It goes without saying that we’re big fans of all the Commonwealth’s many libraries, so we’re happy to share this map, Public Libraries of Massachusetts, as our September featured collection item. September is Library Card Sign-Up Month, designated as such by the American Library Association. It’s a great time to visit your local branch, which might be depicted on this map, and see what wonders you can experience with a library card!
Published in 1904, this map of the Commonwealth’s libraries was designed and drawn with pen and ink by George Hartnell Bartlett. It shows the boundary lines for each town, and each town that includes a library also has a small but intricate drawing of said library. A larger drawing at the bottom of the map shows the Boston Public Library, along with circulation and volume statistics. Bartlett created other versions of this map in both 1893 and 1914.
The Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners shared this map in 2015 as part of a timeline celebrating 125 years of service. On the timeline, they cite a reference to the map in the Fifteenth Report of the Free Public Library Commission, which we have available in DSpace. The report states, “The skilful [sic] hand of Prof. George H. Bartlett, principal of the Normal Art School, prepared for the Louisiana Purchase Exposition a large map of the State, containing pen and ink drawings of over 250 of our library buildings in the towns they serve. This map attracted great attention during the continuance of the fair at St. Louis, and will form a portion of the State exhibit at the coming Lewis and Clarke [sic] Exposition. It was awarded the grand prize at St. Louis. A reduced copy of the map forms a portion of this report.” The map was included as a folded insert at the beginning of the report, but the copy in our collection has been removed from the report so that it could be flattened and stored in a separate enclosure. From a preservation standpoint, we recommend removing folded inserts so that they don’t wear, and potentially tear, along crease lines.
In the report mentioned above, George Hartnell Bartlett is referenced as principal of the Normal Art School, which was the original name of what is now known as the Massachusetts College of Art and Design. The Normal Art School was founded in 1873 and is the oldest art school in the country. In addition to serving as an art instructor and drawing maps, Bartlett was also the author of Pen and Ink Drawing: A Series Of Drawings Showing Its Perfect Adaptability To The Modern Processes Of Reproduction, a copy of which can be found in our Special Collections holdings.
For a closer look at the map, you can click on the above image. And for an even closer examination, a high-resolution copy of this map can be found through the Boston Public Library’s Leventhal Map Center. Click around to find the library from your own hometown or from a neighboring town. It is interesting to see what each library retains of its original elements, and to compare how they have grown and changed over the years.