IN the course of eighty years the Colonial Society of Massachusetts has published fifty volumes. At this milestone it is fitting to recall the memory of Henry Herbert Edes, who founded the Society in 1892 and served as its Treasurer until his death in 1922, for Samuel Eliot Morison, elected in 1912, is the only living member who knew him.
Mr. Edes was a New Englander through and through, and proud of it. He was born in Charlestown, Massachusetts, on March 29, 1849. As his father died when he was a child, he did not attend Harvard College, but went to work to support his mother and her two sisters. For eighteen years he was with the Everett Mills, but in 1889 he became manager and treasurer of the Conveyancers Title Insurance Company of Boston.
From early manhood historical and genealogical research were his constant delight. Although he completed and published in 1896 the second volume of the Reverend Henry Wilder Foote’s Annals of King’s Chapel, left unfinished at its author’s death, he was long a devoted member of the First Church in Boston, whose meetinghouse he delighted to adorn with memorials to its founders.
The Reverend Charles E. Park, long Minister of the First Church and Recording Secretary of the Colonial Society, described Mr. Edes who was “a dear friend and a rare parishioner” thus: “He was an enthusiastic antiquarian, exceedingly well-informed as to the details and minutiæ, so that his chief aim in life was to perpetuate the type: A Gentleman of Old Boston. The high silk hat, the immaculate standing collar and white necktie, the correct cut-away coat, pearl gloves and cane were his habitual weekday attire. Needless to say, he was always accompanied by a chorus of small-boy hoots and jeers, which he seemed rather to like.”
Although Mr. Edes served on the councils of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Antiquarian Society, the New England Historic Genealogical Society, and was a member of the Massachusetts Historical Society, the Colonial Society of Massachusetts remained his especial enthusiasm. He established the format of its Publications, saw the first volume, Transactions 1892–1894 through the press, and personally edited the next three. In 1902 Frederick Lewis Gay offered to pay the cost of copying Books I, III and IV of Harvard College Records and gave $2,000 toward their publication by the Colonial Society. As it was clear that Mr. Edes did not have sufficient leisure to carry on work of this magnitude, he raised funds in 1904 that permitted the employment of Albert Matthews as Editor of Publications, with a modest salary. During the twenty years that Mr. Matthews held that office, the Society published nineteen volumes.
Recognizing that Henry H. Edes was possessed of an anima naturaliter Harvardiana, Harvard College made him an honorary Master of Arts in 1906. In conferring the degree, President Eliot accurately characterized him as “New England antiquarian and annalist, accurate reproducer of a reverenced past.” Ten years later Mr. Edes was appointed Editor of the Harvard Quinquennial Catalogue, a labor of love that he found very much to his taste. It is appropriate that these latest volumes of Harvard College Records should be printed from the income of the Sarah Louisa Edes Fund, which Mr. Edes bequeathed to the Society in memory of his mother.
A principle established in 1893 was that all publications of the Society should be uniform in size and style; that the series, whatever their contents, should be called Publications of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts and numbered consecutively. It was further agreed that those volumes which contained proceedings of meetings should bear the sub-title of Transactions and that archival and documentary volumes should be designated by the sub-title of Collections. This sensible system was devised to facilitate citation. A simple reference to a given volume of the Society’s Publications would suffice, without reference to a series. Like all seemingly simple arrangements, this one had its complications, for volume numbers would be assigned in advance to groups of documents, like the Harvard College Records, which were designated as XV and XVI. But as authors like to see their papers in type as soon as possible, the Editor would frequently set aside work on a volume of Collections in order to bring out one of Transactions more promptly. When Albert Matthews retired as Editor in 1924, he had just published volume XXV (Transactions, 1922–1924), but volumes XV and XVI were still standing in type, awaiting time and money for printing and distribution.
As Henry H. Edes died on October 13, 1922, a memoir of him appeared in volume XXV, but he never had the pleasure of seeing volumes XV and XVI, Harvard College Records, I and II, which were only published in 1925. A decade later Part III was issued as the Society’s contribution to the approaching Harvard Tercentenary. In the Preface to that volume, Samuel Eliot Morison, then President, noted that “the expense has been borne by a son of Harvard, one of our oldest members, whose modesty prevents me from mentioning his name.” That modest man was Albert Matthews of the class of 1882, our Editor of Publications from 1904 to 1924. As he has been dead since 1946, it seems appropriate to Admiral Morison and me that this generous gift should now become a matter of record.
When I became Editor late in 1946 I inherited from my predecessor, Allyn Bailey Forbes, transcripts of additional Harvard College records that were being made by Robert Woodberry Lovett of the class of 1935. My classmate Clifford Kenyon Shipton, then Archivist of Harvard, had proposed the publication by this Society of certain early documents that were in frequent demand in the University Archives, to prevent needless use of the originals. For a quarter of a century these remained in my files, for there always seemed to be something more pressing to print. Finally in 1971 there were funds available that would permit the Society to go ahead with Harvard College Records, IV and V. Robert Lovett agreed to edit the documents that he had transcribed so many years earlier, which now appear as volumes XLIX and L of the Society’s Publications. If the shade of Henry Herbert Edes is aware of the activities of the Society that he founded eighty-three years ago, it must derive some pleasure from the appearance of the fiftieth volume in the series that he envisioned, and from the fact that five of the series are devoted to records of Harvard College.
Walter Muir Whitehill
March 17, 1975