S. Calvary and Company
Upon their arrival in Berlin toward the middle of August, the Harpers settled in an apartment on Lützowstrasse, below the Tiergarten and perhaps a mile or a mile and a half from the Unter den Linden. Not far off was the American Church at Motzstrasse 6, a likely place for the Harpers to worship. Its minister was John Henry Stuckenberg, a liberal, evangelical Lutheran, and like Harper a native of Ohio and an erudite churchman. It was the Reverend Dr. Stuckenberg who, perhaps after learning of Harper's ambitious plans for the University, called Harper's attention to the large body of books which were available for sale at Unter den Linden 17, the address of the venerable bookselling firm of S. Calvary and Company.
S. Calvary and Company was owned by a seventy-five year old bookseller, G. Heinrich Simon, who had been hoping to sell the firm following the death of his brother and partner in 1885. The brothers had taken over the firm from Dr. Frederick Spiro who had founded it in 1852 with Dr. S. Calvary. Calvary died a year after its establishment, and Spiro sold out to G. Heinrich Simon in 1863. Simon and his brother continued the scholarly tradition of the firm, combining publishing with the sale of antiquarian and second-hand books. The firm supplied scholarly collections in Europe and North America, making its reputation in the fields of classical philology, archaeology, and the natural sciences. Its antiquarian book catalogues covered many subjects, including oriental literature, linguistics, zoology, and botany. The firm's wide reputation was also based on "Calvary's Philologische und Archaeologische Bibliothek," known more popularly as "Calvary's Library." From 1872 until 1894 this series grew to 114 inexpensively priced volumes, including specialized works by Niebuhr, Humboldt, and others, as well as editions of the classics. It also published the proceedings of the Berlin Royal Academy of Sciences and those of the Historical-Philological Society of Breslau. Simon was known for his collection of German doctoral dissertations, it being said that he had something like 150,000 of them. But the firm's reputation had declined with Simon's advanced age. It was time to sell, and an en bloc sale would be an ideal solution.
Within two weeks of his arrival in Berlin, Harper received from Simon an offer for the entire contents of the Calvary stock, which was stated as containing 300,000 volumes and 150,000 pamphlets. The large scale no doubt appealed to Harper's sense of enterprise, for never before had an American university acquired so many books at one stroke. He could also see the Calvary books as part of the strategy that would be necessary once he returned home. He would not only have to confront the unrelenting eye of Frederick Gates and the high expectations of the denomination, but he would also have to enter immediately into a fund-raising drive that would literally create a campus and get the University started within a year. Harper saw beyond the books to the attention which they would draw to the University. If a splash were needed, here was an opportunity to make one.
Simon's offer of August 23 was not perfunctory. It smacked of a teutonic thoroughness and bookselling hyperbole, although it was far from detailed considering the number of books apparently involved. The proposal categorically states that the stock of S. Calvary and Company contained 300,000 volumes and 150,000 pamphlets with strong holdings in philology and the philosophical sciences. For "certain branches of classical philology and principally in classical archaeology the stock forms the richest existing library in the library world so that it is superior to the British Museum and the Royal Library in Berlin." Thereafter, the nine-page account divides the stock into fourteen subject categories, and for each of these are listed the number of volumes, the estimated value, and the "value of our inventure," or inventory. Simon began his description with two hundred manuscripts having an estimated market value of 50,000 marks and an inventory value of 10,000 marks. He noted that the greater part of the manuscripts came from the library of Pope Pius VII and included such "treasures" as three autograph letters of Raphael, the original manuscript of Abbe Rance's work against Mabillon, an unpublished work of Friedrich von Schlegel, and a fourteenth-century Book of Hours "with unknown French poems illustrated by an artist of the early Burgundian school." There was enough here to whet the interest as well as to raise questions.
