The Rare Book Collection-Wells College: Religious Texts


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Professor Emeritus Arthur Bellinzoni recently visited Long Library in order to share some interesting items from his personal collection of rare books and manuscripts. He was kind enough to loan some of these items to the library for exhibit. Library staff members thought this would also be a good opportunity to share some of the rare religious texts owned by the college with the campus community.

The exhibit is now installed in the First Floor (Main Entrance) gallery space of Long Library and can be viewed from March 11th-April 15th. Archive Intern, Mariaelena Garcia ’15, has aided in the selection, research, and display of these rare books. The following excerpt is the description she wrote to accompany the exhibit…

The Self-Interpreting Bible

Reverend John Brown created the Self- Interpreting Bible in 1778. The Bible on display is the sixth edition printed in 1815 in England. He was born in Perthshire Scotland in 1722. At the age of 12, he was orphaned and worked as a shepherd. Denied the opportunity to have a formal education, he taught himself how to read, including Greek, Latin, and Hebrew. After becoming deathly ill, he had a Christian revelation. In a letter he stated, “But thanks be to God, He passed upon me, and said unto me, ‘LIVE.”’ At that point in his life he converted to Christianity. It was this conversion that inspired him to publish Biblical texts, such as, The Self-Interpreting Bible.
The purpose of the Self Interpreting Bible was to allow others to read the Bible with commentary so that anyone who chose to read it would not only understand the written word wholly but also be able to interpret it into their own meaning. George Washington himself approved of John Brown’s bibles. He “subscribed,” or in other words donated, to Brown’s cause to have them published and printed when they first appeared in New York.
Professor Emeritus Arthur Bellinzoni has graciously allowed Wells College to display these rare religious texts. He has owned these volumes for many years and had them carefully restored in November of 2012.

The Book of Esther

Along with The Self-Interpreting Bible, Professor Emeritus Arthur Bellinzoni has loaned Wells this rare scroll to display. According to Bellinzoni, the scroll was originally purchased by N. Lansing Zabriske, on behalf of Temple Hollcroft, through a Jerusalem Art Dealer in the early 1900’s. The scroll was then passed to Lynn Kirtland, a classics professor at Wells, and then gifted to Professor Bellinzoni.
The Book of Esther is one of the books of the third part of the Old Testament: 1) Law or Torah, 2) Prophets, and 3) Writings.This book commemorates a Jewish day of redemption. Esther is a Jewish orphan who is chosen by the king to become the new queen. Esther, however, hides the fact that she is Jewish. Haman, the prime minster to the king, developed a plan to destroy all the Jews of the nation. It is during one of her banquets that Esther confesses to the king that she is Jewish and that Haman is planning to exterminate her people. While the king cannot change the original declaration allowing the event, he amends it so that the Jewish people can fight back. On the day of the attack the Jewish slaughtered seventy-five thousand Persians.
The holiday is now called Purim. On this day, the Jewish community gives gifts to each other, give charity to the poor, recite the book of Esther and enjoy a celebratory meal. This holiday is celebrated on the 14th day of the Hebrew month Adar.

1490 Book of Hours

The book of hours on display is from 1490. This year it is 523 years old. The words are written in dark brown ink on vellum.
Jean Bourdichon did all of the interior paintings. Bourdichon was a manuscript illuminator in the French court for the reigns of Louis XI King of France, Charles VIII of France, Louis XII of France and Francis I of France.
Women, as a way of keeping track of time, typically used a book of hours. A calendar in the book would have all the celebrations throughout the year. Important celebrations were written in red (which eventually became tradition on modern calendars). The purpose of these books was to, “transport one from the distracting cares of this world to the divine pleasures of the next.” Each book of hours was “customizable,” meaning you were allowed to write anything you deemed worthy in them.
The next part of a Book of Hours was usually a series of Gospel Lessons (New Testament bible) by the four evangelists (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John). These readings were customarily read aloud at Christmas and on the feasts of the Annunciation, the Epiphany, and the Ascension.
The Book of Hours takes its name from its next part, the Hours of the Virgin. Considered the heart of the book, this is a series of eight prayers that, ideally, would be prayed throughout the course of the day. The Matins and Lauds would be prayed every day at night or upon rising. An hour of prayer would begin at 6:00 a.m. (‘Prime’), at 9:00 a.m. (‘Terce’), at noon (‘Sext’), at 3:00 p.m. (‘Nones’), sometime during the evening (‘Vespers’), and before sleep (‘Compline’).
The last section of the book is the Seven Penitential Psalms. It was believed that this section was written by the Biblical King David as penance for his sins of adultery with Bathsheba and subsequent murder. The psalms herein were linked to the “Seven Deadly Sins” of pride, covetousness, lust, envy, gluttony, anger and sloth. Praying the psalms was both a way to ask forgiveness for the dead in order to, hopefully, lessen their stay in purgatory and as a way for the living to avoid sin.

