The following is the first in a four-part series on books from the library of Sarah Orne Jewett (1849-1909) and her family. Best known for her novels and stories set in Maine, including Deephaven (1877) and The Country of the Pointed Firs (1896), Jewett’s papers and family library came to Harvard in 1931, the bequest of her nephew Dr. Theodore Jewett Eastman. Cataloged upon arrival more than eighty years ago, the catalog records for the books now at Houghton have benefitted from a recent review project, and along the way many interesting discoveries made.
The Jewett family library comprised mainly 19th-century works, but the family collected older books too, notably a philosophical lexicon by Armand de Belvézer, titled De declaratione difficilium terminorum and printed in Basel, in 1491 (Inc 7521.5 (B)). An inscription on the front flyleaf reads “Bought from the Royal Library at Munich in October, 1876. C.H.B.”
So who is C.H.B. and what is his connection to Sarah Orne Jewett? Discovering the identity of C.H.B. became possible when an identical inscription was found in another 15th-century book, also at Houghton but not from the Jewett library, a 1475 edition of Nicolas de Hannapes’s Exempla Sacrae Scripturae (Inc 2508). Houghton accession records show the de Hannapes was once owned by Harold N. Fowler, a Harvard professor of Greek and archaeology, whose wife, Helen Bell, was a cousin of Sarah Orne Jewett and the daughter of Charles Henry Bell (1823-1893). Charles Henry Bell was a historian, lawyer, and politician who served New Hampshire as U.S. Senator and Governor. His main collecting interest was Americana and not early European books, but we do know that Bell spent 1876 and 1877 on a grand art and architecture tour of Europe, including Germany, where we surmise he bought at least two incunabula (books printed before the 16th century). It is reasonable to suppose these books were inherited by, or given to, Helen and Harold Fowler, but how exactly the de Belvézer came to be in the Jewett family library is not clear. The simplest explanation is that Mrs. Fowler simply gave the book to her famous cousin, Sarah Orne Jewett. Certainly the splendid library in the Jewett homestead in South Berwick, Maine, would have seemed a fitting home for it. The de Hannapes evidently remained with the Fowlers. Helen Bell Fowler died in 1909, and in 1944, as accession records show, Harold Fowler sold it to Houghton Library.
Top image: Bookplate for books from the Theodore Jewett Eastman bequest, 1931.
Other three images: Armand, de Belvézer, active 1326-1334. De declaratione difficilium terminorum. Inc 7521.5 (B).
Thanks to Bibliographic Assistant Noah Sheola for contributing this post.