A collection of that size was reasonably adequate to support a “First Class” (see p. 17) four-year senior college curriculum.  To my knowledge no specific detail survives which outlined the criteria for inclusion, or exclusion, of books from the ACC library.  Therefore what I offer here is only a broad and suggestive first attempt.  I will be pleased to learn of–and i will keep looking for– details which might color and inform my hypothesis. 

I suppose the needs of the curricular offering were a major factor in collection development.  At least a major practical factor guiding the selection and acquisition.  At the same time and in a deeper way the stated purpose of the school undergirds a collection development policy such as the one outlined above.  The curriculum functioned as a basis upon which to offer credible and recognized four-year ars baccalaureus degrees.  And the library collection, as all libraries do, either served that end and facilitated that work to greater or lesser degrees.  But secular course offerings, along with the intellectual and moral development they represent, served a greater purpose in the mind of those who operated the school.  And the function of the library was at the conceptual core of the whole educational enterprise on North First Street, Abilene, Texas.  Compare the statement above in the context of the paragraph below, ‘Purpose of Abilene Christian College’:

Purpose of Abilene Christian College, Bulletin, Abilene Christian College, June 1928. p. 17.  See:

By 1932 the 5000 books lost in the fire were replaced.  With a few additions the collection grew 10, 147 books.  “By special purpose in 1929,” notes the 1933 Bulletin, “a group of very interesting old books was added to the Rare-Books collection which now contains some volumes dating from as early as 1522.  It has a collection of Bibles in seventeen languages.” (Bulletin, 1933, pp. 7-8).  Margaret Bishop was librarian at the time.  She graduated from ACC in 1924 (BA) and from Vanderbilt University in 1927 (MA), and later studied in the summer term at the Drexel Institute of Library Science in Philadelphia.

The library staff at the time, in ways consistent with the general academic outlook of the school at the time, was attuned to the currency of higher education and library science.  They were not uninformed.  Apparently among the take-aways from Drexel that Margaret brought back with her Abilene was an awareness of the value and utility of rare books in an academic library.  She also reclassified the entire collection when she replaced the fire-damaged books.   Appearances suggest Margaret ushered in a tangible commitment to modern library science, upgraded the collection and the way it was viewed and used by the school, in significant and enduring ways.  In fact, by 1931 she was offering formal credit-bearing instruction in library science.  She and her administration were wholly committed to the implications of operating an institution of higher education the aim of which was “the glory of God, through the Lord Jesus Christ and the ennobling of mankind.”  This commitment, in the most fundamental way, informed and shaped their work and they were not afraid to guard the library collection like one would guard their heart.

Some that got away

I haven’t fished in a good long while, but I remember the feeling of almost having a big one reeled in only to have the line break, or the hook snaps or comes loose, or you drop the fish and it flops back into the water. The fish lives to swim another day.

Pieter Codde, Young scholar in his study. 1630. From Looks like he is thinking about one that got away.

In bookish terms, here are some that got away:

–When I left Ezell-Harding and cleared out my classroom, I had to let go of Encyclopedia Brittannica, about 60 years or more of National Geographics, and a set of Great Books. Easy come, easy go since I got the two sets from the school library book sale, and inherited much of the NG horde from grandparents and other library downsizing sales. But I used all of them and if space were not an option I’d have kept them and would have them still.

–When I left DCHS, I sold three shelves of excellent Social Gospel Movement material. Several firsts were in the lot: Rauschenbusch, Peabody, Matthews, Strong, Batten, Sheldon. Though some got away, we paid the light bill.

–I winnowed again in advance of the move to Abilene and unloaded almost all of my commentaries. Truthfully, I don’t miss them so much. I knew I would have ready access to the same titles plus more and better and newer ones. Still and all, they were useful tools for the tasks at hand. In the same fit of clean-out I also sold an incomplete set of a late nineteenth-century printing of the Talmud, the Rodkinson edition in English. I got them, less 3 or 4 vols, at Amitin’s in St. Louis. What a fabulous shop. They were ex libris St. Louis Public Library circa 1890’s with old card slips, card pockets, bookplates, the works, all intact. They were rebound in library buckram of 1927 vintage, shellacked, and all through had cracked pages at the gutters, marginalia, hand-wear, patina. The set was a witness to the expansive ideals of a great public library with all the charm you could hope for once you realized you weren’t getting a pristine matched set. Larry Amitin knocked the price in half when he learned I was teaching Old Testament to high school kids. ‘Anyone doing that needs the Talmud!,’ he nearly screamed. But, moving day was coming and some things just had to go. I think I sold it to Randy Elder, but either I can’t remember or blocked the memory. A big one. It got away.

–One day at Dad’s Old Bookstore in Nashville in about 1996 or so I saw a book that bore the ownership inscription, in a fine clear penned hand, of Tolbert Fanning. It was a mathematics or science or chemistry text. But that really didn’t matter; it was the association that mattered. And Dad knew it. The shop was very nice, wide selection with good quality stock in a super location which kept new items coming in, and, regrettably lots of neat old items going out. I dropped by Dad’s often because there was always something new to discover. Come to think of it, after my success at 8th Ave, I next ventured to Dad’s sometime the following spring, I think. Probably 1992 or 1993. I remember, distinctly, not being able to afford much of what I saw. I left with some Cincinnati Reds ephemera, which all in all was about as good a haul as I could expect. I learned that if I wanted something from Dad’s I’d have to skip lunch more than twice to get it. But back to Fanning. I think he priced it somewhere north of $75. It may as well have been $750, because I could not afford it. When I scrounged up 75 bucks and went back, alas, it was gone. My line snapped and someone else reeled it in. I hope whomever got it realizes who T. Fanning was.