Mariaelena Garcia ‘15″

The images below show the display, along with some more detailed views of images included in the works. We would like to extend our thanks to Professor Emeritus Arthur Bellinzoni for loaning his personal copies of Rev.John Brown’s Self-Interpreting Bible and The Book of Esther. For more information, or to schedule a visit to the Wells College Archives, contact us at

Compiled by Lisa Hoff ’09 Reference, Instruction, and Outreach Librarian, Long Library & Mariaelena Garcia ’15, Archive Intern


From the “Gay Nineties” to “Generation X”: Wells College in the 1890’s and the 1990″s


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A new photo exhibit, featuring archival photographs of the Wells College Campus, Students, and Faculty in the 1890’s and 1990’s, has been installed in the Long Library 2nd Floor “Walk-Through” Gallery. The exhibit features twenty contrasting images from each decade (ten from each time period) and will be available through the remainder of the semester.

The photographs from the time period were originally intended to support “America in the 1890’s,” a history course offered this semester. In adding photographs from the 1990’s to the exhibit, we anticipated that students would remark how radically women’s lives changed in the span of a hundred years, however, comments about the exhibit have revealed alternative interpretations. In describing the collection, Mariaelena Garcia, Wells sophomore and Archive Intern, said, “The picture in the 1990’s where all the women are lying down in a circle truly emphasizes the sisterhood at Wells. This picture is actually the odd and even team laying side by side to each other.  Odd/Even is one of the most competitive traditions at Wells and to see two opposing teams come together in a moment of sisterhood demonstrates what is one of the best aspects of Wells. This is the fact that at the end of the day everyone is family and that tradition hasn’t changed.”

The slideshow below features some of the images included. Please stop by Long Library and take a moment to look through the exhibit.

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Click for more information from the Wells College Archives.

Lisa Hoff ’09 Reference, Instruction, & Outreach Librarian, Long Library
& Mariaelena Garcia ’15

The Wells College Cuneiform Collection



“Cuneiform writing is probably the most ancient system of writing. The name ‘cuneiform’…comes from the Latin cuneus, ‘wedge,’ and forma, ‘shape’ or ‘form;’ hence the term cuneiform, meaning ‘wedge shape.’ Cuneiform, therefore, has come to be the term assigned to the ancient scripts which are made up of characters formed from a combination of strokes having the shape of a wedge, cone, or nail…[this system of written communication] is believed to have been in existence by about the middle of the fourth millennium B.C….A medium-soft lump of clay was taken and shaped into a flat tablet, prism, or cone, on which the writing was engraved by means of a fine stylus…the tablet was then baked by being left in the sun to dry or by placing it in a kiln.” (Stec, 1979, p. 10-16)

Small collections of cuneiform tablets can be found throughout the United States in museums, libraries, universities and personal collections. Currently, there are twenty-three cuneiform tablets in the Wells College Archives. According to the “Campus History of the Wells College Cuneiform Tablets,” written by Professor Emeritus Arthur Bellinzoni, the tablets have been acquired through two sources. A 1917 letter from a Professor E.J. Banks (University of Chicago) to President Macmillan, of Wells College, implies that he was commissioned by the president to obtain a collection of cuneiform tablets for the college. The second source comes from the President’s Report, 1916-1917, “which states that ‘these [tablets] are a gift of President Zabriskie.'”  (Bellinzoni, 1978, p.1)

Through the years, the collection has been moved from the Cleveland Library, to  the Wells College Museum (Main basement), to the Zabriskie Hall basement, Morgan Hall, and eventually, in 1972, the tablets were moved to Long Library.

Wells students, and faculty, have shown interest in researching and preserving this unique collection. In February of 1973, Molly Rahe ’73 took four of the tablets to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to be examined and translated. In the fall of 1978, Professor Emeritus Arthur Bellinzoni and his students  rearranged, labeled, and tagged the collection while also compiling a history of the Wells Cuneiform Tablets, including their history at Wells College, a history of Mesopotamia, and a history of cuneiform writing. This compilation, along with letters, translations, and other documents relating to cuneiforms are housed with the collection in the Wells College Archives.

