Re-Introducing the Lois Goddard Morrison Collection

By Kevin M. O’Sullivan | 05-07-2021

If you have spent much time in the Kelsey Reading Room of the Cushing Memorial Library and Archives during the past few years, you may have noticed a small, old-fashioned card catalogue positioned along the south wall.

A wooden cabinet, containing the original card catalogue describing the Morrison Collection.
The original card catalogue describing the Morrison Collection.

While books that enter Cushing’s special collections these days are catalogued digitally, these 45 drawers contain countless cards representing the collecting efforts of Lois Goddard Morrison over her decades-long academic career. This article offers an appreciation for one of the great female book collectors in Texas and recalls how her remarkable collection of eighteenth-century English literature found a home at Texas A&M University.

Dr. Lois G. Morrison began her career studying English literature at the University of Texas at Austin under the direction of R. H. Griffith, a notable scholar of Alexander Pope. Her dissertation focused on Eustace Budgell and The Bee, an English literary periodical of the mid-eighteenth century.

A complete set of The Bee, a text of great scholarly interest.
A complete set of The Bee, a text of great scholarly interest to Dr. Morrison.

Remarkably, Professor Griffith sold his original copies of The Bee to Morrison to facilitate her work. This auspicious start would prove to be, in the words of her daughter, “an initial impetus which generated true bibliomania.” To learn more about the biography and early career of Dr. Morrison, you can read Betty Morrison Hennington’s “Lois G. Morrison Collection of Eighteenth-Century English Literature: A Checklist” (Cushing Library/Rare Books/Call Number: PR441 H46 1968).


An image from the title page of The Bee (1733).
A detail from the title page of The Bee (1733).

Throughout her career, Morrison continued to acquire books and printed material in support of her academic interests. Soon, she was traveling throughout England, Ireland, and France in search of notable books, forging important friendships with scholars and booksellers all the while. It is clear that from the outset Morrison was no casual collector. She drew upon an extensive academic knowledge and a deep personal passion for the material in her search for books, and sought to build a scholarly resource whose scope was as broad as it was deep. In addition to extensive runs of material from major authors such as John Dryden, Alexander Pope, Richard Steele, Joseph Addison, Samuel Johnson, and Phillis Wheatley, she also amassed numerous ephemeral religious and political tracts, miscellanies, plays, and periodicals that represent the work of lesser-known authors. As a whole, the collection offers an eclectic view of the diverse literary landscape of eighteenth-century England.


The title page from a signed copy of Phillis Wheatley’s book Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral (1773).
The title page from a signed copy of Phillis Wheatley’s Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral (1773).
A detail showing Wheatley’s original signature on her book of Poems.
A detail showing Wheatley’s signature.


Dr. Morrison spent much of her career at San Antonio College (SAC), including fourteen years as the Dean of Women. When she retired in 1968, she bequeathed her beloved books to that institution for the future benefit of scholars and students alike. However, in 2012, the SAC board of trustees made the difficult decision to seek a new home for the Morrison collection, citing the considerable expense incurred in its maintenance and the desire to reclaim valuable space in the library building. Late that year, a group from Cushing Memorial Library and Archives arrived at the SAC Moody Learning Center with two large moving trucks and armfuls of boxes and bubble-wrap. At Cushing Memorial Library and Archives, the Morrison collection joins significant holdings related to contemporary English and French literature and culture in the Rare Book Collection as well as the Robert L. Dawson French Collection and has already become a treasured resource to the Aggie community.

In addition to some 4200 books and the card catalogue noted above, correspondence, financial and administrative records, and cataloguing notes accompanied the collection to Cushing Memorial Library and Archives. These archival materials illuminate aspects of the life and work of Dr. Morrison, including the formation of her collection until 1968, as well as the continued acquisition and accessioning of materials into the collection after it was sold to San Antonio College. The archives also contain purchase requests, which record when a book was acquired, from what bookseller, and the price paid. Taken as a whole, these archival materials provide a remarkable window into Morrison’s continued activity in scouting for new acquisitions to further develop the collection—well after her retirement from academic life. As the adage goes: once a collector, always a collector.

Books from the Morrison collection are steadily being added to the holdings of Cushing Memorial Library and Archives’ Rare Book Collection with a special note recording their special provenance by Felicia Piscitelli (Rare Books and Special Collections Cataloguer)—a patient process that involves converting the old Dewey decimal classified records into our more modernized Library of Congress catalogue. However, curious patrons are still welcome to browse the old-fashioned card catalogue in the Kelsey Reading Room, where they will find the books cross-indexed by author, title, publisher, associations, and (where appropriate) engraver.

Tags: Book Collecting; Eighteenth-Century English Literature; Rare Books. 

Cushing Memorial Library and Archives Collections: Rare Book Collection; Robert L. Dawson French Collection.

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Kevin M. O’Sullivan is Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts at Cushing Memorial Library and Archives.