Back to overview

Thomas Hollis's 'Liberty' Donations to the Cities of Bern and Zürich, Harvard College, and other Destinations in Europe and the American Colonies

Applicant Reddick Allen
Number 118203
Funding scheme Project funding (Div. I-III)
Research institution Englisches Seminar Universität Zürich
Institution of higher education University of Zurich - ZH
Main discipline German and English languages and literature
Start/End 01.12.2007 - 31.05.2011
Approved amount 40'867.00
Show all

Keywords (21)

book history; intellectual networks; bibliography; American colonies; Dissenters; English books; intellectual networks; bibliography; book production; public sphere; republicanism; radicalism; periodicals; pamphlats; Switzerland; Harvard College Library; New England; semiotics; coffeehouse; social history; Dissenters.

Lay Summary (English)

Lay summary
This project traces the book distribution practices of the English republican Thomas Hollis (1720-1774), who sent books and pamphlets representing his political and civic ideals to recipients throughout the world. Harvard College, the cities of Bern, Zürich, Lausanne, and Geneva, as well as Christ College, Cambridge, were the main recipients of these precious and in some cases incendiary books. But there were others, as well, including sites in North America, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Russia, and other European destinations. Many of the books contained texts of political resistance from the 17th century English writers who had been effected by the English Civil War, as well as religious disputation concerning the power of the Established Church or toleration of the Catholics. Hollis had many of the books published clandestinely (including some previously banned) and nearly all of them he had bound and stamped with his own gold tools, symbols of liberty and resistance of tyranny adapted from classical representations. Hollis saw in Switzerland (particularly the Protestant cantons) a model of social, religious, civic, and cultural organization. He not only sent many books to Swiss destinations but also sent books about Switzerland to other places, notably Harvard. The books he sent to Harvard, mainly to replace the books lost in a devastating fire, were intended to educate a generation of young men in the Dissenting Protestant tradition. They would influence the generation of colonists who resisted the British in the years preceding and including the American Revolution. Hollis’s books were an inspiration to them, and he was in close contact with several of the leaders of the resistance against British authority in Boston. This project will locate, describe, and analyze the books themselves and Hollis’s political and literary intentions to construct a network of like-minded Protestants, educated by the same great written tradition of English republicanism. It will involve investigation into libraries in the United States, Switzerland, England, Italy, and Germany. It will also analyze and describe the ways in which Hollis attempted to create and exploit public space for the exchange and distribution of certain political views. The results of this study will appear in three volumes of The Harvard Library Bulletin, later to be combined into two volumes by Harvard University Press. The project is expected to contribute to the fields of book history, production, and distribution; the study of an international network of republicanism; the world of coffee house and periodical exchange; the purpose and function of propaganda through the distribution of books; and the function of the book as a token and sign of power and allegiance.
Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 21.02.2013

Responsible applicant and co-applicants