Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Kenneth Curry

Committee Members

Rachel Kelly, Barry Gaines, Paul H. Bergeron


The purpose of this study is twofold: first, to reconstruct from the documents, correspondence, and newspapers of the Rugby Papers the history of the Thomas Hughes Free Public Library from 1880 to 1895; second, to provide a systematic bibliography of the Prose Fiction, Section A, and Poetry, Section F, volumes which make up nearly one third of the holdings of the library.

Despite its importance for understanding the Rugby Colony of Thomas Hughes, the Hughes Public Library has never been adequately described. Most assessments of the library have been obscured by unfounded assumptions and brief but unscholarly statements. In October of 1880, Dana Estes, a Boston publisher who popularized children's literature and who was to become a vigorous supporter of the international copyright law, conceived the idea for a library in "token of respect" for Thomas Hughes. He was supported initially by twenty-seven American and English publishers who contributed over 5,000 volumes. In addition to Estes, the library project attracted other prominent men including William Frederick Poole, author of the first index to periodical literature and librarian of the Chicago Public Library, and Eduard Bertz, a young German socialist and scholar. Bertz was the first librarian and saw to the careful cataloguing and organization which have helped to assure the preservation of the library. The early history also includes the persistent difficulties of inadequate funding, the minor but enlightening controversy over the leaky roof, and the unfulfilled promise from some citizens of Chicago to supply books to help make the collection "symmetrical. " After Bertz's departure in May of 1883, and the succession of Mary Percival to librarian, the popularity of the library reached its peak by 1886 and gradually declined in use thereafter.

The cataloging system which Bertz adapted from an article by William F. Poole on the organization and use of libraries is explained in detail, as well as the purpose of the bibliography in keeping with guidelines established by the current Board of Trustees who hope to make the library useable for further assessment of the holdings and scholarly research. The dissertation also contains other information including a transcription of the original charter, the original rules and requirements for using the library, and the index for Bertz's catalogue and a subject index which gives the shelf order of the library.

The results of the historical reconstruction and the biographical compilation show the importance of the Hughes Public Library in understanding some of the reasons for the early demise of the colony and in establishing the close ties to publishing trends and publishers of the late nineteenth century. The brief history of the library is a paradigm for the failure of the entire Rugby experiment. Chief among the reasons for its failure is the failure of colonists to establish quick and effective communication--including the apparently trivial matter of answering letters--and to get accurate information about the financial and legal problems of Rugby to the world outside the colony. The Hughes Library is a publisher's library. It is not a collection of rare, first editions as some of the popular discussions state, but rather a unique period library of publisher's reprints collected between 1880 and 1899.

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