Philosophical "Ames" of the Archives and Rare Books Library

By Lauren Fink

Owl BookplateThanks to a generous donation from Anthony Graybosch, The Archives and Rare Books Library now has in its holdings a collection of philosophy books from Van Meter Ames’ private library.  Van Meter Ames was a faculty member in the UC philosophy department, beginning in 1925, and served as its head from 1959 until 1966 when he retired.  Many of the books in this collection have Ames’ annotations, notes, and article clippings in them, as well as correspondence between Ames and fellow philosophers or friends.

Having no personal connection to Ames, Anthony Graybosch came to possess this collection of books in 2002 upon the passing of Kent Tiedeman, his philosophy department colleague at California State University-Chico.  Tiedeman, born in San Fransisco, studied philosophy with Ames at the University of Cincinnati in the early 1960s, receiving both an MA and a PhD.  As evidenced by many of the bookplates found in this new collection, Ames gave Tiedeman a substantial collection of his personal holdings in July of 1968 (2 years after Ames’ retirement from UC).  As Graybosch is now nearing his own retirement at Chico, he sought a proper home for these valuable items and found one in ARB.  With ARB already holding the Van Meter Ames Papers, this new collection is a perfect complement.

Cover and inscription of American Philosophers at Work

Most of the books in this collection were written by or about American philosophers.  Santayana, Hook, Dewey, Mead, and James are all included in this collection and all seem to be of particular importance to and influence on Ames.  To the right is Hook’s, American Philosophers at Work.  The end paper of this book (far right) was inscribed from Hook to Ames in 1958 and speaks about their friendship and the memories they shared in Japan.  A postcard from Hook to Ames that was inserted in this book is pictured below.  It is addressed to Ames in Tokyo.

Postcard from Sidney Hook, front and back

If a book was not a gift from a friend, such as the one above, Ames often wrote his name, the date, and the city in which he received and/or finished the book.  An example of this is illustrated in Ames’ copy of Mead’s Mind, Self, and Society, pictured below.  Here you can see Ames’ notes on Mead’s writings, in addition to pages Ames seemed to think were of special importance.  Hence, this collection would be of interest to anyone who is curious about the development of Ames’ philosophy.

Manuscript Endpaper with notes

Letter addressed to AmesBy studying what ideas Ames made note of on the end papers or in the book margins, what he underlined in the text, or what authors or subject themes continually recur throughout his book collection, one can ascertain a sense of Ames’ philosophical interests.  Additionally, information about his personal life can be garnered via the locations and dates associated with each book, as well as any correspondence contained within it.  For example, also included in Mead’s Mind, Self, and Society, was this envelope addressed to Van Meter Ames in Cincinnati and stamped Nov. Envelope Address to Ames9, 1970.  (Note that the original date associated with the book was Jan. 16, 1935; Texas).  Does this mean that Ames had revisited the book in his later years?  Or had he pulled this book back out because the letter writer mentions Mead?  While we may never know definitive answers to such questions, all materials contained within any given book have been left in that book for the sake of provenance.  Rather than removing materials from a book and organizing them into separate folders, we have kept all materials in the books as they were delivered to us.  This organizational scheme will hopefully be of more use to researchers.

If interested in this collection, one can browse the finding aid available on the OhioLink Finding Aid Repository, which is an alphabetized bibliography of Ames’ books.  If a name, date, or personal message, was inscribed on the endpaper of any book, it has been noted in the bibliography.  Additionally, a note was made if any article clipping, correspondence, etc. was inserted into the book.  To view the contents of this collection, please call or e-mail the Archives and Rare Books Library to schedule an appointment.   To view information about our previously processed Van Meter Ames papers, see the blog entry on that collection.

Book with Raymond Walters BookplateFurther, while the majority of this new collection centers on American philosophy and Van Meter Ames, it is curious to find other connections to the University of Cincinnati.  For instance, in William James’ Pragmatism: A New Name for Some Old Ways of Thinking, the book plate and signature of Raymond Walters is present.  Anyone interested in Walters’ past, will be pleased to know that ARB holds a collection of his diaries and his records as president of UC.

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