–Closer to home, the Book Attic in Madison was a frequent haunt. They had a decent popular-level religion section and an equally nice history and literature section. I should have bought E. A. Elam’s Life of J. M. Kidwill (1893) when I had the chances. Chances, plural. Unlike the Fanning book at Dad’s, it was cheap. Maybe 10 bucks, maybe. And it was signed and inscribed by the author. Why I put it off I don’t know, and why I thought I needed whatever it was I got, I don’t know. It was in the shop for the longest, until one day it was gone. I didn’t know what I missed until I learned more about Elam. Then I felt the impress of the missed opportunity.

Skip the bosh and twaddle

Below T. R. advises son Kermit re. his reading strategy. I don’t know three things about Teddy Roosevelt, but this quote is smart and crisp and so it makes the cut for inclusion in my higgledy-piggledy assortment of bookish quotes.

I quite agree with you about Tom Pinch. He is a despicable kind of character; just the kind of character Dickens liked, because he had himself a thick streak of maudlin sentimentality of the kind that, as somebody phrased it, “made him wallow naked in the pathetic.” It always interests me about Dickens to think how much first-class work he did and how almost all of it was mixed up with every kind of cheap, second-rate matter. I am very fond of him. There are innumerable characters that he has created which symbolize vices, virtues, follies, and the like almost as well as the characters in Bunyan; and therefore I think the wise thing to do is simply to skip the bosh and twaddle and vulgarity and untruth, and get the benefit out of the rest. Of course one fundamental difference between Thackeray and Dickens is that Thackeray was a gentleman and Dickens was not. But a man might do some mighty good work and not be a gentleman in any sense.

From Letters to His Children, 1919, pages 218-219.

And I recently learned of this fine illustration from Robert William Buss. Sometimes dead Campbellites pass through my mind in a similar fashion:


“I believe Mr. Schuster is right in this,…”

“… but I also believe that this cannot be accomplished without a complete revolution of our methods of education.”

[pause…Mr. Schuster is Lincoln Schuster who “wrote a paper for the Publisher’s Weekly not long ago” in which he opined that college graduates who do not know how to read are an indictment first of the universities that minted them and back of that the grammar schools that nursed them. Somehow along the way these children learned or observed or absorbed or intuited–who knows really– that ‘distinterested reading’ was frowned upon in favor of ‘burning the midnight oil and the drudgery of homework.’]

“I hold that all the discipline of a child should be confined to the primary grades and throughout the primary grades this discipline should be thorough. As things are, our discipline is lax in the primary grades and it begins to tighten up in the secondary schools. It is carried to an absurdity when adults, as boys and girls of college age actually are, are still treated as children, who must learn conjugations and declensions for “discipline of the mind” instead of being taught languages as the media of an ever-living literature and who must answer elaborate and irrelevant questionnaires on points of pedantic Shakespearean scholarship before reading Hamlet or Antony and Cleopatra for pleasure as poetry and drama.

“For myself I must confess that, culturally, I got very little out of high school and almost nothing out of college; but out of the books I read in the [p. 34] public library when I was in high school and in the college library when I was in university I got a great deal. I have often said I quit college before taking my degree because I found that college was interfering too much with my education. That may sound facetious, but it is the solemn truth. Cut-and-dried class routine and ‘disciplinary’ homework cut seriously into the time I was able to put in at the library to satisfy my consuming desire for an education, my curiosity about life, men and emotions, the things of the heart and intellect that are expressed in the art of the written word.”

–Burton Rascoe, The Joys of Reading, Life’s Greatest Pleasure. New York: Nelson Doubleday, Inc. 1937, pages 33-34.


Interesting to hear this critique from 1937. Specifically: that he regarded college students as adults, that discipline was too lax, and that college interfered with his education. Sometimes it strikes me, based on observations alone, that college students are often somewhere between two years and fifteen minutes removed from middle school. Care to quibble? I present YikYak as exhibit A, then rest my case. Yes, it is extreme, but only as a variation of degree–not kind–from any number of other social media plagues. It is a symptom of larger problems the brightest of us probably will not more fully know about or understand for years to come. Would that all we had to contend with were the banalities of the disciplinary homework Burton Rascoe bemoaned.

Before any get in a twist, yes I understand a good many college students are just as eager and curious about the “things of the heart and intellect” as Burton Rascoe was. And a good many who teach engage their students as adults, not children, who in turn repay the investment with genuine development. Yes, yes, yes. I understand. All that aside, what drew me to this passage is Rascoe’s point that where more formal educational structures sometimes failed to nurture his spirited free inquiry, the library did not. Structures and conventions and pedagogies that result in “elaborate and irrelevant questionnaires” about this-that-and-the-other is one thing if the library has your back. Thank goodness for the librarians in Burton Rascoe’s life who ensured a good supply of reading material was readily available to him.

What would become of him if there was no library as a recourse to the dead-end he saw in the classroom?

We’d do well to spend more time in purposeful, recreational, curiosity-driven reading. We’d do well to lay off the social media, quit Yakking, and start reading. All well and good. But we librarians must, must, ensure that the resources necessary for spirited free inquiry are widely and freely and easily available. The time will come, I’m afraid, when that will be an uphill battle.

More from Rascoe in future posts.

Thirty years on: some thoughts on my bibliophilia

This follows a post of a few days ago containing Burton Rascoe’s autobiographical reflection on the purchase, with his own earnings, of his first book.