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For more information, or to schedule a visit to the Wells College Archives, contact us at

Compiled by Lisa Hoff ’09 Reference, Instruction, and Outreach Librarian, Long Library

Wells Reunion


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Since 1871, alumnae/i have been returning to the Wells College campus around commencement time in order to reunite with classmates, participate in special events, and celebrate their college years. As the number of alumnae/i through the years continued to grow, it was decided in 1923 to honor class years in groups of four. By 1970, again due to the large turnout, the present day “quinquennial” reunion tradition of celebrating classes every five years was established and reunion dates were pushed back to the week after commencement.

This year, “Reunion 2012,” (May31-June 2) will celebrate the classes ending in 2’s and 7’s with the Class of 1962 celebrating their 50th Class Reunion.  The Reunion traditions of the  “March of Classes,” class dinners, campus tours, awards convocation… and, of course, Tea Time will continue on!

Below is a sampling of some of the photographs, and other memorabilia, that will be displayed at the Long Library during Reunion. Please stop by and have a look and be sure to bring any class photographs that you would like to share with the Wells College Archives.

Photos Featuring the Class of 1952 and Class of 1962

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Click for more information from the Wells College Archives.

Lisa Hoff ’09 Reference, Instruction, & Outreach Librarian, Long Library

The Boathouse

During President William E. Waters’ tenure one building appeared on campus – a boathouse to replace the “small patched shanty” the Boat Club had been using since its organization in 1876. The students had raised some money, but only about half of what was needed. Through the generosity of Henry A. Morgan (son, not brother, of E. B. Morgan), the building was put up in 1898. During the summer of 1900, a pier and breakwater were installed in front of the boathouse, a gift of Henry A. Morgan’s daughter Edith P. Morgan, honorary member of the class of 1896.

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Since the construction the boathouse has been used in many ways. For instance the inside second floor, when first constructed, was a very comfortable place. The second floor was a lounge filled with class year pillows and comfortable chairs. It became a hangout location. For example, in The Cardinal from 1900-01 one student wrote, “it was the perfect spot for the freshmen to hide out from the ever watchful sophs.”  Additionally,  in that same year the seniors wrote that it became the perfect spot for an after prom reception area.

The Boathouse Collection contains original copies of the contract to build the boathouse,  as well as correspondence to and from Henry A. Morgan on its construct

From Jane Marsh Dieckmann’s “Wells College: A History” pages 88-89 and The Cardinal from 1900-1901 pages 99-100  and the print collection of the Wells College Archives.

Summary compiled by Nicole Di Mauro ’12

October 2011

Helen Fairchild Smith Hall

Helen Fairchild Smith Hall, the college’s new gymnasium and recreation building, was formally dedicated on Class Day as part of the Ivy Day celebration in 1905. The class of 1905 planted their class ivy alongside the building. The main part of the new building was a gymnasium with a stage large enough for college plays and easily adaptable for concerts. It was also used for examinations. Above this room was a running track forming a gallery around three sides. In the basement were showers and lockers, and a banquet hall with adjoining kitchen. Room was allotted for bowling alleys, which were never put in. Bowling alleys would later show up in a new student union.

A special gym course was required for all new students four days per week from November 1 to April 1 in addition to the daily outdoor exercise the students had for 45 minutes.  In 1910 a white tile swimming pool was installed in the building and with it a regulation that no senior could receive a degree until she had passed a swimming test. This rule has now been taken out of the curriculum requirements starting with the class of 2015; they no longer have to pass a swimming test to graduate from Wells College.

With the opening of the new Student Union, the decision was made to remodel, The Helen Fairchild Smith gymnasium: the result was as an auditorium for college lectures and classroom for larger courses. Using the newly dedicated  “Piutti Organ”, a gift from the Alumnae  of Wells College was installed and Smith became a venue for student recitals and informal concerts. Also added to Fairchild Smith Hall was the college bookstore which was located first in the basement of Main and then moved  to the ground floor of Macmillan and now resides in the spacious basement of Smith, where the swimming pool and dressing rooms had once been.

From Jane Marsh Dieckmann’s “Wells College: A History”. The Wells College Cardinal 1906-1907. Additional items referenced from the print collection of the Wells College Archives.

More information is available in the Wells College Archives.

