Adventures in Cataloging: Some Sleuthing Required (Part III)

This week, the series ends by correcting a case of mistaken identity. And if you missed the first two parts, be sure to check them out: Part I, Part II.

3. The Doctors Jackson

We like to trace provenance information in our records when we can. This allows one to find former owners, virtually reconstruct an individual’s book collection, and think on questions about audience and readership in relation to the titles at hand.

An Eulogium upon Benjamin Rush, M.D. by David Ramsay (Philadelphia, 1813) was given to “S. Jackson from E. Lewis” at an unknown time in the early nineteenth century. Later, it was owned by Dr. Asa M. Stackhouse of Morristown, N.J., who inscribed the title page, and William R. Stackhouse, who affixed his bookplate to the front flyleaf.

Dr. Asa M. Stackhouse’s notes about Dr. Samuel Jackson, which proved to be the key to disentangling the identities of the doctors Jackson.

Dr. Asa M. Stackhouse’s notes about Dr. Samuel Jackson, which proved to be the key to disentangling the identities of the doctors Jackson.

Unfortunately, “S. Jackson from E. Lewis” is a rather uninformative inscription and gives little information that would help identify the individuals involved. However, Dr. Stackhouse obligingly added a note concerning provenance. He tells us that Dr. Samuel Jackson of Northumberland was the former owner and annotator of the volume, and that Dr. Jackson was the father of Francis Aristides Jackson, a professor of Latin in the University of Pennsylvania.

Searching for biographical information about the father of Francis Aristides Jackson proved productive, and we discovered that Dr. Samuel Jackson was born in 1788, earned his M.D. at the University of Pennsylvania in 1812, lived in Northumberland, Pa., and died in 1869.

However, the process of discovery did not stop there! Dr. Samuel Jackson (1788-1869) was actually one of two individuals by that name who lived in Pennsylvania and obtained an M.D. from the University of Pennsylvania during the early nineteenth century. The other Dr. Samuel Jackson was born in 1787, earned his M.D. at the University of Pennsylvania in 1808, and died in 1872.

Unsurprisingly, the good doctors had been confused and bibliographically conflated. All the titles ascribed to a Dr. Samuel Jackson of Pennsylvania had been attributed to Dr. Samuel Jackson (1787-1872), and Dr. Samuel Jackson (1788-1869) had disappeared from the bibliographic record. Knowing that there were two Dr. Samuel Jacksons allowed us to disambiguate them and correct errors in attribution.

Dr. Samuel Jackson (1788-1869) is now correctly listed as the author of two pamphlets, The Annual Discourse before the Philadelphia County Medical Society, delivered February 10, 1852 (Philadelphia, 1852) and The Organizing of the American Medical Association (Philadelphia, 1852). Additionally, he has been identified as the former owner of two titles held by the American Antiquarian Society, Elements of Surgery for the Use of Students by John Syng Dorsey (Philadelphia, 1813) and The Philosophy of Human Knowledge, or A Treatise on Language by A.B. Johnson (New York, 1828). These corrections will not, perhaps, set the academic and bibliographic worlds afire, but they help make the bibliographic record a little more correct than it was before.

One thought on “Adventures in Cataloging: Some Sleuthing Required (Part III)

  1. Melanie Stringer

    It is all about the details, isn’t it? So glad you were able to discover the “other” Dr. Jackson. Given their similar ages and education, I wonder if they were first cousins?

    Also, kudos for using the word “disambiguate.” I’ve never seen it used in a written piece, and probably only heard it once or twice in speech, but it was the perfect word choice in this context. Nicely done.

    Reply

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