I was fifteen years old and at last persuaded my mother to let me drive into Nashville to check out the antique store on 8th Avenue, South which advertised itself as having a large selection of used books. I either saw the ads in the paper or the phone book. While I forget the name of the bookstore, I remember the anticipation since I also liked antique stores. Two for one. With few thousand books inside an antique store, surely something would catch my eye. I had some money, stashed from a summer of mowing grass for Randy Stamps, but I did not yet have a license to drive. My persistence probably wore her thin, but she relented I think after I was able to convince her that traffic on I-65 would be lightest on a Saturday morning. It was. Which worked out well since that may have been the first time I navigated our Buick on the interstate. The weather in Nashville, Tennessee on November 30, 1991 was on the cool side, not cold, but overcast. I remember the grey sky.

The books were way in the back left corner, in three adjoining rooms. The largest had shelving probably nine feet high on the outside wall of the store, which was an early 20th c. brick store front. Tile floor, high tin-covered ceilings, lots of antiques. The two smaller rooms were adjuncts to the large one, probably all offices in an earlier day. They had lower ceilings within easy reach and both were lined with shelving packed full, most of them double-stacked. The big room had a stool and a small step-ladder available on a self-serve basis to access the upper shelves. Books in every conceivable genre and the shelves were well-labelled. Every so often there was handwritten 3×5 card thumb-tacked to the front of a shelf reminding you that prices are in the inside front end page, in pencil, non-negotiable. And reshelve where you found it, please.

Antique stores I knew. Bookstores I knew. But this was the first used-book store I’d seen up close and in-person. The bookstore I knew best was Jan’s Hallmark. It was two doors down from H. G. Hill’s grocery store in Hendersonville, Tennessee, next to Ace Hardware. They sold new books and could order almost anything. They carried lots of magazines, Popular Science, Hot Rod, Car and Driver, Field and Stream. We went to church with the owners. I bought Mad Magazines there. Each Christmas I bought a Louis L’Amor for Grandad there. If I think for minute I can almost always remember the way the place smelled. Like paper. Not musty, but it was a distinct smell and it was certainly paper. Gift wrapping, greeting cards, magazines, and paperbacks.

The antique store on 8th Avenue smelled like cigarettes and varnish. Three rooms smelled like cigarettes, varnish, and old musty paper. When you first walked in, on a dark buffet not six feet from the door, sat a fine set of Scott’s Bible in six volumes. I already loved it. I eyed that set every time I went in thereafter (which was often after I arrived on the DLC campus three years later). $175 for the set. I never in my life saw such a price tag on a book, much less a fine matched set circa about 1810. It took be aback. I later acquired a set of Scott’s Bible, and each time I see it I remember that distinct impression I had then.

I remember the layout of the big book room and one of the smaller rooms. The smaller room held the history sections: military history, political histories, all kinds of world and American histories, you name it. State and local histories, too. Inside, right in the middle, was a small wooden desk such as one would find in a child’s room. Not large. Plain with three or so drawers on each side of the knee-hole. Painted green? I think. On it was a single desk lamp, which helped because otherwise there was no light in the drop ceiling. The larger room, about in the middle of the long exterior wall, just below waist-height, held the religious section. Those would have been my interests in November 1991. I probably also looked for anything about old cars or motorcycles. Floyd Clymer paperbacks? Hot Rod issues? I don’t think he had anything like that, or if he did it was unremarkable or otherwise did not add to what I already owned. Any memory of the other small room is now lost. The magazines, such as they were, were around the corner past the toilet. What antique store doesn’t have more Life magazines than anyone wants? And National Geographics. I do remember those. Probably a literal ton of them.

This is enough to say it made an impression, quite an impression. But it is less than accurate to say this Saturday morning experience birthed my bibliophilia. It did not, for in fact I never was not a book-lover. I never was not a reader. I was read to as a child, and the presence of my ‘own’ books in my ‘own’ space is as much a feature of my earliest memories as anything else. Neither did this Saturday morning experience birth an interest in antiquarian books. By age fifteen I even owned some old books. Each was a hand-me-down either from my parents or grandparents. I also bought books. Always at school book fairs. Always. With my own money, and usually also my parents or grandparents would get me a book or two as well.

No, bibliophilia did not leap onto the scene. It neither crashed down on me nor flashed up at me. There was no epiphany.

Rather, it crept up on me in such a normal non-descript way that on November 30, 1991, standing at the counter with Russell Conwell in one hand and a ten-dollar bill in the other felt so natural that there was nothing to do but go right ahead.

It was no epiphany, but it was eureka, and in hindsight I can say surely it was some kind of rubicon. I think every bibliophile can tell a story about how they crossed their line. It is a liminal experience all right to fork out your own hard-earned dough for a book someone else doesn’t want, doesn’t know what they have, or at least is willing to sell if price is right. Every bibliophilus antiquarius can take you back to a moment, perhaps the moment of acquisition for book zero, their first old book.

I was aware of James A. Garfield. His tragic assassination, and that so early in his administration, gained for him a place in my ten-year-old consciousness. (I at one point had all the presidents memorized, in order from Washington to Reagan, thanks of course–who is surprised?– to a fascinating book in the Hendersonville Elementary School library about the US presidents). I was also aware of Garfield because my great-grandfather attended Hiram College, the same school which Garfield attended, taught at and served only a few years earlier. My great-grandfather’s youngest brother was named James Abram Garfield Ice. Family lore has it that sometime about 1908 he rode into town and for all we know kept right on riding. Nary hide nor hair was ever heard of him since. His place in the genealogy my grandmother compiled has a date of birth and question mark. That also made an impression. So I was aware of James Abram Garfield.

