My colleague John Zarillo, processing archivist here at BHS, recently announced the good news the Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church records have been processed and made available to the public. He also surprised me with what can only be described as a cataloger’s bonus: at least 8 boxes of the Church’s book collection to be cataloged and placed in a special collections area in the library.
Upon opening the first box, I was immediately struck by the superb condition of the books, some more than 100 years old. At first glance, there are editions of the many books published by LAPC’s powerhouse first minister Theodore L. Cuyler, as well as books from his personal collection, including some school books. As I handled these books, I could feel the care they had been given over their lifetime, and the reverence they enjoyed. I will be sharing some of these books on the blog over the next weeks, and try to give a sense of some of the pleasures of working with a special collection.
I will start out light and seasonal, however, with a few snapshots of a beautifully produced Christmas book, Our Christmas Tides. Published in 1904, toward the end of his life, this book collects Dr. Cuyler’s thoughts on the meaning of the Christmas celebration for many of his readers. The readings, in both prose and poetry, range from a meditation on a reading from Martin Luther, to carols for adults and children, and an essay entitled ‘Home-thoughts for Christmas-tide’ especially for homemakers. The decorative cover in dark green is stamped in gold and red, while every page of the book is printed with a wide decorative border, with the Star of David shining down from the upper right. Photographs are occasionally pasted into the area normally reserved for text. Below is the title page and the portrait of Dr. Cuyler pasted in opposite the title page.