April 2010

The Founder’s Library

Pictured in our banner at the top of the page is one of our unique special collections. It is the Founder’s Library, the personal book collection of William Plumer Jacobs (1842-1917), the founder of Presbyterian College and Thornwell Orphanage. It was Dr. Jacobs’ wish that his library be preserved for posterity. He stated this clearly in his diary on April 15, 1913, four years before his death:

I have in my Library some 3,000 books. These have become in part a history of myself. I have lived in the books, and they have been absorbed in me. For the most part they are good and useful books and I am desirous that in some suitable way they should be kept together and made a monument to my memory – old dry books are a very suitable memorial of an old dried up man … There is the only complete set of Our Monthly in existence. My short-hand Library is perhaps the best in the South … I have about 20 volumes of my own mother’s and five to six hundred of my father’s. Some books from Dr. Thornwell’s library. On the whole, the collection is unique and it ought not to be scattered. A hundred years hence it would be an object lesson … This is only a little of my folly but even wise men are foolish at times.

The Founder’s Library is composed of over 2500 items, including furniture, books, and memorabilia that are unique to Dr. Jacobs. The collection contains some runs of 19th century theological journals, a large collection of Pitman phonography (shorthand) texts and samples, works by many 19th-century theologians, as well as books on a wide range of other subjects.

The collection was a gift from Dr. Jacobs’ grandsons, William Plumer Jacobs II and J. F. Jacobs. It was originally housed in a special room in the Smith Administration Building, formerly the college library. In 2006 it was moved to the Russell-Arnold Archive in the James H. Thomason Library. With the exception of new shelving, the furnishings were left as they were in Dr. Jacobs’ time. We are in the process of cataloging the collection, so that all Founder’s Library books will appear in the library’s online catalog, Thomcat.

William Plumer Jacobs in his library

William Plumer Jacobs in his library