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Sharing communal knowledge

Illustration from "Honey: Soul of Flowers to Sweeten the Soul of Man," a four-page price list from Mount Lebanon

Scholars in the field of communal societies will have a new resource for sharing their research when the Hamilton library’s Richard W. Couper Press begins publishing next year

The press, which honors the late trustee Richard W. Couper ’44, will produce a series of monographs and a quarterly journal focused on new scholarship pertaining to American intentional communities, as well as critical introductions to important, often difficult-to-find historical works.
The American Communal Societies Series will be published twice a year. The monographs will feature peer-reviewed, scholarly works managed by an editorial board of academic and independent scholars, librarians and rare book specialists. A preview issue of the American Communal Societies Quarterly debuted this fall with regular issues starting in 2007. This periodical will feature scholarly articles and reprint historical documents, showcasing those in the College’s Communal Societies Collection.

Hamilton’s approximately 2,500 items on communal societies, particularly the Shakers, is among the leading collections in the country. In addition to written works, it includes rare 19th-century seed and medicinal catalogues, product labels, broadsides, 20th-century posters and period photographs. Other pieces include examples of Shaker furniture, swifts, textiles, fancy-goods, baskets, poplarware and tinware.

Other communal societies represented in Hamilton’s collection include the Amana, Ephrata Cloister, Koreshan Unity, New Harmony and Oneida Community. The library recently completed a digitization project of The Shaker Manifesto, the official journal of the Shakers.

Randall Ericson, the Couper Librarian and editor of the quarterly, described the mission of the Couper Press as two-fold. “We want to provide an additional forum for research about communal societies, and also we see this as an opportunity to publicize Hamilton’s impressive collection, which is relatively new and therefore unknown to many scholars.”

Much of Hamilton’s Communal Societies Collection came to the College from Walter Brumm, a retired sociology professor from California University of Pennsylvania, who donated his collection to Hamilton in 2004. Brumm noted the need for research collections to serve scholars who do both descriptive and analytic social-historical studies. Of the Couper Press initiatives he said, “[They have] the potential to connect persons and groups with common interests in an effort to keep past communitarian efforts alive and to encourage cross-disciplinary research.”
 

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