Simon's methodical description proceeded through palaeography (2,000 volumes), periodicals (25,000), Greek and Roman archaeology (80,000), Greek and Latin classics (80,000), Greek and Latin authors of modern times (3,000), Greek and Roman philology (2,000), general linguistics and Orientalia (2,500), modern languages (4,000), history, the "auxiliary" sciences, and varia (3,000), art, including a collection of illustrated works (1,000), philosophical sciences (6,000), natural history (6,000), and, in the end, 150,000 dissertations and programs. Interspersed with these figures were lists of bookish information: "Middleton's book on Cyclopean walls in Italy which Professor Norton has found only one copy of in the United States no copy in the British Museum"; "a unique set of Lafreri's Speculum Romanae magnificentiae"; "perhaps one of the richest libraries in existence of Greek and Latin classics... embracing all the best editions of all the classics," and so on through the fourteen categories. The letter was heavily laced with inducements which were sure to snare the imagination: "one of the four known copies of Goethe's dissertation," "an unknown poem of Schiller," "the important Denkmahl aus Aegypten in twelve folio volumes in a subscription copy," "a rich collection of Petrarch, even several works missed in J. Fiske's celebrated collection," "a copy of the astronomies by Aldus with hand notes by Aldus himself," and on and on.
The canny Simon began his letter with the price:
The market value of the stock after catalogue prices is between two and three million marks, we have fixed the price to 230,000 marks, the approximate price of our last inventory which gives the prices paid by us for the books with deduction of ten per cent for all the books which have passed once the inventory, the price paid by us is over 245,000 marks.
He concluded his letter by referring to the sale price of the dissertations as "calculated nearly as waste paper."
It was Harper's turn to act, and this he did by attempting to confirm both the content and the value of the books at Unter den Linden 17. He also had to look ahead to securing purchase Funds. A potential donor and the University trustees would require confirmation, and for this he turned to two librarians at the Royal Library in Berlin.
The testimony of the two librarians, Dr. M. Blumenthal and Dr. R. Münzel, was given in a document written by James Breasted with a single emendation by Harper. Harper used this document, dated September 9, 1891, in his later representations:The statement herein contained is made by the undersigned after careful examination [last three words in Harper's hand] for recommending in the following particulars the collection of books known as the S. Calvary Buchhandlung:
- It is such a collection of books as would require many years, incalculable pains, and many thousands of dollars to bring together again, and therefore;
- Is one not to be found for sale once in a century.
- It contains one of the largest and most complete collections of periodicals to be found anywhere in Europe.
- It contains a file of Academy Journals unsurpassed by any in Europe and possesses some complete sets not found elsewhere.
- It contains an extraordinary rich and valuable collection in classical philology including some very rare copies.
- It contains one of the richest collections in classical archaeology to be found anywhere, including some works not found even in the Royal Library of Berlin and the British Museum.
- It contains one of the largest collections of dissertations and pamphlets in Europe which would be entirely unique in America.
- It contains in general many rare and unique works many of them not to be found elsewhere.
- Finally, we regard this library at the price named (180,000 marks) as an exceedingly rare and valuable opportunity to place in America such a collection of books as has never gone there before and will be to the University of Chicago an acquisition of inestimable value.
There is no account of the procedures followed by the two librarians but their role appears to have been perfunctory. Their document was in part based on Simon's proposal of August 23, embellished by Harper. The new price of 180,000 marks was apparently the result of further bargaining.
Confirmation of the collection's value was also secured from Hugo Bloch, the manager of a branch of Koehler's Antiquarium, also on Unter den Linden. Harper turned to Bloch as an expert from within the antiquarian book trade, receiving from him a four-page document extolling the virtues of the collection for Chicago. Bloch began by stating that "the library offered to Prof. Harper from Dr. Simon is one of the best and richest I ever have seen." Thereafter, he enumerated highlights and special features. "The monetary value of the palaeographical collection," he wrote, "can scarcely be estimated:
I never have seen a similar one and the largest libraries of Europe or America might envy the Chicago University Library if this precious treasury gets into its hands; if I only take out a few works, such as the Bastard, Lafreri's Speculum (the most complete copy perhaps in existence) and about 3 or 4 others, the monetary value of them alone would amount to at least 30,000 M, if I altogether suppose that such fine copies as the mentioned works really are, can be estimated at all: But in this perhaps richest of all departments are so many works of the highest value that it would be a vain attempt to appoint even only the most important ones; I estimate the selling value of this department alone at at least 180,000 M.
