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HUG 1782

Sewall, Stephen, 1734-1804. Papers of Stephen Sewall, 1764-1797: an inventory

Harvard University Archives

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Descriptive Summary

Call No.: HUG 1782
Repository: Harvard University Archives
Creator: Sewall, Stephen, 1734-1804.
Title: Papers of Stephen Sewall, 1764-1797
Date(s): 1764-1797
Quantity: .76 cubic feet (6 folders and 7 volumes)
Language of materials: English
Abstract: The papers of Stephen Sewall consist of a small assortment of his personal papers, four volumes of lectures delivered at Harvard College, and three volumes containing an Aramaic (known as Chaldee in the 18th century) and a Greek lexicon. Stephen Sewall (1733/4-1804), the first Hancock Professor of Hebrew and other Oriental Languages at Harvard, was considered one of the most accomplished scholars in North America in the late 1700s. As an educator, Sewall utilized a system of teaching languages that emphasized the analysis of verse instead of rote memorization. The collection offers a resource for studying undergraduate education at Harvard, as well as the scholarly work being done by one of Massachusetts' leading classical and linguistic scholars in the 18th century.

Acquisition information:

The collection was assembled from various sources. Specific acquisition information, when available, is noted at the series or item level.

Processing Information:

The material was first classified and described in the Harvard University Archives shelflist prior to 1980 as individual items or in small groups. The material was re-processed in 2010 and formed into the papers of Stephen Sewall. Re-processing involved a collection survey, rehousing, and the creation of this finding aid.
This finding aid was created by Diann Benti in December 2010.
Preservation and description of the papers of Stephen Sewall was supported by the Arcadia-funded project Harvard in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries.

Researcher Access:

The Papers of Stephen Sewall are open for research.

Copying Restriction:

Copying of fragile materials may be limited.

Preferred Citation:

Sewall, Stephen, 1734-1804. Papers of Stephen Sewall,1764-1794. HUG 1782, Harvard University Archives.

Related Materials

In the Harvard University Archives
In Houghton Library

Biographical Note

Stephen Sewall (1733/4-1804), the first Hancock Professor of Hebrew and other Oriental Languages at Harvard College, was considered one of the most accomplished scholars in North America in the late 1700s. As an educator, Sewall utilized a system of teaching languages that emphasized the analysis of verse instead of rote memorization.
Sewall was born on March 24, 1733/4 in York, Maine. He received an AB from Harvard in 1761 and an AM in 1764. On October 6, 1761, Sewall was appointed Harvard's Hebrew instructor, ending the position's twelve-month vacancy after the resignation of Judah Monis. Initially, Sewall supplemented his income by working as the College butler and librarian. In 1763, Sewall's Hebrew Grammar, printed by R. and S. Draper, became the second Hebrew grammar printed in America. Sewall was named the first Hancock Professor of Hebrew and other Oriental Languages on June 19, 1765. He was an active member of the Cambridge community, and was elected a deacon of the First Church of Cambridge in 1777. Following the death of his wife of twenty years, Rebecca Wigglesworth Sewall, in 1783, Sewall's issues with alcoholism became public, and in 1785 the Board of Overseers removed him from his professorship at the College. In his later years, Sewall published four volumes based on his linguistic research. Sewall died on July 23, 1804.

References

Arrangement

The collection is arranged into five series:

Scope and Content

The papers of Stephen Sewall consist of a small assortment of his personal papers, four volumes of lectures delivered at Harvard College, and three volumes containing an Aramaic (known as Chaldee in the 18th century) and a Greek lexicon. The materials were created over more than three decades and reflect Sewall's work as a professor and scholar of Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. The papers are divided into five series: correspondence, lectures, funeral orations for Harvard President Edward Holyoke and Harvard Professor John Winthrop, lexicons, and a power of attorney between Sewall and Thomas Wigglesworth. Sewall used the small notebook containing the funeral oration of John Winthrop as a commonplace book in which he also copied substantial excerpts from the poetry of Elizabeth Singer Rowe, as well as small excerpts from James Boswell's Account of Corsica, and a poem by John Andre (HUG 1782 Box 9). The correspondence series includes a letter from Yale President Thomas Clap praising Sewall's Hebrew Grammar and a letter from Sewall's mother Mehetabel Preble discussing her health and thoughts on death. Additional correspondence written by Oxford scholar Benjamin Kennicott and French intellectual Antoine Court de Gébelin is located in the Lectures series.
The lectures and lexicons are uniformly bound in leather bindings and consist of Sewall's handwritten manuscripts of lectures delivered to students at Harvard, and Chaldee and Greek dictionaries. The lectures generally focus on aspects of the Semitic languages, especially Hebrew and Chaldee, Scripture, and characteristics and origins of languages. The collection offers a resource for studying undergraduate education at Harvard, as well as the scholarly work being done by one of Massachusetts' leading classical and linguistic scholars in the 18th century.

General

This document last updated 2013 October 9.

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