Concise Encyclopedia of Tufts History
Bolles, Edwin Courtlandt, 1836-1920
|Edwin Courtlandt Bolles (1836-1920), Dickson Professor of English and American History, was the first chaplain of Tufts College. Bolles also served as a lecturer in the Divinity School and a trustee of the college. He assembled a vast collection of materials pertaining to the history of London, which are held in the University Archives. He is credited with devising a reference system that is reminiscent of modern "hypertext."|
Bolles was born in Hartford, Connecticut, on September 19, 1836.He attended Trinity College, graduating in 1855.As a result of his strong religious convictions, he aligned himself with the Univeralist faith and was ordained as one of its minister at the age of nineteen. He continued his studies, receiving his M.A. and LL.D. also from Trinity, in 1859 and 1905, respectively. He obtained a doctorate in 1860 from St. Lawrence University, and a doctorate of sacred theology from Tufts in 1880.At that time, he began a nine year term as a trustee of the college. He served as pastor of congregations in New England, New York, and Louisiana, leaving the South following the outbreak of the Civil War.
His involvement with Tufts increased in 1889, when he began lecturing in the Divinity School. An entertaining lecturer, he presented a series of talks on London when he first joined the faculty. He also lectured on microscopy at the Society for Natural History in Boston and associated himself with the Peabody Academy of Science in Salem. While also preaching in Salem, Bolles befriended Walter Scott Dickson, who founded the Dickson Professorship in English and American History at Tufts for Bolles in 1900. Bolles was made the first chaplain of the university in 1905.
Bolles established a private collection of materials, including rare books, pamphlets, and maps, pertaining to the history of London. He amassed much of his collectionwhile living in London during the 1870s. His interest in London may have partially stemmed from his unbroken ancestral lineage dating back to William the Conqueror. He took on the task of illustrating Walter Thornbury's Old and New London with more than 8,000 pictures he had collected.
Instead of cutting the six volumes to insert the additional illustrations, Bolles devised a plan for underlining the passages to be illustrated and making marginal notes that referred to numbered illustrations in the vast files he maintained, organized by volume, chapter and page. Most of this work, considered to be a precursor to modern "hypertext," was carried out with help from his assistants after Bolles had lost his sight. He completed the work one year before he died. The collection was purchased by the trustees in 1921 for $1,400 and was given to the college's library as a memorial to the late professor.
Bolles died at his home on College Avenue on January 11, 1920. He had twice been married, and was survived by two daughters, Margaret Bolles and Eleanor K. Hoit. His son, Courtlandt Kimball Bolles, a Lieutenant in the US Navy, predeceased him in Germany in 1902.
Bolles' residence on College Avenue, now used by the university for administrative offices, is named in his honor.