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Harriet S. Rowley commonplace books

 Collection — Box: BW 23, Folder: 1-2
Identifier: MSS 16472

Content Description

This collection consists of three commonplace books belonging to Harriet "Hatty" S. Rowley, of Utica, New York. The books are nicknamed the Books of Wisdom and ignorance in part because one notebook was titled "Ignorance Book," by Rowley, while the other two books were labeled with the following note, “Aunt Harriet’s books of wisdom.” These books hold recordings of quotes from famous authors and orators of the late 19th century, and as such they are full of "wisdom" and advice on life.

The self-titled “Book of ignorance,” dating from 1883-1888, features short summaries on topics Rowley found intriguing and previously ignorant of. These are descriptions of locations, monuments, churches, short biographies, and other random information. Also included are several newspaper clippings containing random facts. Included in the first book of wisdom (1872 - c1884), are quotes from Shakespeare, Henry Ward Beecher, Sydney Smith, Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Charles Dickens, Thomas Carlyle, John Adams, Williams Makepeace Thackeray, George Elliot, Margaret E. Sangster, Longfellow, E.B. Browning, Owen Meredith, and Julia C. Dorr. There are also quotes from plays and proverbs, such as Nicholas Nickleby, as well as excerpts from poems and stories published in Harper's Magazine or Harper's Bazaar. The quotations focusing on the morality of man and how to live a fulfilled life.

The second commonplace book, dating from 1872-1888, quotes Barnaby Rudge: A Tale of Riots of Eighty by Charles Dickens, Christian's Mistake by D. M. Mulock, Sunnybank by Marion Harland, The Scarlett letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Adam Bede by George Elliot. These are quotes from books that Rowley had read; the title listed at the top and excerpts she deemed worth recording underneath. Often locations of the library she loaned and the dates she read the materials are listed.


  • Creation: 1872 - 1888


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Handle with care; all boards are detached on each of the books.

Biographical / Historical

Harriet Sophia Rowley (1853-1943) was born on February 16, 1853, to Warren Dunham Rowley (1800-1854) and Harriet Maria Curry (1818-1889) in Utica, New York. She had several siblings: Warren Curry Rowley (1841-1928) and Hiram Curtis Rowley (1844-1922), Sarah Cornelia Rowley (1850-1952), Nancy Helen Rowley (1846-1925), and a half sister, Nancy Davis Rowley (1837-1846). She lived in South Trenton, NJ with her family until they moved to Utica, NY In 1866. She eventually would move to Springfield, MA and lived with her brother Hiram until his death in 1922. Harriet herself died at the age of 91 on October 26, 1943.


.08 Cubic Feet (2 legal sized folders)

Language of Materials



  • Eclectibles. "Harriet S. Rowley An Idiosyncratic Common Place Address Book . .Massachusetts .[1919-1930]."
Guide to the Harriet S. Rowley commonplace books
Rose Oliveira/Ellen Welch
21 January 2021.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library Repository

Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library
P.O. Box 400110
University of Virginia
Charlottesville Virginia 22904-4110 United States