When I saw Russell Conwell’s The Life, Speeches, and Public Services of James A. Garfield, Twentieth President of the United States. Including an account of his assassination, lingering pain, death, and burial (Portland, Maine: George Stinson and Company, 1881), bound in publisher’s brown cloth, modestly shelf-worn but complete, with illustrations intact, I knew. This is it. This is the one. I will buy this one. Every bibliophile knows the feeling.

I was staring down the shelves of the history section in the small room. The desk lamp helped, but it was slow going in the corners where it was darkest. And slow going because they were double-shelved. It was gloriously slow-going. And they were gloriously double-shelved. Not a chore in the least. Ooo, look at that! And wow, that’s sounds good! Truthfully about all of lot of it was over my fifteen-year-old head. I was not prepared at that age to recognize scholarship. Nor equipped to pick out the scholarship from so much rubbish that often fills used-book stores. But it was all new, and all used, and some of it old and that alone was exciting.

So there in the small room about a shelf or two up from the floor, near the corner but not in it, I saw a book older than many of the others. That much I could tell. My eye even at that age was trained by experience in the Reynoldburg genizah to notice an old book. I snapped it up, looked it over once quickly then again slowly. I knew this was it. I kept browsing so long as my mother’s patience allowed, but Conwell was either right at hand or right in my hand. Nevermind we were the only souls in the place, save for the nice lady at the counter. But should a contender enter the ring, they would not leave with the book I found!

I felt something like a mixture of conquest, or conclusively solving a mystery and happening upon a treasure, and a solid dose of sheer dumb luck. Also relief. Probably greed, too. In my mind I built up this experience for a few weeks, if not months, I don’t remember. Going to Nashville was sort of a big deal. It’s not like we had to plot the journey or anything, it is just that we didn’t often go unless we needed something we couldn’t get close by. So it would have been a big let-down to drive all the way into to 8th Avenue, South only go home empty-handed. But Russell Conwell was no consolation prize. It was a genuine find, and I was proud of it.

I finished casing the joint and decided I could do no better that this choice item. My mother also said, “I’m leaving now and unless you want to walk home, you are too.”

It cost ten dollars. $10.78 with tax. I paid the nice lady at the counter, she put Conwell in a paper bag and I drove us home.

Every library I had ever seen, been in, or heard of stamped their claim to ownership all over their books. My mother wrote her name in all of the books she had in her classroom. Every book I received as a gift, I think, came with a gift inscription in it. All of the books at 5775 Refugee Road bore at minimum one of two names, sometimes both: K. C. Ice or M. C. Ice. So I thought everyone put their names in their books. Surely it was good and right although I can’t conceive of why I thought I needed to do such a thing, other than sheer imitation. I had no siblings from which I need to mark my literary territory. I was not about to lend my books, so if they do not leave home there is no reason to indicate a return address.

I wrote my full name, the date, and the price, followed by a decisively-written #1 as a capstone to my accomplishment. Gosh I was proud of it. I guess I thought at time the commencement of a personal library deserved at very least the kind of formality such as obtained for communications to and from the state, or from one’s mother when you were really in trouble. That is the only time I heard my full name, so I learned to associate it with important occasions. So why not emblazon your name on your book? I did. It felt so good. Pomp and circumstance for a party of one please.

If you have not already picked up on this irony, let me spell it out forthrightly just here. By November 1991 I had a shelf full of books. Shelves, plural, actually. In a very real way, not a thing began on 30 November 1991. Not one thing. Russell Conwell was just another in a long line of books I bought.

Yet up to that point it was the oldest, and for all the reasons I describe above, it was unique.

I guess that is why I denominated this one as number one.

With thirty years behind me, here are some thoughts.

–I knew then that I wanted to learn and understand and that there were some things available in old books that I might not get otherwise. And that if I was to learn and understand I could do such a thing for myself and not rely only on what I have heard or been told. In this I am indebted to three or four high school teachers. By my sophomore year of high school I had already studied under three of them; the fourth would become my English teacher the following year. The larger context surrounding 30 November 1991 was the beginning of the life of my mind, at least in a self-conscious way. I was curious and old books if they do anything feed and breed curiosity. It is still the same now.

–I think that is the best way to explain why this book is ‘Number One.’ Number one makes no sense aside from numbers two and three…all the way to five thousand or ten thousand, or more. I know without any doubt that I had then a clear sense that this was the beginning of a library. I had purpose and intent. I had no idea what books would constitute such a library and no idea how I would pay for them. But I had then every intention of building a personal library along whatever lines interested me, and all I needed to do was sleuth enough to locate them and work enough to buy them. These books would help me learn, they would become teachers and tutors. I did not have the language then to think of them as conversation partners, but they would become that, too. Some bibliophiles acquire or collect books only or primarily as objects. I understand, and sympathize, and appreciate such interests. They are not far from my mind. But I have always acquired books because of what they can teach me. But you build a library–you keep them–because they can teach and re-teach. Libraries evolve, sure, but they also are remarkably stable, on the whole. The stability and kept-ness of the books is what I’m after here. I knew then I wanted to build a library to retain, to go back to over and over again. By and large, I have done that. Tastes changes, interests change. You learn new things and collect in different areas. It should change. Things come and go. Sure. But even through all the change and in all of the stability, private libraries reflect their librarians.

–I believed then that the past was worth knowing about. I believed then that the past mattered. I did not have any conceptual framework in place to distinguish between the events of the knowable past with constructed history. I had no consciousness of history as a discipline and I naively conflated history with the past. But I knew old books were once new books. I knew in some basic sense that old books contained the thoughts of their day, and thereby contained a means of access to an earlier time. I knew they were a snapshot of their time. I knew then that the object itself (aesthetics aside) could hold information about the past, and information from the past. Family Bibles for example, contain both the words of scripture, sometimes in beautiful form and blank pages upon which my ancestors chronicled their vital statistics. They also in rare instances reflected self-consciously by means of notations, underlines, parenthetical comments, and sometimes an outright burst of poetic or prosaic reflection. The books said something sure enough; and the containers themselves conveyed information. Same now as then. I’m still learning what the books might teach.

