Suspicion & Duplicates
While en route to England and Chicago, Harper received word in Paris on September 23 that all was not as it should have been at Unter den Linden 17. Atwater apparently informed him of activity around the Calvary book stock which was supposed to have been suspended pending the University's decision. Harper immediately wired Atwater:
Please visit Doctor Simon or his clerk. Say I have received word that the library is being tampered with. Obtain evidence that this is incorrect. In any case telegraph facts immediately to Hotel Binda. Perhaps will sail Saturday.
Atwater responded the same day: "Am investigating. Hope to report facts tomorrow."
On the next day Atwater, along with the Reverend Dr. Stuckenberg, wired Harper that their investigation did not confirm his suspicions. As a precaution against loss they recommended that the librarian Blumenthal be asked to compile a list of 3,000 random titles from the stock without Simon's knowledge. But Harper had made other plans for safeguarding the University's interests.
Harper now engaged Hugo Bloch to act formally as the University's agent in the matter. He also recruited James H. Breasted and Charles Chandler, both of whom were to join the University faculty. Breasted had remained in Berlin to take classes at the University of Berlin while Chandler had already been hired as a professor of Latin. The two would become Harper's most reliable informants about the status of the Calvary stock.
Soon after his departure from Berlin, Chandler wrote a detailed letter which described the chaotic state of the Calvary stock and his attempt to make some sense of it. A Mr. Noltenius, apparently the principal clerk, had begun to make lists but said "that no one can say just what is on hand." The partial catalogues which existed were inadequate, and "Mr. Simon's additions are in a hand so minute and irregular that neither Noltenius nor myself can make out all the words." The stock was in great disarray, and he noted that "someone must have been outrageously careless with some of the finest works." But Chandler continued that it was "a great pleasure to dig around such a collection, though the work is awfully dusty and tiring; once in I am obliged to stay until evening, for I am too black to go upon the street by daylight."
While calling attention to some of the important individual works he came upon, Chandler also commented that he was not finding the large, illustrated publications of museum collections that he expected to locate. Yet he was still stunned by the "bewildering richness" of a place "full of treasures and surprises."
He was quick to identify the problem of the duplicates which had been so lightly passed over in the proposal for the sale. This issue probably confused Harper further as he made his way back to America. "By the way," Chandler asked:
are you sure that you and Mr. Simon are at one in your understanding of the word duplicate! In the strict sense of that word there are few duplicates, very few I think among the rare and valuable books; but in the ordinary sense of the term, there are many duplicates and triplicates of valuable works, and it would be the greatest pity not to have duplicates and triplicates. Do you understand to the certainty what Mr. Simon's idea in the matter is!
Further news of the collection came while Harper was attending the meetings of the Baptist Union of Great Britain in Manchester. Breasted informed Harper of Bloch's astonishment when he had received Harper's letter raising the question of possible tampering with the collection by Simon. Bloch and Simon were not friendly, Breasted reported, and he doubted that they were in collusion. Bloch had demanded the installation of a telephone on the Calvary premises so that he could be in closer contact with the collection.
In the meanwhile, Harper, in partial justification for all this activity, wrote Gates that "I shall be able to show you that my time has been given almost exclusively to University matters. You can't understand how I have grown. I am almost ready to pledge myself to spend six weeks abroad every year."