In effect, Bloch was suggesting that the market value for this segment of the collection equalled the price for which the whole was being offered. He thought that the "real value of the whole collection will surely attain one and a half million marks" and concluded his account with the following:
I could only congratulate Prof. Harper and the Chicago University Library for this very fine and most profitable purchase and if they would spend still another $15,000 for filling up the few deficiencies they would surely possess a library which would not fail to attract the students from every quarter.
Harper also sought the assistance of Richard Mead Atwater, an alumnus of Brown, studying the technology of the German glass industry.Atwater, whom Harper may have met at the American Church, was the source of suggestions for possible appointments at the University, especially in chemistry. This interest., combined with his personal interest in books, led to his involvement. On September 9, Harper wrote him:
I am sorry not to have seen you again. The fact is that my time, day and night, has been taken up with the Calvary Library. The matter is finally settled. I shall see you before leaving Berlin for good and tell you the details. I may say that the price is less than 180,000 marks without duplicates. The royal librarians say that the contract is unique and most advantageous. Will you not write me a letter emphasizing the opportunity, and the value in general, the desirability of having such a library in America.
Within two days Atwater responded, taking some credit for bringing the collection to Harper's attention as well as praising G. Heinrich Simon:
I have your note of the 9th and am very glad to learn that you have settled satisfactorily the terms for the Calvary Library. I am glad that this noble collection of books will go to America, and with a little twinge that it did not occur to me to get it for Brown. I am glad that it goes to Chicago, and that I had a little hand in the matter in bringing it to your notice. It was a pleasant return for the very satisfactory way in which Herr Simon has done my book business. He is an ideal merchant, of the highest standard of honor and of personal interest in the specialties of his customers. You will find him a valuable correspondent in the future and he will act for you in his special lines in the future development of your library. I take it for granted that the Library is yours, assured that your friends in the Corporation will not hesitate in the matter. It would I think be a great mistake to lose the Library for your University.
Within a week of this exchange with Atwater, Harper received the formal offer from Simon. Although the document, dated September 14, had been the result of discussions between Simon and Harper, many crucial issues were left poorly defined. This carelessness would cause grief for the firm as well as for the University in the immediate months and years to come. It is not known what passed between Simon and Harper in their direct discussions, but the first of the contractual terms stated that the price of the collection or stock was 230,000 marks with duplicates, or 180,000 without duplicates. Unfortunately, duplication was not defined and eventually there would be dispute between them over the word's precise meaning. The second stipulation was equally vague. It stated the number of volumes in the collection to be 350,000 or 280,000 without duplicates, while the number of dissertations and programs was 150,000, or 120,000 without duplicates. These round numbers were without trustworthy supporting documentation. In anticipation of possible adjustment it was stated that "should the number fall short of this number, deduct a proportional sum of 20 pfennig a volume for books and 5 pfennig for dissertations and programs." The conflict which developed out of this vagueness was the method of counting and what in effect would constitute a "volume."
The proposal makes fourteen additional stipulations. Harper had until November 1 to accept the offer, which would give him two weeks to find funding upon his return to Chicago. Payment was to be made in three parts, one half on January 1 1892, and one-quarter portions each on January 1 of 1893 and 1984, with an interest charge of five per cent after the first payment. If the offer were accepted, the University would have storage space rent-free until February 1892, when a charge would be made at the rate of 500 marks a month. There were provisions for securing additional scholarly periodicals and for the packing and binding of the books, as well as for the compilation of a list of all the books purchased. There was also the vague stipulation that Calvary would "sell no books belonging to the collection between this date and Nov. 1, 1891, except duplicates, and keep an account of such sales, the sums of which shall be deducted in case the duplicates are purchased."