–The upshot here is that by 1991 I became interested in the totality of the printed book as an object by which to learn about the past. I could not have articulated it that way at the time, but I think that is where I was headed. For example, all appearances suggest the first owner of this copy of Conwell’s Life of Garfield, was W. A. Bills of Farmington, Tennessee. I know this because he, too, scrawled his name across most of the front blank endpaper. Already there was a story of a past owner who had his own reason’s for acquiring and using the book. Already there was a sense of the past with its own beckoning unknowns. It is a trite sense of wonder, but it is a place to begin. For what it is worth, it is one of the places I began.

–I read Conwell’s book right away. I did not finish that day, but soon thereafter. I no longer annotate in pen, and never annotated or created marginalia in a heavy way. But I will occasionally scrawl notes on slips of paper. Evidently I was doing that as early as 1991. Point being: I buy to read and while there are many I have not read through, I read in just about all of them, even if only for a quick reference. Looks like I read Conwell all the way through. Someone asked me once, have you read all those books? Well, some of them I’ve read twice. True, some of them I have read twice. But a lot I just read in, here or there, now and again. But I read Conwell through and began it that afternoon. Not much has changed: I read something in each new book. It was a habit formed early and I blame elementary school book fairs.

I returned to that shop on 15 January 1993 and will tell about that acquisition in a future post. The trips became more frequent after I moved out for college, and I might have bought more than two books there over the years. But so far as I can remember only these two books stand out.

Thirty years on I am still as excited about what a used book store or antique shop might hold as I was in November 1991. I am still as curious and the pull of old books is as strong now as then.

“I shall indulge again in a bit of autobiography.”

“The first book I ever purchased out of my own earnings was a copy of Emerson’s Essays in a cheap A. L. Burt reprint. I was thirteen years old, and I bought the book out of my salary of $1.50 a week as a carrier of a newspaper route in a small town in Oklahoma. Proudly I pasted into that book an oblong piece of paper on which was inscribed in ink, “Private Library of Burton Rascoe. No. 1.”

“I had had other books, but they had been given to me by my parents and friends, bought for me. I had early developed a habit of reading. I was precocious in that regard, for my grandmother forced my retention and co-ordination so that I was able to spell before I could walk and read before I went to school. But my reading up until I was twelve years old was haphazard. I read Wild West stories and lives of the President, books of adventure and exploration, the Horatio Alger, Jr, and Henty books, romantic novels my mother owned, Owen wiser and Winston Churchill (the American), Mark Twain and Bret Harte, the Bible, Dickens, and whatever books I could lay hands on.

“My people were not bookish. There were very few books in our house in my childhood–a large [p. 62] illustrated family Bible, Dante’s Inferno illustrated by Gustave Dore, a pictorial history of the Spanish-American War, a book of drawings by Frederic Remington, some novels by E. P. Roe, Hall Caine, Marie Corelli, Charles Major, Amelia E. Barr, John Fox, Jr, Gertrude Atherton’s The Conqueror and a few other popular romances of the day, an odd volume or two of Dickens, a book on arctic exploration, and little else. I devoured all these and craved more. When a public library was organized by the public-spirited citizens of the pioneer town and opened in a barnlike room on the second floor of a two-story office building, I was one of the first to make use of the books bought and contributed. My thirst for knowledge began to develop. Then I heard a Methodist preacher, Bishop Quayle, famous for his oratory, deliver a sermon once in which he quoted so tantalizingly from Emerson that I looked up Emerson in the library and read Emerson’s essay on “Self-Reliance.’ The essay fascinated me. I resolved to own a book of Emerson’s essays for my very own. Moreover, I then and there decided that someday I would own and cherish a great number of books in a library I had added to myself.

–Burton Rascoe, The Joys of Reading, Life’s Greatest Pleasure. New York: Nelson Doubleday, Inc. 1937, pages 61-62.


My experience is not much different. My mother’s family was not very bookish, certainly not so compared to the Ice side of the family. The Ice’s were bookish a century before I ever arrived on the scene, and some of them very books I own today. Though the Carter’s were not bookish–if by that you mean accumulators of books and builders of personal libraries–they were readers, chiefly of the daily newspapers and a range of popular magazines from National Geographic to Gospel Advocate. Besides books of local history, they owned World Book Encyclopedia which I devoured. They encouraged my bookishness. The Ice’s were in every sense of the word bookish. And they, too, encouraged my bookishness.

In a future post I will indulge in a bit of autobiography about the first book I purchased with my own earnings. I was fifteen, and that was almost exactly thirty years ago. Like Rascoe, it was my first, yet it was not the first.

Explorations in Stone-Campbell Bibliography #12: Propaganda Novels

I posted installment #11 two years ago.  It is time to resume.

A sub-set of my interest in RM bibliography is propaganda novels.  (See this earlier post about the Sommer edition of Mr. World and Miss Church-Member)  The basic thrust is that honest truth-seeker eventually finds enlightenment and along with it…if not coterminous to it…the essence of the ‘Restoration Plea’ (or comes to enlightenment on some social evil or moral problem).   Variations within this theme include temperance issues and virtue in general.  Clad in novel form, they advance Restoration principles before the reading public in a manner distinct from, but in content similar to, formal debates, doctrinal monographs or theological treatises.  Rather than employ deliberation or formal logic, they persuade by narrative, characterization, empathy.  One striking similiarity across the field is how the agonist’s name often serves as title of the book.  This personalizes the main issue…you read it and become absorbed in the character’s quest.  The agonist’s experience is a vehicle for argument: as the character finds her way, so too can the reader.  Hopefully, this personalization results in conviction and just as you have read the book, you ‘go and do likewise.’

