"Our Tools of Learning" : George Arthur Plimpton's Gifts to Columbia University

Early Modern & Modern Period > Page 4

JAMES OTIS, 1725–1783

The Rudiments of Latin Prosody: with, A Dissertation on Letters, and the Principles of Harmony, in Poetic and Prosaic Composition. Collected from some of the Best Writers

Boston: Printed and sold by Benjamin Mecom, 1760

Plimpton A478 1760 Ot4

James Otis, the brother of Mercy Otis Warren, wrote and published this textbook on Latin prosody in the same year that George III became King of England. It was later accepted as a textbook by his alma mater, Harvard. He also wrote a book on Greek prosody, but it was never published because, as he wrote, “there was not a font of Greek letters in the country, nor, if there were, a printer who could have set them up.” He would become a great spokesman and pamphleteer, airing the grievances felt by the colonists prior to the American Revolution.

Gift of George Arthur Plimpton


An English and Hebrew Grammar, being The first short Rudiments of Those two Languages, Taught Together, To which is added, A Synopsis Of all the Parts of Learning

London: Printed for W. Faden, 1767

Plimpton 492.4 1767 J63

Samuel Johnson was the first president of King’s College (now Columbia University), serving in that position from 1754 until 1763. The title page of this work, printed in London, describes him as the “Late President of King’s-College, in New-York; now Rector of Christ’s Church, at Stratford, New England.” Johnson taught the first group of eight students (the Class of 1758) himself so that he might “carry them through the New Testament in its Greek original, and not only make them understand the words but the things, explaining all difficult passages, and giving them a clear understanding of the whole scheme of Christianity.”

Gift of George Arthur Plimpton


The American Geography: or, A View of the Present Situation of the United States of America. Containing Astronomical Geography. Geographical Definitions. Discovery, and General Description of America

Elizabethtown: Printed by Shepard Kollock, for the Author, 1789

Plimpton A910 1789 M83

Jedidiah Morse, the father of Samuel F. B. Morse, graduated from Yale in 1783 and established a school for young women in New Haven in September of that year. There he realized that his students, as well as the new nation, needed a good geography textbook. His first book, Geography Made Easy, published in 1784, was followed by this much more influential textbook that was widely used and copied. It was followed by new editions and other works in such profusion that Morse has been given the title “father of American geography.” This is James Kent’s copy that he acquired in 1789.

Gift of George Arthur Plimpton

Atlas des Enfans, ou, Nouvelle Méthode pour apprendre la Géographie

Lyon: Jean-Marie Bruyset, 1790

Plimpton 910 1790

This atlas for children, with a charming allegorical frontispiece of an infant Atlas holding up the world, is illustrated with 24 “blind” maps. These are maps wherein the geographical names are missing so that the child must learn the countries from reading the book. The text is in the form of questions and answers, similar to a catechism. A copy of the first edition of the work, published in Amsterdam in 1760, was in Mozart’s library at the time of his death.

SEQUOYAH, 1767?–1843

Cherokee Alphabet

[Union Mission, Oklahoma: Samuel Worcester, 1835]

Plimpton A497 1835 Se6

Sequoyah, or S-si-quo-ya in Cherokee, also known as George Guess, Guest, or Gist, was a Cherokee silversmith, and inventor of the Cherokee syllabary. Around 1809, he began to create a system for writing the Cherokee language, first trying to create a character for each word, and later creating 86 characters representing syllables, a work that took 12 years to complete. Made official by the Cherokee Nation in 1825, it is still in use today. The text of this broadside is printed within an ornamental border and comprises characters systematically arranged with the sounds, sounds represented by vowels, and consonant sounds. Inscribed in manuscript at the top is: “From J. H. Treadwell to W. E. Channing.”

Gift of George Arthur Plimpton


The Folotipic Instructur: or, Furst Redin Bwc for Adults Hw Hav Nevur Ben Tot tw Red

Lundun: Izac Pitman, 1846

Plimpton 808.8 1846

Alexander John Ellis was an English mathematician and philologist, the first in England to reduce the study of phonetics to a science. Applying the “Dialect Test” created by Joseph Wright across Britain, he distinguished 42 different dialects in England and the Scottish Lowlands. George Bernard Shaw acknowledged him as the model for Professor Henry Higgins in Pygmalion (and My Fair Lady). A long-time associate of Isaac Pitman, in addition to the work shown here, he published A Plea for Phonotypy and Phonography (1845) and A Plea for Phonetic Spelling (1848). His most important work was On Early English Pronunciation, with special reference to Shakespeare and Chaucer, published in five parts (1869-1889).

Gift of George Arthur Plimpton

J. M. M’CULLOCH, 1801 – 1883

A Course of Elementary Reading in Science and Literature … Thirty-Second Edition

Edinburgh: Oliver & Boyd, 1857

Plimpton 808.8 1857 M

James Melville M’Culloch, head-master of Circus-Place School, Edinburgh, published the first edition of this book in 1827. This copy, with the designation of 32nd edition, published in 1857, is interleaved with the author’s manuscript notes of revisions to the text. M’Culloch strove to include in his reading texts only examples that would “store the mind with useful knowledge.”

Gift of George Arthur Plimpton


Rare Book & Manuscript Library / Butler Library, 6th Fl. East / 535 West 114th St. / New York, NY 10027 / (212) 854-5153 / rbml@libraries.cul.columia.edu