The Francis Campbell Macaulay Autograph Collection

Since finishing work on the Richard Bartlett Gregg papers I have been processing the Francis Campbell Macaulay autograph collection.  As of this writing, that project is complete and the family of collections open to researchers at the University of Pennsylvania has gained a new member.  Its finding aide can be found here.


Francis Campbell Macaulay was a Philadelphia lawyer of the 19th century.  His relations include Charles Stewart and Charles Stewart McCauley, two American naval heroes of the War of 1812 and the Civil War.  Like his predecessors, the lawyerly Francis left behind a solid legacy.  For example, in 1888 he successfully proposed to Dr. William Pepper and other Penn leaders the establishment of a “Museum of American Archaeology” at the university.  When the museum opened in the old University Library building (now the Fisher Fine Arts Library) Macaulay became an early benefactor by donating several Anglo-Saxon artifacts from his private collection.  Macaulay’s brainchild grew into the present-day University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, so next time you visit or walk by, spare a thought the gentleman who conceived it!  However, beyond this Macaulay has merited few attestations on the World Wide Web, even fewer than Richard Bartlett Gregg.  Furthermore, since the collection contained none of Macaulay’s correspondence, I feel like I know the autograph-collecting esquire far less than I came to know the down-to-earth social philosopher.  However, the comparatively little I have gleaned from the collection and online sources lead me to think Macaulay must have approached the ideal of a lettered gentleman in his lifetime.   In addition to his archaeological advocacy and his legal practice (which I imagine must have made him rather wealthy, given the social circles he ran in and the content of his leisure activities), Macaulay was a dedicated literary enthusiast, particularly for Italian Renaissance literature.  He was a member of the Dante Society, a learned circle of Renaissance aficionados, and collected numerous early editions of Dante, Petrarch, Boccaccio, and Torquato Tasso which he generously donated to the University in 1896.  Accompanying this veritable light-show of Western literary talent was a somewhat miscellaneous collection of autographs and vocabulary notebooks.  This is the collection I have completed processing as of this writing.  


Macaulay evidently dedicated a portion of his leisure time to compiling a vocabulary of the dialect of Nice in southern France and to collecting autographs like some people collect cats.  The notebooks are in rough shape, but are admirably thorough.  They have been safely re-housed in individual folders in an archival box, and comprise the second series of the collection.  The first was already well-preserved and safely housed.  It comprises the autographs of well-known (or at least once well-known) literary figures, political leaders, scientists, and other public intellectuals.  Many of them, including that of the great Renaissance poet Ludovico Ariosto, were Italian, as befit Macaulay’s interests.  However, our intrepid lawyer didn’t limit himself to them.  There was also a stray but nonetheless very cool autograph from Alexandre Dumas himself!  Macaulay also had a fledgling collection of presidents’ autographs, including those of Thomas Jefferson, James Buchanan, Millard Fillmore and – somewhat humorously – an envelope addressed by Martin Van Buren.  I suppose as long as it had a president’s handwriting on it, it was fair game!  Macaulay also had a series of signed documents and letters relating to the lives and careers of his naval ancestors Charles Stewart and C.S. McCauley.      


The autographs were inscribed upon a variety of materials, including letters, poems, forms, party invitations, and isolated clippings.  The materials were chosen with no organizing theme in mind.  The letters, for example, have been removed from whatever original organizing context they might have had.  One is simply a signed permission slip for attending lectures at the Franklin Institute.  The most hilarious to me was a plain piece of card-stock autographed by the fifth Chief Justice of our republic, with the message “I write this note to comply with a request for my autograph – R.B. Taney.”  Some of the autographs are just signatures excised from their original contexts!  Which of course is *very* helpful for us when the unfortunate individual in question simply signed his or her first initial and we’re left in the dark about exactly who “H. Potter” was.  (Well I know which name we’re all thinking of right now, but this gentleman is a century early!  Although with magic…).  Such signature clipping reminds me of a yarn Amey imparted to me about John Ruskin, who wrote of the joys of clipping initials out of illuminated manuscripts.  Oh, for practices of yester-centuries that make us scream!  Perhaps not too loudly though – soon enough some of our practices will be in that infamous company.


As you have no doubt divined, the composition of the autograph series is completely incidental.  Every item in it was collected simply for the satisfaction of having a signed handwriting sample of this or that big name.  Overall this collection is relatively niche, but should be of interest to researchers in French dialects and assorted Americana or Italiana.  Furthermore, Regan foresees the Macaulay collection being useful for our provenance work.  Well as of this posting we have writing samples from 120 individuals newly processed and open to public access.  Provenance away!

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