My interest stems from my small assemblage of these novels, pictured here:

Propaganda Novels

Through a few minutes’ research I see there are many more and they have been on the bibliographers’ radar for a century.  In 1906 John Waterhaus Monser issued The Literature of the Disciples, A Study (St. Louis, Christian Publishing Company).  “Literature was never an art with us,” he said.  “The statement of the religious idea or fact was our chief concern.  To embellish it was secondary, if at all.  Many of us seem to care little for balance of sentences, perspective, climax and things like these” (pp. 24-25).  In his chapter on the classification of Disciples’ literature Monser editorialized almost constantly.  In spite of his effort at fairness (“In classifying our leading works I have decided not to discriminate.   The above caution is deemed sufficient [I omitted it since it is not entirely relevant for this post, MI].  Writers will be found representing the conservative and progressive element” p. 32) the governing criteria for his list of entries is plainly subjective:

“In the work before me, then,” he goes on, “my chief question is this: Is there ability enough in a pamphlet or book to justify its mention?  If so, I shall mention it, allowing the reader of it to decide as to its value to him.  True, I give a hint, here and there, but rarely, if ever, is it derogatory.  Our Benjmain Franklin once said, “You do not have to gnaw into the bone of a ham to learn whether or not it is tainted.” So say I, and, so, to business” (p. 33).

Monser’s classification is neither scientific nor comprehensive, but for our purposes in this little essay it is helpful.  Another quote from p. 33:

The prominent elements in religious literature are Life, Deeds, Stress, Biblical Thought, Instruction, Appeal, Narration and Meditation.  Corresponding to these are Biography, History, Controversry, Exegesis, Didactics, Sermons and Addresses, Narrative and Fiction, Devotional.  Under these heads we hope to embrace such literature as may present itself.

Here are Monser’s comments and entries under Narration, pp. 57-60:

NARRATION.  Under this head I have decided to group two classes, that of narrative and romance.  Let us begin with such writers as Durban, Willlis, Power, Bagby and Tyler.  Nor must we overlook Z. T. Sweeney’s TRAVELS ROUND THE WORLD.  He is interesting, even in a “Report on Fish.”  Here are men who delight themselves and others by furnishing us racy letters, touched by the finger of fancy, but always well ballasted with incident.  Of this sort of literatrure W. E. Garrison is quite capable, as witness his WHEELING THROUGH EUROPE.  Champ Clark has a gift for personalities–biting, but bracing.  Willett has given us the benefit of his visions abroad.  The Editor’s Easy Chair never rocks one to sleep.  F. M. Green’s articles were always read with avidity–why [58] not now?  W. F. Richardson, in his conversations, is full of good material for the pen.  John S. Sweeney must be rich in reminiscence, if, at time, somewhat imaginative.  It has occurred to me he might do well on a piece of fiction.  But could he equal D. R. Dungan or D. R. Lucas?  Just a word here as to our utility of fiction in reaching the undecided mind.  Who will ever know all the good done by such works as ON THE ROCK, CHANG FOO, OR ROSA GRAY?  Or, take D. R. Lucas’ PAUL DARST.  J. H. Stark has gained quite a reputation with his MARY ARDMORE and HUGH CARLIN.   One is written to describe the test of faith; the other the triumph of truth.  John Augustus Williams has produced a story of the lodge, the church and the school in ROSE EMERSON.  Many of the incident in this fine work were real, and can be recalled by elderly people, who dwelt in that section of Kentucky.   True, as I have said elsewhere, these books are not remarkable for artistic finish.  But who cares?  They are written in good, plain English, and–they have a nub to them.  Judge Schofield, in his ALTAR STAIRS, shows and ability to mass [59] his thought and still delineate character. . . . But here come the ladies, in a troop, urging their claims.  First, there is Mrs. Marie Butler, with her RIVERSIDE; then Margaret Frances, with ROSE CARLETON’S REWARD; Fannie Christopher, with DUKE CHRISTOPHER and BARTOLET MILON.  Mrs. M. M. B. Goodwin, who was busy year after year as a pioneer in this department, producing stories, sermons for children, poems, etc., etc.  Then there was Helen A. Rains, of sainted memory, and last Mrs. Jessie Brown Pounds, hymnist, poet and story-teller.  In the QUEEN’S GARDENS, a serial published in THE CHRISTIAN-EVANGELIST in November, 1902, Mrs. W. W. Wharton shows unusual strength, grace and outreach of thought.  We should hear more from such writers.  I have reserved for the last the children’s popular writer, J. Breckenridge Ellis, who, to my thinking, is developing more wonderfully and inexhaustibly than any of our romance writers.  There are good signs about.  Many young writers aree coming to the front, but who shall get there and stay?  All can not hope even to be read.  Frederick Harrison [60] well says, “To organize our knowledge, to systematize our reading, to save, out of the relentless cataract of ink, the immortal thoughts of the greatest–this is a necessity, unless the produtve ingenuity of man is to lead us at last to a measureless and pathless chaos.”  I should counsel, then, not to write until you have something worth saying.  Obtaining this point, say it–clearly, comprehensively, classically.  Then rest and feed the mind.  Don’t hurry into a new venture.  Fill the cask and you will have no trouble in empyting it through the bunghole.  This is so much wiser than beating on an empty barrel.

