The Library History Buff
Promoting the appreciation, enjoyment, and preservation of library history
Walter S. Biscoe (1853-1933), Melvil Dewey Protégé
Walter Stanley Biscoe is one of the library people who left an important legacy to America's libraries but is probably known by only a handful of current day librarians. His career is intertwined with that of the far more famous library figure, Melvil Dewey. Biscoe was a classmate of Dewey's at Amherst College and succeeded him as Assistant Librarian at Amherst. He followed Dewey to Columbia College where Dewey served as College Librarian and started America's first library school. Biscoe played a major role in developing the second and third editions of Dewey's Decimal Classification system and was a consultant to the editors of later editions. Biscoe taught at the library school at Columbia and also at the library school when it was moved to the New York State Library in Albany in 1889.
Josephine Adams Rathbone, retired Head of
the Pratt Library School and former President of the American Library
Association, wrote the following about Dewey and Biscoe in the
June, 1949 issue of the Wilson Library Bulletin
(p.776). "He [Melvil Dewey] was the initiating and organizing
genius of the profession; once an idea was conceived and launched. Mr. Dewey was
off on a new scheme. He did not work out the details of the D. C.[Decimal
Classification]; that was done by the quiet scholar, Walter T. Biscoe, his
classmate, who lived all his life in Mr. Dewey's shadow, content to do the
careful plodding detailed work necessary to bring Mr. Dewey's plans to fruition.
Mr. Biscoe taught classification when I was at Albany and I have
cheered generations of Pratt students by a remark of his, "The harder a book is to classify the less important is it where you put it."
This cover was mailed to Walter S. Biscoe at the Columbia College Library on December 31, 1888, 120 years ago. The cover was mailed eleven days after Dewey resigned as Librarian of Columbia College to accept a position as State Librarian of New York in Albany.
The receiver marks on the back of the cover indicated that it was received at the New York Post Office on January 1, 1889.
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