The Columns

Books in the Attic

— by on April 16th, 2010

You know how when you’re spring cleaning, you find all kinds of interesting stuff you didn’t even know you had? Well, that happened the other day in the attic of Washington Hall. Mike Carmagnola, executive director of facilities and capital planning, was rummaging around up there in preparation for the building’s eventual renovation, part of the ongoing project that will spiff up the entire Colonnade. He bumped up against four long, narrow wooden boxes—filled with a complete set of The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies (OR for short). The multivolume reference work was published from 1880 to 1901.

A tag on the dusty boxes read, “Property of Dr. Bean.” That would be the late W.G. Bean, professor of history at W&L who arrived in 1922 and was one of the school’s signal personages until his death in 1974.

Carmagnola’s colleague Lucy Raney and her crew moved the boxes from the attic of Washington Hall to “the attic of the University”—that’s how Vaughan Stanley, Special Collections librarian, refers to his domain in Leyburn Library. He called up Prof. Bean’s son, William Bean Jr., who lives in Lexington and has been updating his father’s 1964 book, The Liberty Hall Volunteers: Stonewall’s College Boys. As best as Stanley (at left in the photo) and Bean (at right) can figure, the senior Bean must have stashed the books in Washington Hall’s attic when he retired in the 1950s, and they have been there ever since.

Since Leyburn Library already has several sets of the OR, Stanley is trying to find a good home for this one. He expects Special Collections will be the beneficiary of other discoveries, however, as attics and basements along the Colonnade get tidied up over the next few years. “Good things turn up that way,” says Stanley.