Lost Library

OVER the course of his life, John Addington Symonds assembled the working library that supported his wide-ranging research and writing. That library became even more important upon his definitive relocation in 1880 to Davos, Switzerland, where the collection continued to grow through purchases and gifts, most of which arrived via international post. As Van Wyck Brooks observes in his 1914 John Addington Symonds: A Biographical Study, “Symonds had no continuous access to any libraries but his own” after his move to Davos (139), though the ensuing period would be by far his most productive.

Most of Symonds’s books were dispersed after his death in 1893. Nevertheless, his library’s contents can partly be determined from a variety of evidence, such as mentions in his letters or Memoirs, photographs of his study, citations in his works, and book sales and auctions after his death. In a few cases, his actual copies, sometimes bearing his armorial bookplate or other ownership marks, can be tracked down today in libraries and private collections. Using these and other sources, JASP is reconstructing the library’s contents.

Our working database of sources and contents has taken several forms since the project’s inception. We began by building a database in Omeka. This was then migrated to a new, library-hosted instance of the rest of our site, which had been built in WordPress. The migration, however, introduced a number of errors and bugs. We’re still working on these!

In the meantime we have also been generating a Lost Library collection in Hathi Trust, which allows users to browse the collections, virtually take books off the shelf with ease, and even to perform basic keyword searches across the entire library.