Harvard Library Acquires Stavrakoglou Book and Vatoussan Periodical

by HCS Staff

(HCS)--—On August 22, 2014, Rhea Lesage, Librarian and Coordinator of the Modern Greek Section of Harvard’s Widener Library, welcomed Christos and Mary Papoutsy to one of the world’s most prestigious educational institutions.

The Harvard Library system encompasses more than 70 libraries and 16 million items. Most of the collection is part of the Harvard College Library, a centrally administered unit within the Faculty of Arts and Sciences made up of 11 libraries and several archival sections. Lined up end to end, the total length of book shelving exceeds 100 miles, as library officials indicate. Since its inception in 1638, with its first donation from John Harvard, the institution has remained a leader among academic repositories. In 2004 the Library underwent a $100 million renovation and expansion, the largest since its establishment.

The Papoutsy couple presented Lesage with several donations to the Library’s extensive Modern Greek collection. Among these were a gift subscription to the Palmoi tis Vatoussas quarterly publication of the traditional village of Vatoussa on the island Lesvos. The Library purchased a copy of The Archives of Vatoussa, 1733-1912 penned by Christos Stavrakoglou. Lesage had learned of the impressive Stavrakoglou work and requested a copy for the Library’s collection. The addition of this serious scholarly tome to the University’s holdings bolsters its resources for academic research. Lesage has already entered these items into the Library’s electronic catalog to aid researchers.

Harvard College Librarians Rhea Karabelas
Lesage and Richard Lesage accept donations
to Modern Greek Collection. Photo by HCS.

The Modern Greek Collection of the Harvard College Library, established in the late 1970s, includes volumes in many languages and on a vast range of subjects in the humanities and social sciences. It is one of the largest and richest collections of its kind outside of Greece, with dates of its holdings spanning more than 5 centuries. In addition to current Greek and Cypriot imprints, the collection holds rare books and manuscripts, as well as an “unusually complete set of 19th century periodicals and historical documents.” Taped recordings of noted Greek poets are another feature of this collection, preserving the voices of several Nobel-prize-winning Greek artists reading their own poetry. Although historians have set the year 1453, the Fall of Constantinople, as the end of the ancient Greek era and the beginning of the modern period, this date does not limit the subject areas covered by the ever-growing collection: ancient and modern history, archaeology, architecture, bibliography, biography, classics, education, economics, folklore, Greek Orthodoxy, linguistics, literature, medicine, music, performing arts, philology, philosophy, political science, politics, psychology of ethnic interest, social studies, and sociology.

Harry Elkins Widener Memorial Collection Room in Harvard Library (above, left, http://hcl.harvard.edu/libraries/houghton/exhibits/widener/) and Loker Reading Room (right, http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/2004/09.30/13-widener.html ). Photos: Harvard Public Affairs & Communications.

“The Modern Greek Section serves as Harvard College Library’s contact point for Modern Greek Studies scholars, offering specialized reference services and area-related bibliographic instruction,” according to the Library’s website. Lesage welcomes suggestions for additions to the library’s collection.

Connections with Lesvos tie Lesage to Vatoussa: her maternal grandfather, Evangelos Kapitanelis, was born there. Early in the 20th century he married Rhea Kochilis of Kalloni and emigrated to the U.S. where Lesage’s mother, Theodora Kapitanelis, was born. Lesage has been a librarian at Harvard for more than 20 years and has been an active member and Chair of the Library Committee of the Modern Greek Studies Association in the U.S. and other professional organizations. Very proud of her Greek heritage, she has been a staunch supporter of The Greek Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts and its Athens branch that has produced the Thisavros tis Ellinikis Glossis project.

(Posting date 04 September 2014)

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