Binkley vs. the Library

Binkley was chair of the Library Committee at Flora Stone Mather College for most of his time there, and much involved with library development at Western Reserve University. Here is an exchange of letters in which he attempted to get the university library to purchase an expensive set of Austrian parliamentary debates. His justifications show him applying to his own local situation the theories of access to research materials which he was developing in the Joint Committee on Materials for Research. In this posting I’ll try to use the case to open up an interesting intersection of Binkley’s work in documentary reproduction with his professional work as a historian of 19th and 20th century Europe and his interpretation of events in Germany and Central Europe in the mid-1930s.

In February, 1936, the Dutch antiquarian book dealer Martinus Nijhoff advertised a complete (or nearly complete) set of the Stenographische Protokolle of the Austrian parliament from 1848 to 1934 in 542 volumes, for $2,000 (roughly $34,000 in 2013 dollars based on purchasing power). This series is the equivalent to Hansard in Westminster-style parliaments: the verbatim transcripts of debates in the upper and lower houses. The Assistant Director of the Western Reserve University library, George F. Strong, seems to have forwarded the notice to Binkley, with a pencilled note “Probably too expensive for us!” Binkley, however pressed for it to be purchased.

Binkley and Strong had a history of collaboration on purchases of this kind. A few months earlier, Binkley forwarded an offer of a set of the Protokolle of the Deutscher Bund (1816-66) for $240 to Strong, with a note that he had already wired the seller to hold it. A set exists in the Case Western library today, so presumably the purchase went through.1