Quaker Values and Digital Scholarship

Haverford is committed to making important texts accessible to all, and recently made “Studies in Mystical Religion” by famed Quaker educator and philosopher Rufus M. Jones available to the HathiTrust, a digital library offering millions of titles.

Haverford’s unique and influential Quaker history permeates all aspects of campus life. From Customs groups learning how to speak out of silence to the library’s extensive holdings in Quaker and Special Collections, Quakerism (also known as the Society of Friends) at Haverford serves as the foundation for the College’s values of trust, concern, and respect for others.

These values are exemplified by ideas of fair-use and access to scholarly writing in the public domain, which is an increasing important conversation in the digital age. With copyright law moving to adapt to online spaces, many librarians and academics are pushing for more inclusionary publishing practices.

“As works move into the public domain, they become available for scholars and researchers to use without constraint,” said Associate Librarian of the College Norm Medeiros. “These works can be used freely in publications, on websites, for text analysis, in digital scholarship projects, and in ways not even envisioned yet–all without the imposition or threat of infringing copyright. Making available public domain works to the greatest extent possible is an obligation of the library community.”

With this in mind, it seems only fitting that the widely influential book, Studies in Mystical Religion by famed Quaker scholar (and 1885 alumnus of the College) Rufus M. Jones will be made available by Haverford to any interested researcher through HathiTrust, a digital library offering millions of titles for scholarly access. Haverford’s library recently joined the platform and added Jones’s rare and out-of print book to the archives.

An inscription by Rufus Jones himself inside the College’s copy of his book.

This year, the College was able to offer the book to HathiTrust because, as copyrights expire, more books enter the public domain with each passing year. This usually occurs once enough time has passed since the death of the author or since the original publication of the work, typically around 70 or 90 years, respectively. Once a book enters the public domain, it can be freely accessed through archives like Hathitrust rather than being locked behind a paywall.

“As educators and librarians we are committed to making knowledge available to all,” said Librarian of the College Terry Snyder. “With another year of publications open to fair use, we felt a keen commitment to advance access to more scholarly literature. We selected Studies in Mystical Religion because it is a significant text in its own right, also its symbolic meaning as our first contribution because of Jones’ connection and contributions to the College.”

Jones is perhaps most widely known as a founder of the American Friends Service Committee, but his writings on mysticism and religion remain also widely influential.

According to Douglas & Dorothy Steere Professor of Quaker Studies David Harrington Watt,  “Rufus Jones is one of the most important figures in the modern history of the Religious Society of Friends. In Studies in Mystical Religion, he argued that mysticism lies at the very heart Quaker faith. Many of us now view that argument with a good deal of skepticism. But whatever one thinks about the merit of Jones’s argument, it’s impossible to deny that it was extremely influential.”

Studies in Mystical Religion is not the only book written by Jones in the Haverford collection.

“Haverford’s Quaker and Special Collections include extensive manuscript, archives, and printed texts by Rufus Jones,” said Snyder. “These papers consist of diaries, financial papers, manuscripts, class notes, talks, photographs, and artifacts. The collection gives insight into his scholarship, philosophy and religious beliefs; further documented is his work in establishing the American Friends Service Committee and in a process advocating for the reunification of the branches within the Society of Friends.”

Photos by Patrick Montero.