The state of the book trade, and the importation of books into this country, but a few years ago, were such as to offer but scanty advantages to the pursuit of historical letters. There were but few libraries deserving of notice, and these were placed at remote points, spread over a very extensive geographical area, where access became often difficult or impossible. By far the largest number of American libraries were limited to a few thousand volumes, often a few hundreds only, and these were chiefly made up of common or elementary works on arts, sciences and general literature. Writers were compelled to consult works at second hand, and could seldom get access to scarce and valuable originals; and the difficulties of making original inquiries into archaeology, antiquities, philology, and other more abstruse, or less popular topics, increased at every step, and were in fact insurmountable to men of ordinary means. This state of things will sufficiently account for the low state of historical letters up to within a comparatively short period, without impugning the judgment or saga city of early observers, on our local and distinctive history; and offers also a rational plea why the aboriginal branch of our antiquities, and the just expanding science of ethnology, has been left en shrouded in so much darkness and historical mystery. We have, in fact, not had the means of making such inquiries. The libraries at Harvard, the public collection set on foot by Franklin at Philadelphia, the library of Congress, and that of the New York Historical Society, and perhaps the growing library of the State Capitol at Albany, are some of the chief collections yet made in the Union; and these might be conveniently stowed away, en masse in one corner of the " Bibliothèque Royal " at Paris, without exciting notice.
Source: Notes on the Iroquois or, Contributions to the Statistics, Aboriginal
History, Antiquities and General Ethnology of Western New York, By Henry R.
Schoolcraft, 1846, Senate Document, Twenty-Four.
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