Digital Commonwealth

Lancaster, Massachusetts. History 1643-1879

Thayer Memorial Library

Henry Stedman Nourse (1831-1903) was the guiding intelligence behind the development of the Lancaster Collection, for which he left an endowment in his will. The various scrapbooks of local source material that he complied provide a wealth of information not available elsewhere. Aside from his contributions to the local history collection, over a period of more than 25 years he donated many of his books in a variety of subjects to the general collection. Many of these titles now reside in the library’s rare book collection.

Although Abijah Perkins Marvin (1813-1889), rather than Nourse, was asked to write the official history of Lancaster, Nourse made sure that his superior knowledge was not lost to the public. He painstakingly interleaved, extra-illustrated, and annotated a copy of Marvin’s History of the Town of Lancaster (1879), his many corrections and voluminous--not to mention sometimes acerbic--notes expanding the original single volume into four volumes, which are now found in the Thayer Memorial Library’s Lancaster Collection.

Nourse’s annotated version of History of the Town of Lancaster in four volumes forms the authoritative basis a student of Lancaster history requires to piece together a clear and lucid historical narrative. In 2018, the Thayer Memorial Library was awarded $30,000 in federal funds provided by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and administered by the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC) to conserve and image these four annotated volumes. This work ensures that people present and future will have access to the information that constitutes the documentary heritage of Lancaster.

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