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Winsor, Justin

WINSOR, JUSTIN (1831-1897), American writer and librarian, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, on the 2nd of January 1831. At the age of nineteen he printed a History of Duxbury, Mass., the home of his ancestors. He left Harvard before graduation to study in Paris and Heidelberg, but not until he had planned an extended memoir of Garrick and his Contemporaries, the manuscript of which, in ten folio volumes with a mass of notes, is in the library of Harvard University. In 1866 Winsor was appointed a trustee of the Boston public library, and in 1868 its superintendent. In 1877 he became librarian of Harvard University, a position he retained until his death. He greatly popularized the use of both these great collections of books. While at the Boston public library he edited a most useful catalogue of books in history, biography and travel, and compiled the first of a series of separate lists of works of historical fiction. In 1876 he began a series of monumental pubb'cations. The first was a Bibliography of the Original Quartos and Folios of Shakespeare ml ft Particular Reference to Copies in America. Unfortunately, all except about a hundred copies of this work were destroyed by fire. A small volume entitled The Reader's Handbook of the American Revolution (1879) is the model of a reasonable bibliography. In 1880 he began the editing of the Memorial History of Boston (4 vols., 4to), with the co-operation of seventy writers. He so manipulated the contributions and supplemented them with notes as to give an air of unity to the whole work, and completed it in twenty-three months. He then set to work on a still larger co-operative book, The Narrative and Critical History of America, which was completed (1889) in eight royal octavo volumes. These great tasks had compelled Winsor to make a careful and systematic study of historical problems with the aid of contemporaneous cartography. Among the early results of this study were the Bibliography of Ptolemy's Geography (1884), and the Catalogue of the Kohl Collection of Maps relating to America (1886), published in the Harvard Library Bulletins. His vast knowledge took the final form of four volumes entitled Christopher Columbvs (1891), Cartter to Fronlenac (1894), The Mississippi Basin (1895), and The Westward Movement (1897). Besides great stores of information hitherto accessible only to the specialist, these contain many strong expressions of dissent from currently received views. Winsor served for many years on the Massachusetts Archives Commission. His careful Report on the Maps of the OrinocoEssequibo Region was prepared at the request of the Venezuela Boundary Commission. He was one of the founders of both the American Library Association and the American Historical Association, and was president of both of the former for ten years, 1876-1885, and the latter in 1886-1887. He died in Cambridge on the 22nd of October 1897.

See Horace E. Scudder's " Memoir of Justin Winsor " in the Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society (2nd series), vol. xii. Also the Harvard Graduates' Magazine (December 1897)- A bibliography of his writings is in Harvard College Library, Bibliographical Contributions, No. 54.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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