Summary compiled by Nicole Di Mauro’12

Frances Folsom Cleveland Library

Cleveland reading room about 1950 photography found in the Susan “Tudy” Crandall Collection

For many years the college had considered construction of a new, separate library building. The arrangement in Main, with books at one end and reading room at the other, was anything but practicable; moreover, space had long run out. The time was right, for Andrew Carnegie was giving money for libraries – numerous institutions and communities nationwide benefited from his generous offer. Wells College received a $40,000 challenge grant, and at the 1909 commencement came the announcement that the necessary matching funds – alumnae donations, for the most part – had been received. A year later ground was broken for the new library, on the site of the old power plant across the circular entrance road and to the south of Main Building. During the breaking ground ceremony Alice E. Sanborn, the college’s librarian since 1901, gave an elaborate speech entitled “The Speech at the Turning of the Sod”. Ground was broken on June 8, 1910.

During the academic year 1910-1911 the library was erected, and Alice Sanborn was given considerable say in planning the interior. In consultation with the architectural firm King & Walker of New York, she worked with scale models she had made herself, moving furniture pieces around until she got each room right. Sanborn’s interest and involvement in building the new library was immense. One of her pamphlets was entitled “Notes and Suggestions one the Wells College Library” (Alice E. Sanborn, Librarian, 1910). This pamphlet contained many of her blueprints and scale models of various rooms and plans.  The design, with the capacity of 50,000 volumes, was arranged so the building could accommodate twice that number of books by adding shelves and an extra floor in the basement. This plan served the college well; the 1911 library was in use for more than 55 years, during which time the student body went from 150 to 500.

The final cost of the library and furnishings came to $58,000. After which the college posted a letter to the Carnegie fund to suggest they give us more money to supplement the $18,000 that went over estimate. Alice Sanborn’s correspondence in the collection has a letter from Carnegie’s secretary suggesting that the school charge the difference to them as well. However, this was never done as the difference was made up for by additional alumnae support.

The building was named and dedicated by First Lady Frances Folsom Cleveland at commencement in 1911. During the commencement ceremony Alice E. Sanborn gave another address for the formal dedication of the new Cleveland Library. At its opening the buildings brochure stated Cleveland to be 60 by 111 feet and to possess a fireproof stack room on the first floor along with a built in museum.Following the opening of the Cleveland Library in 1911, in April 1912 a mini history and some floor plans were published in The Library Journal. Cleveland Library was in use for more then 55 years during which the student population roughly quadrupled.

While the number of  students increased, so did the collection making it necessary to create departmental libraries across campus in an attempt to alleviate the problem.

A new library building was considered by several administrations but it wasn’t until the 1960’s that plans began to formalize.  With the new Louis Jefferson Long Library dedication in 1968, Cleveland was remodeled and became The Cleveland Hall of Languages. Cleveland has ever since been the language building for campus.

From Jane Marsh Dieckmann’s “Wells College: A History” and from the Cleveland Library Collection in The Wells College Archives

Click for more information from the Wells College Archives.

Summary compiled by Nicole Di Mauro’12

President Kerr Duncan Macmillan

“Kerr Duncan Macmillian was unanimously voted in by the trustees. On May 5, 1913, to become the seventh president of Wells College. They awarded him a $6,000 a year salary which included a home with light and heat. On Friday, October 17, 1913, Wells College installed Kerr Duncan Macmillan as its seventh president in a formal ceremony. This formal inauguration was the first of its kind. Most presidents since then also have had formal ceremonies to welcome them to Wells College.”

“During his tenure as president (1913-1936), the longest in the college’s history, President Macmillan maintained firm control over Wells. He inherited an institution running with an annual deficit, which was routinely paid off by N. L. Zabriskie. By the time of his departure, the college had increased its net worth enormously and had become self-sufficient. He was cautious and slow to take action but was devoted to truth and demanded perfect honesty. A strong and strict man, he had upright moral principles and a decidedly patriarchal view of his college family.”

He reformed the curriculum, attracted and retained a remarkable faculty, saw the endowment double, twice over, during his presidency, and left the stamp of his unusual vision on the college. Among the many legacies from the Macmillan era are his public declarations and letters. These documents reflected his deep concern for the moral health and welfare of Wells College and its students. He also occasionally elaborated on his own ideas. His baccalaureate sermon given at the time of the college’s fiftieth anniversary in 1918 addressed issues of female education and their implementation in the context of the Founder’s original intentions. Within this historical framework, he insisted on maintaining high academic standards and an openly religious and Christian mission for the college, as well as the special democratic organization of the College Home, where students lived, ate, and studied together without distinction as to person or property.

