Nahant Public Library

William Wood (1777-1857) Book Collection of 1819

This collection represents the still extant titles from a reportedly “ten hundred” volume collection that was originally given to Nahant residents by William Wood, a summer resident, creating Nahant’s municipal library in 1819. His gift made this one of the oldest municipal book collections in the Commonwealth (Franklin’s being the oldest). The collection was available for town use but was not yet free -- instead, borrowers were supposed to pay “Four Pence 1/2 for the small volumes, and Nine Pence for the larger...then, the amount shall be expended in Forest Trees, and order that your pleasant abode may be rendred [sic] delightful by shade.” This project was taken on later by Nahant resident and “Ice King” Frederick Tudor, and the collection became free in 1872.

There are approximately 443 volumes in the current collection and some 250 different titles. The collection is noteworthy for its scope, including biographies, travelogues, atlases, poetry, children’s literature, religious works, how-to books on farming, and modern (for then) novels. The other interesting aspect of this collection is that, in most cases, William Wood made note of the donors who gave the books -- from Boston intelligentsia of all sorts, to the first Bishop of Boston, to an anonymous “Maine farmer.” This collection is a preservation of those book dedications, tied to the titles they gave, with links to the full text of the title when available online.

Wilson, F. A. (1895). The Nahant Public Library: containing a brief sketch of the public library movement; a history of the Nahant Public Library, and a description of the new library building. Lynn, MA: Macfarlane Press.