While at the University of Virginia’s College at Wise we do not have a resident archivist, we did meet with a group of library staff that was very excited about the idea of this class and project. The group had compiled together for us a collection of the oldest books in the library. The very oldest being the text, “Characteristics of Men, Manners, Opinions, Times” by Anthony, Earl of Shaftesbury. The book was printed in 1758, and based on the data sheet on the book, it was printed in Birmingham, England by John Baskerville. Unfortunately, there was no data available concerning who owned the book before the college acquired it; and since the book has been rebound, there are no hopes of determining on establishing an owner based on a name written on the inside cover. Upon doing research on the book, it was first published in 1711, and was revised by Shaftesbury in 1713 before his death. This book is a philosophical one, and provides the reader with Shaftesbury’s thoughts and opinions on a broad range of subject matter. The time in which Shaftesbury wrote this book is deemed “The Age of Enlightenment”. This was a period of time in which the “old order” of civilization was receding, and a sort of “new order” was being brought to the forefront. This new age of thinking was founded on science and reasoning, and it would later found the basis for important events such as the French Revolution. Those that would have owned and read this book during this time period, were probably interested in adopting a new way of thinking and opening their minds to certain aspects of the world.
We were also interested in taking a look at books that were well worn and had obvious use. They pointed us in the direction of the collection Gladys Stallard. Gladys was a local woman from Dorchester, which is a specific section of Norton, Virginia, and she had left her book collection to the college upon her death. The particular book I looked at from her collection was “Call Me Hillbilly” by Gladys Trentham Russell; she had written on the inside cover of the book that she acquired it in September 1974. This book talks about the lives of people that grew up in the Great Smoky Mountains near Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Within the book, it features pictures of people from the region and provides their names; alongside this information, Gladys Stallard had written in many birth dates and death dates of the individuals. Mrs. Stallard had also obtained book reviews of the text, and stapled them to the inside of the front cover. This was interesting, as it made me wonder if perhaps she had personally known the author or had some connection to her. It was easy to tell from the condition and the comments in the book, that this was one that she frequented often. Looking at the other books in her collection, it would be safe to assume that Gladys was proud of and interested in preserving the lives and history of the people that live in the South-West Virginia and East Tennessee region.
We were also interested in looking at one specific collection, and they directed us to the collection of James Taylor Adams. There are 1242 stories, narratives, and individual works along with 1408 songs in the collection. This collection is composed of folklore and folktales from our local region, along with songs, poems, and genealogies. James Taylor Adams was a local man, from Stevens, which is specific part of Norton, Virginia. In Stevens he was a postmaster, and he also wrote articles for and organized his own newspaper. In my opinion, he collected the stories from around the region in order to preserve them and keep them alive for later generations. His collection has been at the library for over 40 years, and it was donated by his family to the college.