Tuesday, October 30th, 2012...11:00 am

What Would Thomas Hollis Do?

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Portrait of Thomas Hollis. MS Eng 1191, v.1The Liberty Fund is following a plan first devised by Thomas Hollis over 200 years ago and making available “once again a selection of titles originally distributed to the colonies by one of the most remarkable philanthropists and supporters of American independence, the eighteenth-century Englishman Thomas Hollis.” Hollis (1720-1774) distributed books and pamphlets, to Harvard and to other public libraries in North America, England, Switzerland, Italy and Scandinavia. Hollis’s gifts to Harvard are documented in William Bond’s “From the Great Desire of Promoting Learning”: Thomas Hollis’s Gifts to the Harvard College Library published 2010 and in the introduction Allen Reddick has written “Hollis’s donations to Harvard represent what must be the largest gift of books to one destination during the eighteenth century; his efforts far exceed any other private individual.” (p. 11).

The modern Thomas Hollis Library has thus far published editions of John Locke’s A Letter Concerning Toleration, first published in 1689; Robert Molesworth’s An Account of Denmark, first published in 1694; and Marchamont Nedham’s The Excellencie of a Free-State, first published in 1656.

The Liberty Fund, Inc., describes itself as a private educational foundation established in 1960 to encourage study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals. It is based in Indianapolis. We know what Thomas Hollis would do; we wonder what he might think. He would certainly have suggestions for the series named in honor of him.

[Thanks to William Stoneman, Florence Fearrington Librarian of Houghton Library, for contributing this post.]

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