There are currently just over a thousand books remaining that were in Penn Hall during the Battle. Many of them were withdrawn from the library’s collection through routine collection evaluation processes – because of deteriorated condition or irrelevancy of subject matter and lack of use. The collection of witness books as a whole tells an interesting narrative about both the history of the library and the history of the college.
As a history of the library it shows the types of books that the students were interested in at the time. For example in the Phrenakosmian Literary Society they have many natural sciences books as well as a large literary fiction collection. In the Phrenakosmian catalog it shows a bit more balanced of a collection.
As a history of the College, the library is influenced by the generous donations made by members of the college and the community. The development of a good library collection was a priority of the trustees of Pennsylvania College. The Board of Trustees allocated some money to it, but the library mostly depended on donations from alumni, professors, or friends of the library.
550 books were donated by the “Heirs of J.C. Baker” a member of the Board of Trustees who died in 1859. These books were almost all written in German and ranged in topic from philosophy to literary fiction. At the time when the library limited funding to purchase books, these types of donations were significant for the library. When it was donated, the Baker donation made up about 10% of the collection.
Many books were also donated by professors. There are some from Rev. Schmucker (founder of the College), Professor Jacobs (Professor of Chemistry, Mathematics, Natural Sciences, and the first Librarian), Professor Bickle (Professor of Physics and Astronomy and Latin Language and Literature), and Professor Muhlenberg (Professor of Greek and Latin).
The Surviving Collection can now be searched through using MUSCAT Plus, efforts to add cataloging notes to witness books are ongoing.
Annotation and Inscription:
Previous owners and readers left their mark on some books, many of them have been used as scratch paper, inscribed with messages for future readers, or have the names of the students inscribed inside. The comments occasionally provide evidence of what students thought of their studies or professors.
Roland Cassel by Charles Lever is part of the Romance and Poetry part of the Philomathaean Societies collection. It was a well read and beloved book. This is seen by all the student writing that can be found in it. There is notes taken in it as well as cursive being practiced in the back of the book.
An Elementary Course of Biblical Theology by Samuel Simon Schmucker was donated by Professor Muhlenberg. There is an inscription inside noting that it was donated by Professor Muhlenberg. It appears that many of the professors owned Schmucker’s books, showing a close connection between the College faculty and its founder.
Schmucker’s Appeal by Samuel Simon Schmucker was donated by Board of Trustee JC Baker’s heirs but has a special inscription in it. It was signed by Schmucker, and dedicated to Dr. Baker. In the inscription he says “Rev Dr. Baker, with the fraternal regards of the author.” This book passed through many hands to get to where it is today, what is remarkable is how all of those hands were directly related to Gettysburg College.