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Preface
to William S. Tyler's History of Amherst College During Its First Half Century

This History was a part of the plan for the Semi-Centennial Celebration, and was at first intended to be in readiness for that occasion. The action of the Alumni and of the Trustees on the subject is narrated at the opening of the chapter touching the Jubilee, and may be found at page 595. The failure of the author's health rendered it necessary for him to defer the work for some time, and seek recuperation; and although by rest, with change of scene, this object was at length successfully accomplished, yet between the necessity of carefully guarding what was thus gained, and the daily occupation of College duties, he has been able to devote only a short time, two or three hours a day at most, to this extra labor. After the work of preparation was substantially done, unexpected delays, which need not be detailed, arose in regard to the publication.

Prepared at the request of the Alumni and dedicated to them, the History has been written with constant reference to them as its most sympathizing and probably most numerous readers. Some of the best parts of it have been contributed by the Alumni themselves. A circular was sent to each Alumnus, at the outset, requesting him to "photograph for the author's use the College as it was in his day, his own class, any individual whether officer or student, any scene or event as it appeared to his eye." In response to this invitation, numerous letters were received, especially from the Alumni of the earlier classes, and the contents have been freely used, in whole or in part, in form or in substance, as seemed best. The unity and perchance the dignity of history may thus have been somewhat sacrificed. But more than was thus lost, has been gained in variety and life-like reality, in anecdote and dramatic interest, in the twofold and so more impartial and complete view of College life thus presented from the standing point of the student as well as the professor. All who sent such responses will please accept my thanks, and if any of them wonder why I have not made more direct or more extended use of their contributions, the dimensions to which the History has already grown, may suggest a sufficient explanation.

It is doubtless generally understood, although a few of my correspondents seem to have been mistaken on this point, that this is a History of the College and not of its graduates. At my instance and the request of the Faculty, Prof. Crowell and Prof. Montague have just commenced the collection of materials for the latter, which will be published as soon as the work can be prepared and a sufficient number of subscribers has been obtained. In writing the History of the College, I have thought it proper to relate the early periods with especial fullness, and also to dwell upon the lives of the founders, the fathers and the benefactors of the Institution, for the obvious reason that the actors and witnesses of these events are fast passing away and the sources of information will soon be dried up. The death, since I began to write, of two or three persons to whom I have been indebted for facts of great interest and importance, of which they were the sole repositories, has demonstrated the wisdom of this course. I set out with the purpose of writing biographical sketches only of the deceased. But as I advanced, I found it impossible to adhere to this purpose without doing injustice, relatively at least, both to the living and the dead. This change of plan will doubtless be observed by my readers, and the reason, not to say necessity for it, will justify, I hope, the liberty which I have taken in writing so fully and so freely of living Trustees, living officers and living benefactors.

The illustrations are more numerous than were originally contemplated, and are a clear addition to what was promised in the prospectus. They have been prepared with great care and expense, and will, we are sure, add much to the value and interest of the volume. We only regret that likenesses of many other officers and benefactors could not be included. The engraving of President Moore is taken from a portrait in the College Library; that of President Humphrey from a portrait in the possession of Mrs. James Humphrey of Brooklyn. The others are all taken from photographs of the originals.

For the biographical sketch beginning on page 575 and the accompanying portrait, I disclaim all responsibility. I found in the letters of loving and grateful pupils not a few intimations that the author would hold no unimportant place in the History, if it were impartially written. But I gave no heed nor credence to these suggestions. At length, however, as I was drawing near to the close of the work, the Alumni Committee having previously spied out the land, a surprise party took possession of my house and filled those pages with such matter as they saw fit.

While the book is a History of Amherst College, written at the request of the Alumni and particularly for their reading, it is, at the same time, naturally and almost necessarily, more or less, a history also of Amherst and the neighboring towns, of Hampshire County and the Valley of the Connecticut, especially as they were in those early times when Amherst College was the spontaneous outgrowth of such a soil and such a people, and it is hoped that such a history will be read with interest and profit by many who are not the graduates of this Institution.

In conclusion my thanks are due, and are most cordially given, to the Alumni who first opened to me this grateful opportunity of identifying myself with the history of Alma Mater, to their Committee who have rendered me every assistance in their power, to the Trustees and Faculty who have aided and encouraged me at every stage of the work, to the publishers who have spared neither pains nor expense to bring out the book and the illustrations in a style worthy of the College and creditable to Western Massachusetts, and above all to the kind Providence that has preserved my life and enabled me to complete a work which others who might have done it better, began but did not live to finish.

AMHERST COLLEGE, December 25, 1872.

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P. S. Just as the work of electrotyping this History was almost finished and that of printing was about to begin, the plates were destroyed in the great Springfield fire. They have been re-cast with all possible despatch, and now the book goes forth to its readers unchanged yet renewed, to be prized none the less, I trust, because risen like the fabled Phoenix from its own ashes. If the faith and patience of subscribers have been sorely taxed, those of the author have been more severely tried by this delay. But the publishers have been the chief sufferers. And they deserve, what I hope they will receive, not only the sympathy but the substantial support and remuneration of the alumni and friends of the College for the indomitable energy and perseverance with which they have done over again their entire work and reproduced the History in all its original beauty of form.

AMHERST COLLEGE, May 1, 1873.

 

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