Next comes Winifred Ernest Garrison, “The Literature of the Disciples of Christ” Bulletin of the Disciples Divinity House of the University of Chicago April 1923. In what he acknowledged was an imperfect attempt, Dean Garrison provided the first scientific Disciples’ bibliography.  Absent of any editorialization, Garrison’s borrowed Monser’s categories, expanded them in some cases, and included a classified periodical list.  Garrison published the list knowing there were gaps (he “intentionally omitted: Sunday school lesson books, books distinctly for childrten, tracts, and pamphlets.   Hymn books are not included, but should be included in a revised list.”), sought advice for improvement not only in terms of content, but also arrangement.  In form he listed author, title and some publication data, noting where appropriate [*] those items held by Disciples Divinity House of the University of Chicago.  Also, he solicited gifts (what bibliographer wouldn’t?): “The library will be glad to receive copies especially of works which are out of print, and bound or unbound files of any of the early periodicals.”

Under “Religious Fiction” he listed these [pp. 13-14]:

D. R. Dungan: Chang Foo, a Chinaman in Search After Religious Truth (S., 1885). [Standard Publishing Company, Cincinnati]

D. R. Dungan: On The Rock (1872. 33rd ed., S., 1900).

D. R. Dungan: Rosa Gray (S.).

D. R. Lucas: Paul Darst (C. P. Co.). [Christian Publishing Company, St. Louis]

W. T. Hacker: Hot for the Pastor (C. P. Co.).

J. B. Ellis: In the Days of Jehu (C. P. Co.).

J. B. Ellis: Shem, a Story of the Captivity (C. P. Co.).

Jessie B. Pounds: Young Man From Middlefield (C. P. Co.).

Jessie B. Pounds: Rachel Sylvester (S.).

Jessie B. Pounds: Norman McDonald (S.).

Jessie B. Pounds: The Iron-Clad Pledge (S.).

Jessie B. Pounds: A Popular Idol (S.).

C. J. Scofield: Alter Staris (C. P. Co.).

A. F. Smith: Ernest Leighton (C. B. Pub.) [Christian Board of Publication, St. Louis; successor to C.P.Co.]

J. H. Stark: Hugh Carlin (C. B. Pub.).

Mrs. M. N. Vanderwoort: Across the Gulf (C. B. Pub.).

J. A. Williams: Rosa Emerson (C. P. Co.).

B. A. Jenkins: The Princess Salome (Lippincott, 1921).

Hattie Cooley: An Honest Doubter (S.).


Hattie Cooley: As an Earthling (S.).

Mary A. Bayne: Blue Grass and Wattle (S.).

Mary A. Bayne: Crestland, a Centennial Story of Cane Ridge (S.).

M. A. Boteler: The Conversion of Brian O’Dillon (S.).

Abe Corey: Think Peace (S.).

Abe Corey: The Trail to the Hearts of Men (S.).

Edgar D. Jones: Fairhope, the Annals of a Country Church (Macmillan, 1917).

J. M. Rudy: Our Nation’s Peril (Chicago, 1918).*

A decade later Alfred Thomas DeGroot and Enos Everett Dowling published The Literature of the Disciples. Advance, Indiana: Hustler Print, 1933, a paperback volume of 78 pages based on, and an improvement upon, Garrison’s 1923 Bulletin and Degroot’s 1927 Butler tUniversity M.A. thesis title A Study in the Literature of the Disciples of Christ, available here.  They listed [pp. 54-55]:

Bayne, M. A. Crestland, A Centennial Story of Cane Ridge, 271, S. 1907

Boteler, M. M. The Conversion of Brian O’Dillon, 253, S. 1896

Boteler, M. M. Like as We Are, 225, S. 1903

Brown, J. T. *Bruce Norman, 215, Lou. 1901

Brown, W. H. The Call of Service, S. 1913

Burleigh, W. G. Uncle Tom’s Mansion, Grand Rapids, Mich. 1931

Cooley, H. As an Earthling, S. 1899

Cooley, H. An Honest Doubter, S. 1906

Cory, A. Think Peace, S. 1917

Cory, A. The Trail to the Hearets of Men, Revell

Dungan, D. R. *On the Rock, 340, S. 1872

Dungan, D. R. Chang Foo, S. 1885

Dungan, D. R. Rosa Gray, S. 1904

Ellis, J. B. King Saul, 281, C. P. Co. 1898

Ellis, J. B. Shem, a Story of the Captivity, 299, C. P. Co. 1900

Ellis, J. B. Adnah, 308, Phila. 1902

Ellis, Fran, Bobbs-Merrill 1912

Ellis, J. B.  The Woodneys New York 1914

Hacker, W. T. Hot for the Pastor, C. P. Co.

Hanes, A. *The Peril of Hunkey Hollow, 173, Parkersburg, W.Va. 1926

Jenkins, B. A. The Princess Salome, Phila. 1921

Jones, E. D. Fairhope, the Annals of a Country Church, Macmillan 1917

Kershner, B. L. The Head Hunter, 106, Macmillan 1917

Lucas, D. R. *Paul Darst, 206, Burns

Moody, R. N. Eunice Loyd

Pounds, J. B. Norman McDonald, S. 1887

Pounds, J. B. The Iron Clad Pledge, S. 1890

Pounds, J. B. A Popular Idol, S. 1890

Pounds, J. B. The Young Man from Middlefield, 257, C. P. Co. 1901

Pounds, J. B. Rachel Sylvester, S. 1905

Rudy, J. M. Our Nation’s Peril, Chicago 1918

Scofield, C. J. Altar Stairs, 320, C. C. 1903


Smith, A. F. Ernest Leighton, 336, C. P. Co. 1881

Stark, J. H. *Hugh Carlin, 185, C. B. Pub. 1986

Stark, J. H. *Mary Ardmore, 328, C. P. Co. 1898

Stark, J. H. Equally Yoked

Stark, J. H. Fair Maud

Stark, J. H. Baptism of Suffering

Vanderwoort, M. N. Across the Gulf, 268, C. P. Co. 1898

Williams, J. A. Rosa Emerson, C. P. Co.

