Campus & Community

Houghton librarian for decades Bond, 90

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‘Honest, very funny, trustworthy, intelligent’

William H. Bond, who served for nearly two decades as librarian of Houghton Library, died Nov. 18, at Emerson Hospital in Concord, Mass., following a brief illness. He was 90.

William H. Bond was ‘a major figure in the international library world.’ (Photo by Nancy Bond)

Born in York, Penn., Bond graduated in 1937 from Haverford College, then earned an M.A. and Ph.D in English philology from Harvard in 1938 and 1941, respectively. Following graduation, he spent a year as a research fellow at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., then joined the U.S. Naval Reserve in Communications Intelligence, serving until 1946 and reaching the rank of lieutenant.

In 1946, Houghton’s first librarian, William A. Jackson, hired Bond as his assistant. In 1948, Bond became curator of manuscripts, and in 1965, on Jackson’s death, he took over as librarian. He stepped down from that post in 1982, but continued to serve as professor of bibliography in the English Department, a position he had held since 1967. He retired from the Harvard faculty in 1986.

In 1981 – 1982 he was the Sandars Reader in Bibliography at Cambridge University, and published the lectures he gave as “Thomas Hollis of Lincoln’s Inn: a Whig and His Books,” (Cambridge University Press, 1990.) At the time of his death, he was working on a checklist of the books given to Harvard College by Thomas Hollis in the 18th century.

Rodney Dennis, Houghton’s curator of manuscripts emeritus, called Bond “completely honest, honorable, trustworthy, very funny, and very intelligent.” He said that he not only had a knack for inspiring loyalty from those who worked under him but promoted feelings of collegiality among those workers as well.

Bond also had a talent for detecting patterns and solving puzzles, an ability he honed while working for Navy intelligence during World War II. This talent enabled him to restore a misunderstood work by 18th century English poet Christopher Smart, Dennis said.

“One night he woke up thinking about Smart’s poem “Jubilate Agno,” which no one had ever been able to make any sense of. He realized that this was because the sheets of the manuscript had been folded the wrong way. He refolded them and gave the world a great poem.”

Roger Stoddard, senior curator emeritus in the Harvard College Library, said that Bond “was a major figure in the international library world during his long tenure at Harvard, editing and publishing books and articles all the while. He was beloved by his staff and Harvard colleagues, and he enjoyed a long life in teaching and scholarship.”

Bond edited many scholarly editions and was the author of numerous journal articles and reviews, chiefly of a bibliographical nature. He was a member of many bibliographical and literary associations and served as trustee or board member of many local organizations.

Bond is survived by his two daughters, Nancy Bond of Concord, Mass., and Sally Bond of Acton, Mass. His wife Helen Lynch Bond died earlier.

A memorial service was held at the First Parish Church, Concord, on Dec. 7. Gifts in Bond’s honor may be made to Orchard House (Louisa May Alcott), 399 Lexington Road, Concord, MA 01742; Emerson Hospital, ORNAC, Concord, or to the organization of your choice.