December 30, 2010
Intellectual Gifts from Our Faculty in Physical Form: The Library of Benjamin Parsons Bourland (1870-1943)
A January, 1943 editorial noting the death of Benjamin Parsons Bourland, Adelbert College Professor Emeritus of Romance Languages, contained the following passage: “In the finest sense, Dr. Bourland was an outstanding scholar, blending knowledge of the Old World and the new, a paragon of accuracy who won a lasting place in his field. But behind the student was the man, the ever young, zestful lover of the finer attributes of life. …his keen interest in the affairs of the world belied the traditional picture of the cloistered seeker after knowledge.” (Cleveland Plain Dealer, January 14, 1943; p.4)
Bourland began his thirty-nine year career at Western Reserve University in 1901 as Associate Professor and was made a full Professor in 1905. His devotion to scholarship was reflected in his personal library which, as part of his estate, was sold or donated in parts, to the Adelbert College Library.
Today, items from Bourland’s library enrich the holdings of several subject areas of the Kelvin Smith Library and its Special Collections Research Center. As Professor of Romance Languages Bourland acquired books that ranged from contemporary lexicons in his field, to histories of the many cultures brought to life in his classroom, to his own studies of El Cid. His copy of The historie of the vniting of the kingdom of Portugall to the crowne of Castill, printed in 1600 and now housed in the Special Collections Research Center, might have occupied a place on his bookshelf next to his trade copy of Grammatica Italiana, now part of the KSL circulating collection.
Title page: The historie of the vniting of the kingdom of Portugall to the crowne of Castill. 1600
Gift from the library of Benjamin Parsons Bourland, in his memory, 1943
Bourland’s love of the “finer attributes of life” took many forms, not the least of which was as a wine enthusiast. His own books on wine as well as those he gave as gifts to fellow Cleveland connoisseurs, are a notable part of our Frank Hadley Ginn Wine Collection.
Such associations among and between the volumes in Bourland’s library are united under the umbrella of his bibliophilia – Bourland was deeply devoted to Cleveland’s Rowfant Club. He served as Secretary of the club for several years, overseeing the weekly meetings in season, coordinating membership obligations and the timely distribution of the many notices sent to his fellow club men. We are fortunate that among the material donated to the university by his widow was a collection of Rowfant Club notices, now The Benjamin Parsons Bourland Rowfantia Collection, spanning the years 1909-1936. Examination of these notices opens a window to the literary life of many of Cleveland’s most prominent cultural philanthropists and gives us greater understanding of the influence Bourland had on the life of the mind in his community.