The Fate of the Library
From its modest 314-item inventory in 1837, the library of the Boston Society of Natural History (BSNH) grew immensely:
- 1842: about 1,000 volumes
- 1915: over 40,000 volumes and over 30,000 pamphlets
- 1928: over 50,000 volumes and 44,000 pamphlets
As for what happened after that, well, I'll let historian of the BSNH Richard I. Johnson tell you:
Since 1912, the Society's library was claimed to be the sixth largest of its kind in the country. However, the only rivals I can think of are the holdings of the Smithsonian Institution, the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences, the American Museum of Natural History (which included the Lyceum of Natural History), and the Museum of Comparative Zoology. The Society's library was valued at $250,000. In 1946, it was sold for that amount to the Allan Hancock Foundation, which is now part of the Hancock Library of Biology and Oceanography, University of Southern California. The sale of the library was approved by Thomas Barbour, a powerful figure both as director of the Museum of Comparative Zoology and as a trustee of the BSNH. None of the Society's books or periodicals that were not represented in the Boston area were supposed to be disposed of.
Yes, the library is gone to California, except for those parts that left beforehand (like the Abbot drawings above).
I hope you've enjoyed this imaginary trip. To learn more about the BSNH, Johnson's article above (available through JSTOR!) is a great place to start. And to see some more examples of classic natural history books and illustrations, check out some of the titles below: