Dartmouth College Library Bulletin

Journey's End


Born in Vermont in 1904, William Junior Bryant graduated from Dartmouth College in the Class of 1925. At Dartmouth, he participated in such varied activities as Orchestra, Canoe Club, The Dartmouth, and Jack-O-Lantern, and was a member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon. He noted that one of the more important teachers he had was Harold Goddard Rugg 1906, who as Assistant and then Associate Librarian of the College taught a class on the history of the book. 'Mr. Rugg had taught me a love of books in a course he gave in my undergraduate days at the College in the early 1920s.'[1] After graduation, Mr. Bryant joined the family firm, the Bryant Chucking Grinder Company of Springfield, Vermont.[2] During his career with the firm, he developed new tools and ultimately held a number of patents. He was president of the firm from 1945 to 1958.

One of the important influences on Mr. Bryant's career was his work in Europe as a member of the family firm. As a result of his travels, he became interested in Spain, in archaeology, and particularly in Roman archaeology in Spain. This interest led to the creation of the William L. Bryant Foundation to support the archaeological investigation of Roman Spain. The foundation has become a vital force in this arena. In 1950, for example, it created the Centro Arquelogico Hispano-Americano de Los Balearos in Alcudia, Mallorca. As Mr. Bryant's interests expanded, the history and archaeology of Florida and the Caribbean were added to the areas that the foundation supported.

The combination of the influence of Harold Rugg and the interest in Spain led to the development of an important and wide-ranging book collection on the history of early Spain. The Bryant Spanish Collection, begun in 1952, is one of the most noted collections on early Spain held in the Americas. It contains more than 3,000 volumes and, in many cases, the titles held represent the only copy held in North America. The collection contains texts in more than a dozen languages and is particularly rich in bibliographical tools. These tools include catalogs of incunables, manuscripts, and monastic libraries as well as studies of these materials. The languages include Hebrew, Latin, Spanish, Catalan, Basque, Arabic, Öil, and dialects such as Asturian, Galician, and Lemosin.

The history of Spain is clearly one of influences and this is reflected in the Bryant Collection. Important and rare books on the history of Arabic influence, of Jews in Spanish society, of the ancient Basque culture in Spain, and of Gypsies and their influence are to be found within the collection. Of particular importance are materials that relate to Mallorca and the work of the Quasp (or Guasp) printing house of Palma de Mallorca. The firm spanned four centuries, from 1579 to 1958, and the Bryant Collection has representative selections of publications from 1589 to 1925. As this provincial printing firm had such a long life, the publications resulting from it not only provide students and scholars with an understanding of the broad history of Spanish cultural life, but also with a remarkable slice of the history of Spanish book and typographic design.[3]

The Bryant Spanish Collection was always envisioned by Mr. Bryant as a resource to be held within the Dartmouth College Library. As soon as he began to create the collection, it was moved to Hanover, where it has been a part of the Library for more than four decades.

Mr. Bryant was also an author whose range of publications mirrored his wide-ranging interests. He published on Native American archaeology, philosophy, autobiography, family history, Spain, and, of course, Spanish archaeology. Each of these publications reflects a facet of his varied interests.[4]

The Bryant gifts were not limited to Spanish materials. Mr. Bryant gave, for example, a small but very important collection of the Civil War letters of Baron Proctor, a Vermonter who served on the gunboat Cincinnati on the Mississippi River (Ms. 003084). In one gift, the influence of Harold Rugg is evident: Mr. Bryant sought to provide the Library with examples of manuscript material types and languages that were previously not within the collection. Among the gifts at this time was a 1746 title deed from Tulancingo, Mexico, written in Nahuatl with a sprinkling of Spanish loan words. This document exemplifies a blend of Aztec and colonial Spanish legal traditions (Ms. 746900). Another gift was from another continent: Prayers of the Virgin Mary on Mount Golgotha is an early nineteenth-century codex in Ge'ez, the liturgical language of the Ethiopian orthodox church. The rubricated text is bound in boards with a contemporary fabric cover (Ms. Codex 002547).

One of the final gifts given by Mr. Bryant was left to the Library under the terms of his will. Four Centuries of French History, A Remarkable Collection of Autograph Letters and Documents, 1494-1873 is a bound volume containing over two dozen letters of the rulers of France including Francis I (1515-1547); Diane, legitim�e de france (1538-1619); Napoleon as both First Consul (1799-1804) and Emperor (1804-1814, 1815); and Jeanne Becu, Comtesse du Barry (1743-1793). Each of the letters is accompanied by an engraving of the individual. This as-yet uncataloged volume is a remarkable addition to our holdings on the history of France.

Mr. Bryant was a long-time member of the Friends of the Dartmouth Library and served as the chair of that organization's Executive Committee from 1972 to 1974. After he retired from an active role in the Friends group, he continued to provide support, both in gifts of books and manuscripts and in financial support of the Library.

One of the most important of his later gifts was the initial funding for the engineering and architectural studies that led to the decision of the College Trustees to convert the little-used Webster Hall into a library to house the College Archives, the manuscript collections, and the rare book collections, including the Bryant Spanish Collection. While the initial financial support was a relatively small sum of money, it was given at a very critical moment in the process. Without this support, the project may well never have come to fruition. Mr. Bryant continued to be actively interested in the conversion of Webster Hall into Rauner Special Collections Library and ultimately provided nearly a third of the total project costs. A spacious, paneled room in Rauner Library memorializes the man and his gifts.

P. N. C.

[1] Dartmouth College Library, A Catalogue of the Bryant Spanish Collection Formed Within the Library of Dartmouth College by the William L. Bryant Foundation (Hanover: Dartmouth College Library, 1973), vii.

[2] See Wayne Broehl, Precision Valley; The Machine Tool Companies of Springfield, Vermont: Jones and Lamson Machine Company, Fellows Gear Shaper Company, Bryant Chucking Grinder Company (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall, 1959), for a history of the company.

[3] Elizabeth Sherrard, The Bryant Spanish Collection in the Dartmouth College Library (Hanover: Dartmouth College Library, 1965). Mr. Bryant's eclectic interests included the Internet. See the Web site for the Bryant Collection at /library/Bryant/. [no longer available]

[4] Old Indians at Cape Canaveral (Iowa City: The Prairie Press, 1965); Flames of Life; a Pictorial Philosophy (Hanover: Westholm Publications, 1961); Dear Classmates: The Vermont Legislature as Seen Through a Senate Page's Eyes (n.p., 1995); A Vermont Grandfather: Largely in His Own Words (Springfield, Vt.: Meetingwaters Publications, 1976); The Magic of Spain; a Capsule Guide, Particularly the Costa Brava and Mallorca (Springfield, Vt.: Meetingwaters Press, 1967); and Adventures in Spanish Archaeology (Springfield, Vt.: Meetingwaters Press, 1972).

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DCLB--A99--JE, 1.2 May 13, 1999 4