Wright, H. B. That Printer of udell’s, Chicago 1903

Wright, H. B. The Calling of Dan Matthews, Chicago 1909

A little over decade later Claude Elbert Spencer completed his monumental An Author Catalog of Disciples of Christ and Related Religious Groups. Canton, Missouri: Disciples of Christ historical Society, 1946.  Spencer, a trained professional librarian, invested over twenty years to improve the form and content of all his predecessors.  He improved it to such a degree (his entries are listed alphabetically by author and contain as full a publication account as his sources–whatever they were–afforded) that only a page-by-page search might uncover more items, and even so, without the item at hand, there is only so much that Spencer can do for us when one is searching for any particular genre.

The items I list below belong in the Monser-DeGroot-Dowling taxonomy, but are not listed above.  They, too, are Restoration propaganda novels:

Ashley S. Johnson, The Great Controversy. A Biblical and Historical Search After the True Basis of Christian Union. Ogden Bros. & Co.: Knoxville, 1894.

Ashley S. Johnson, The Great Controversy. rev ed. M. D. Baumer. F. L. Rowe: Cincinnati, 1939.

John Allen Hudson, Peter Finwick. F. L. Rowe: Cincinnati, 1929.

Daniel Sommer, Rachel Reasoner: Or, A Scriptural Daughter, Wife and Mother. Daniel Sommer: Indianpapolis, 1900.

R. N. Moody, Eunice Loyd, Or the Struggle and Triumph of an Honest Heart. F. L. Rowe: Cincinnati, 1909.

E. M. Borden, The Foot of Mount Nebo. [Firm Foundation Publishing House: Austin?; see 1936 List of Preachers, p. 174]

E. M. Borden, The Crimson Trail

E. M. Borden, John’s Troubles

E. M. Borden, Tom’s Call to Preach


J. M. Sallee, Mabel Clement. The National Baptist Publishing House: Fulton, KY, 1903.  An anti-Campbellite propaganda novel!

I welcome additions, corrections and suggestions.

Mr. World and Miss Church Member: Katherine Sommer’s edition

A sub-set of my interest in RM bibliography is propaganda novels.  I admit it is down the list of my interests, but the whole genre is terrifically obscure…therefore the attraction.  Speaking of obscure, should any double-major in English and Theology feel up for the task, I think there is a thesis or dissertation here somewhere.  The basic plot line follows the honest truth-seeker who eventually finds enlightenment and along with it…if not coterminous to it…the essence of the ‘Restoration Plea’ (or some sort of moral lesson).  Clad in novel form, such documents advance Restoration principles before the reading public in a manner distinct from, but in content similar to, formal debates, doctrinal monographs or theological treatises.  The argument comes through the agonist’s experience: as the character finds her way, so too can the reader.  I’m working on a short list of RM propaganda novels, to be posted to this site on the 27th.

Mr. World and Miss Church Member is an interesting variation on this theme.  One, it is an allegory, and two, W. S. Harris has no Stone-Campbell ties.  William Shuler Harris appears to have been quite the character, and modestly prolific at that, as this entry on TomFolio details.  Henry Hain, the entry’s author, knows of three editions of Mr. World and Miss Church Member; this one, published by Katherine Way Sommer, is a new one for the list (hers is a printing of the 1902 Holzaphel 3rd edition).  If you’d like your own copy, go here to   So why all this for an allegory whose author appears to have no Stone-Campbell connection?  The Sommer family published an edition of it.  Katherine Way Sommer, known to her readers as K. W. Sommer, published a major periodical voice among Churches of Christ in its day, Octographic Review, edited by her husband Daniel Sommer.  The Sommer family not only published but authored a propaganda novel or two themselves.  K. C. Ice more often than not inscribed his books with a signature and date of acquisition.  Alas, in this one he did not follow custom.  Included is a fly-away clipping from the 19 May 1903 Octographic Review containing praise for Mr. World by one John Harris from Indian Territory.

Mr. World and Miss Church-member front cover

Mr. World and Miss Church Member, K. W. Sommer edition title page

Mr. World and Miss Church Member, OR May 19, 1903 clipping 1

Mr. World and Miss Church Member, OR May 19, 1903 clipping 2

Mr. World and Miss Church Member, OR May 19, 1903 clipping 2 reverse

Farringer Bookplate

In August 2003 I purchased The New Living Pulpit of the Christian Church (1918) at the Ohio Bookstore in downtown Cincinnati.  R. B. Farringer owned the book at one time; here is his bookplate:

Farringer bookplate

I see from the 8 August 8 1947 The Miami Student that RBF was a student at Cincinnati Bible Seminary:

Church Of Christ
Calls Cincinnatian
For Pastorate
Mr. R. B. Farringer, Cincinnati
seminary student, assumed
the duties of the pastorate of the.
Church of Christ June 29, succeeding
Mr. Robert Smelser who
served until February of this
Mr. Farringer comes hom the
Church of Christ Mountain Mission
school at Grundy, Va. He has
beld pastorates at Pandora and
Miller City, Ohio, Churches of
His two elder children are also
enrolled as seminary students and
will assist him with the Oxford