The detailed memorial tribute he paid in 1926 to Nicholas Lansing Zabriskie, trustee and friend of the college who had guided its steps for over fifty years, gives a clear narrative of the growth and development of the college campus and its financial base. Through his entire presidency Macmillan strove for centeredness for Wells College, building on what he felt was one of its essential strengths.

From Jane Marsh Dieckmann’s “Wells College: A History”. And additional print files in the Wells College Archives.

More information is available in the Wells College Archives.

Summary reviewed and compiled by Nicole Di Mauro’12

Victor Hammer

Victor Hammer was born in Vienna on December 9, 1882. Fifteen years later, he began his apprenticeship in architecture, and a year after that he transferred into the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna. In 1922, Hammer moved to Florence where he set up a printing press. In 1939 he fled Europe and the Second World War and came to the United States with his wife, Rosl. They moved to Aurora, NY, where Hammer taught the fine arts at Wells College. He was believed by many to be “a perfectionist of considerable complexity.”

“Hammer was an artist in many fields but had gained a worldwide reputation as a book craftsman who designed, cut and cast his own type. The best known and most widely used of the five typefaces he designed was the American Uncial [which he designed while at Wells College]. He brought to the college an antique flatbed press dating from around the turn of the century and while at Wells he printed his own books by hand. The press was placed in the northeast basement room of Zabriskie. With the assistance of his son, Jacob, he established the Wells College Press, which put out some three dozen books, distinctive for beautiful and artistic printing, illustrations, design, and bindings. The subject matter was wide-ranging  – works by some great figures of world literature in the early twentieth century, numerous essays on type design, and several volumes of Wells College material.” (from Jane Marsh Dieckmann’s “Wells College: A History”) In addition to creating the Wells College Press he continued under the name Hammerpress as well for some printings.

Upon mandatory retirement from Wells, Hammer moved to Lexington, KY in 1948, at this time Wells College named him Professor of Arts Emeritus. Hammer worked in Kentucky as Artist-in-Residence at Transylvania College until his retirement in 1953. Shortly after moving to Kentucky, he married his second wife, Caroline Reading Hammer. Victor Hammer passed away on July 10, 1967 at the age of eighty-four.

The flatbed press he brought to Wells College had been abandoned for years after his departure. In 1970, several faculty members reassembled it in Morgan Hall. As part of the 125th anniversary celebration of the college, Wells hosted a three-day symposium in October 1993 to honor the life and work of Victor Hammer. In addition, the Wells College Press was reestablished as a teaching and publishing tool.

The college is a repository of Victor Hammer’s works. In addition, the Archives has a collection of punches and matrices of several of Hammer’s type fonts. A sampling of his work can be seen on the Tools of History website.

More information and details on Victor Hammer can be found in the Wells College Archives.

This summary was compiled with Jane Marsh Dieckmann’s “Wells College: A History” and the Victor Hammer Collection in the Wells College Archives by Nicole Di Mauro’12

Chinese Delegation

In February 8, 1906 Wells College played host to a distinguished Chinese delegation sent to inspect various American educational institutions. The students of Wells College were reported to be surprised at the curiosity of the members of the Chinese Delegation according to the Wells College Cardinal from 1907. President Ward welcomed the visitors, who were able see the two newest buildings on the campus – the gym, Helen Fairchild Smith Hall and Zabriskie, the new science building. In addition, the Chinese Delegation was able to view the student rooms in the two upper stories of the President’s House (today’s Pettibone House).

It is noted in the 1906-1907 Cardinal, that the curiosity in the Chinese delegates was very strong regarding the things around them. Their curiosity was so great that the President had to tear away a group of delegates from something the students were showing off to bring them into the chapel service.  After the program in the chapel, one Chinese delegate said he would recommend ‘Wells as a model for women’s colleges in China’. The chapel event was comprised of President Ward giving a compelling speech and the whole student body performing a few songs.

A reception followed the singing in the chapel. There was cake and sandwiches. The visitors toured the Wells School in the village and had their picture taken on the steps of Wallcourt(Formerly Henry Morgan’s house). Following this the delegates boarded the train to continue their tour of colleges in America.  In 1907 the Imperial Chinese Commission sent three visiting students to Wells.

From Jane Marsh Dieckmann’s “Wells College: A History” page 93. Additional information can be found in The Class of 1906-1907 Cardinal, on pages 145-147

More information is available in the Wells College Archives.

Summary compiled by Nicole Di Mauro’12