Skip to main content

Past Imperfect

Essays on History, Libraries, and the Humanities

Lawrence W. Towner was head of one of the country’s largest independent research libraries. He was also an eloquent spokesman for the needs of scholars and institutions in the humanities. While at the Newberry Library, he built and focused its prestigious collections, pioneered in the preservation of books, and created major research centers. His efforts established the library as a community of scholars while encouraging its use by students and the general public.

Towner’s essays and talks cover a broad range of topics of continuing relevance to scholarship and the humanities. His writings gathered in Past Imperfect are concerned with such issues as the role of independent research libraries and the politics of funding. A section of historical essays on the common people of New England reveal his concern with neglected fields of history, a theme that guided his career as a librarian. Spanning the range of his experience and expertise, this volume expresses Towner’s coherent vision of the place of humanities, libraries, and scholarship in American life.

Lawrence W. Towner (1921-92) taught history at M.I.T., the College of William and Mary, and Northwestern University. In 1962 he was appointed librarian of the Newberry Library and directed the library for the next twenty-four years.

336 pages | 5 color plates, 28 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 1993

History: General History

Library Science and Publishing: Library Science

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Introduction: Bill Towner
1: "A Fondness for Freedom": Servant Protest in Puritan Society
2: The Sewall-Saffin Dialogue on Slavery
3: The Indentures of Boston’s Poor Apprentices, 1734-1805
4: The Confessions and Dying Warnings in Colonial New England
5: Ars Poetica Et Sculptura: Pocahontas on the Boston Common
6: Pocahontas on the Boston Common, Revisited
7: The Mapping of the American Revolutionary War in the Nineteenth Century
8: American Studies Today—The Middle of a Revolution (1969)
9: Past Imperfect: The Uses of a Research Library
10: A History of the Newberry Library
11: A Plan for the Newberry Library (1971)
12: Every Silver Lining Has a Cloud: The Recent Shaping of the Newberry Library’s Collections
13: "Wrecking" Havoc: Conservation at the Newberry
14: The Art of the Antiquarian Book Dealer
15: Genealogy at the Newberry: The Service That Came in out of the Cold
16: An End to Innocence
17: An Exciting and Incredibly Rewarding Twenty Years
18: Ray Allen Billington
19: Clifford Kenyon Shipton
20: Lester Jesse Cappon
21: Hermon Dunlap Smith
22: D’Arcy McNickle
23: Everett Dwight Graff
24: Some of My Best Friends Used to Be University Press Directors
25: Independent Research Libraries: "Truly National Libraries"
26: On "Pure Scholarship" And "Public Programs"
27: "What Are Our National Priorities, Anyhow?": In Defense of the National Endowment for the Humanities
28: Turning Problems into Opportunities: An Agenda for the Humanities
Published Writings of Lawrence W. Towner

Be the first to know

Get the latest updates on new releases, special offers, and media highlights when you subscribe to our email lists!

Sign up here for updates about the Press