“A Library of the Most Celebrated & Approved Authors”: The First Purchase Collection of Union College


The first library collection of Union College in Schenectady, New York, formed in the late 1790s, differs notably from its predecessors at the colonial colleges and from many contemporary libraries at other post-Revolutionary institutions of American higher education. The library, created by a committee of Union’s trustees and its first president, John Blair Smith, was intentionally designed to serve as a functional book collection for the college’s students and faculty; it reflected and enhanced the original course of study. The surviving portion of the library reveals significant evidence of early use and readership. This study draws on the extensive archival evidence documenting the creation of the library as well as on a close examination of the remaining volumes.