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James Gates Percival collection

 Collection
Call Number: YCAL MSS 703

Scope and Contents

The James Gates Percival Papers consist of writings, notebooks, personal papers, correspondence, maps, and other papers. Writings are autograph manuscripts of poetry and prose compositions on linguistics, geology, and geography, including several drafts of his Report on the Geology of Connecticut, as well as chemistry notes by West Point professor James Cutbush. Percival's notebooks contain writings and notes on a broad range of topics in addition to classroom notes from school, college, and his medical school days. Personal papers include contracts, agreements, and subscriber lists related to his publications, inventories and invoices documenting his large library collection, and other financial papers, primarily bills for personal expenses including room, board, and clothing. Correspondence files hold letters to and from many prominent colleagues and scholars such as Benjamin Silliman and Edward C. Herrick in New Haven, friends including George Hayward in Boston, his publishers Sidney Babcock, Samuel G. Goodrich, and Samuel Walker, and editors such as Eliza Leslie and Louisa C. Tuthill. Percival was a member of the New Haven Sing-Song Club and the collection documents his contributions to that organization. Also present is a portrait painting of Percival by his brother Edwin Percival, and small groups of papers regarding Percival's life and work complied by J. H. Ward, Herbert E. Gregory, and others, including a memoir of him by Caroline Howard Gilman.

Dates

  • 1800 - 1944
  • Majority of material found within 1820 - 1850

Creator

Language of Materials

Most materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

The James Gates Percival Collection is the physical property of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. For further information, consult the appropriate curator.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Julius H. Ward (Yale 1860), after 1866. Other acquisitions are noted at the folder level.

Arrangement

Organized into six series: I. Writings, 1800-1854. II. Notebooks and Notes, 1807-1840. III. Personal Papers, 1819-1851. IV. Correspondence, 1816-1856. V. Printed Material, 1822-1856. VI. Maps and Artwork, 1830-1840. VII. Other Papers Related to Percival and His Work, 1859-1944.

Extent

5.34 Linear Feet ((16 boxes) + 1 broadside folder, 1 art)

Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL

https://hdl.handle.net/10079/fa/beinecke.percival

Overview

The James Gates Percival Collection consist of writings, notebooks, personal papers, correspondence, maps, and other papers that document Percival's life and work. Writings are autograph manuscripts of poetry and prose compositions on linguistics, geology, and geography, including several drafts of his Report on the Geology of Connecticut, as well as chemistry notes by West Point professor James Cutbush. Percival's notebooks contain writings and notes on a broad range of topics in addition to his classroom notes from school, college, and medical school days. Personal papers include contracts, agreements, and subscriber lists related to his publications; inventories and invoices documenting his large library collection; and other financial papers, primarily bills for personal expenses including room, board, and clothing. Correspondence files hold letters to and from many prominent colleagues and scholars such as Benjamin Silliman and Edward C. Herrick in New Haven, friends including George Hayward in Boston, his publishers Sidney Babcock, Samuel G. Goodrich, and Samuel Walker, and editors such as Eliza Leslie and Louisa C. Tuthill. Percival was a member of the New Haven Sing-Song Club and the collection documents his contributions to that organization. Also present is a portrait painting of Percival by his brother Edwin Percival, and a group of papers regarding Percival's life and work complied by J. H. Ward, Herbert E. Gregory, and others, including a memoir of him by Caroline Howard Gilman.

James Gates Percival (1795-1856)

James Gates Percival, an American poet, physician, linguist, geologist, bibliophile, and autodidact, was born in Kensington, Connecticut, on September 15, 1795. After attending boarding school he entered Yale College in 1810 and graduated in 1815. Percival began medical school at the University of Pennsylvania in 1818 but returned to Yale to complete his degree in 1820. He practiced medicine in Connecticut and Charleston, South Carolina, and briefly taught chemistry at West Point in 1824. Returning to Connecticut, he studied linguistics and European languages (particularly German), assisted Noah Webster with his American Dictionary of the English Language (1828), and prepared new editions of Vicesimus Knox's Elegant Extracts (1826) and Conrad Malte-Brun's A System of Universal Geography (1834). His former Yale professor and mentor Benjamin Silliman encouraged Percival's appointment as Connecticut state geologist in 1835, which led to his amassing great quantities of geological data that were eventually published in his volume Report on the Geology of the State of Connecticut (1842). Hired to survey lead mines in Illinois and Wisconsin in 1853, Percival spent his last years in the Midwest, becoming the state geologist of Wisconsin in 1854; he died in Hazel Green, Wisconsin, on May 2, 1856.

Percival began writing poetry while in boarding school, his most notable work being the epic-length poem "The Commerciad"; later verses were published in the early 1820s in the New Haven Microscope, the United States Literary Gazette, and other newspapers. His collected Poems (1821) included his well-regarded "Prometheus" and inspired the publication of Prometheus Part II with Other Poems (1822). His series Clio I, Clio II (both 1822), and Clio III (1827) were followed fifteen years later by his final volume of poetry, The Dream of a Day (1843).

Custodial History

Althea Green Wilson discusses the history of Percival's papers in the Yale University Library Gazette 28 (no. 2, October 1953). Several of the items in the collection were published in J. H. Ward's volume The Life and Letters of James Gates Percival (Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1866).

Processing Information

This finding aid was produced from a previously existing card set in the Manuscripts Catalog. All pertinent bibliographical information has been retained, as has the arrangement of the material and the corresponding catalog numbers assigned by former library staff members. Some of the manuscripts were annotated by Donald Gallup, curator of the Yale Collection of American Literature. A folder with photocopies of the Percival catalog cards is filed in the front of box 1.

Former call numbers: Za Percival, Uncat Za File Percival, Iw P412 +1, Za P412 +1, Za P412 +S1, Art Storage 698, Za Objects 38, u.1927.132
Title
Guide to the James Gates Percival Collection
Author
by Beinecke Staff
Date
2013
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library Repository

Contact:
P. O. Box 208330
New Haven CT 06520-8330 US
(203) 432-2977

Location

121 Wall Street
New Haven, CT 06511

Opening Hours

Access Information

The Beinecke Library is open to all Yale University students and faculty, and visiting researchers whose work requires use of its special collections. You will need to bring appropriate photo ID the first time you register. Beinecke is a non-circulating, closed stack library. Paging is done by library staff during business hours. You can request collection material online at least two business days in advance of your visit, using the request links in Archives at Yale. For more information, please see Planning Your Research Visit and consult the Reading Room Policies prior to visiting the library.