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A History of Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1630-1913


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Gore Hall was disgracefully inadequate for
the needs of America’s oldest and greatest uni-
versity. This old building, since 1841 the college
library, has been demolished, and the Harry
Elkins Widener Memorial Library will supersede
Harvard gets this gift through the generosity
of the mother of Harry Elkins Widener. She
lost her husband and her son in the wreck of
the Titanic. The husband, George D. Widener,
was the son of P. A. B. Widener, whose gener-
osity has been shown in many ways in and about
course of a few years was to become one of the
finest collections of rare books in the world.
Harry Elkins Widener, with his father, George
D. Widener, was a passenger on the Titanic, of
fateful memory. The young bibliophile had
been pursuing his favorite quest in Europe—
the search for books of sufficient value to have
a place in his library. Among the rarities he
had acquired was a first edition of Bacon’s
Essays. He prized the little volume so highly
that he refused to entrust it to the mails, and
carried it in his pocket on that trip across the
Philadelphia, the home city of the Widener
family. Mrs. Widener is the daughter of the
late William Elkins.
f Harry Elkins Widener was bom in Phila-
delphia in 1885, prepared for college at the High
School at Pottstown, Pennsylvania, and was
graduated from Harvard with the class of 1907.
He was well-known at college and became a
member of the Institute of 1770, the Delta
Kappa Epsilon, the Phi Delta Psi, the Hasty
Pudding Club and other student organizations.
The Harvard librarians knew that this under-
graduate was interested in books, but they did
not realize that this youth just starting the
twenties was already beginning what in the
Atlantic which ended in the disaster of April,
1912. The copy of the famous Essays went
down with this lover of books to his grave in
the sea.
There is a certain poetic fitness in the asso-
ciation of books and collector even in death;
for Harry Elkins Widener lived with his books
as few men have ever done. His library was
his bedroom, and his waking gaze fell upon his
cherished companions.
After his death it became known that he had
bequeathed his collection to Harvard College.
What are the books which made his collection
famous? To list them all would be impossible.
In 1910 he issued privately a handsome catalogue

About This Document

02 Mar 2013
Total pages:

Document Source

Eliot, Samuel Atkins, 1862-1950. 4n

Cambridge, Mass. : Cambridge Tribune