Chauncey B. Tinker (1876–1963)

Tinker was an influential teacher of eighteenth‐ and nineteenth‐century English literature at Yale University from 1903 to 1945; he was also keeper of rare books for Yale University Library starting in 1930 or 1931, remaining in that post for a number of years beyond his retirement from teaching. A collector himself, Tinker was known for his generosity in opening his personal library of manuscripts and rare books for studentsʼ use—a generous trait he held in common with his friend and fellow collector, R. B. Adam II (1863–1940) (Pathak, “Chauncey Brewster Tinker”, 278–81; Metzdorf, The Tinker Library, viii).
Tinker, who had always been a zealous advocate for building the Yale libraryʼs collections, was just beginning his formal duties as keeper of rare books, when Ruskin collectors and scholars on both sides of the Atlantic were surprised by the announcement of the Sothebyʼs Sale of Ruskin Manuscripts and Library, 1930 and, a year later, the Sothebyʼs Sale of Ruskin Manuscripts and Library, 1931. At Yale, since the two Sothebyʼs Ruskin sales coincided exactly with the completion the new Sterling Memorial Library building (1927–31), proposals for new rare book and manuscript acquisitions must have encountered stiff competition merely for the attention of library administrators, much less for available funding. The first Sothebyʼs Ruskin auction was held on 24 July 1930, when the Yale staff had begun moving books to the Sterling stacks, a process initiated on 7 July 1930. Tinker later wrote that he took up his post as keeper “some four or five months before the opening of the new Sterling library”, but left unclear whether he referred to the months prior to the transfer of operations in the summer of 1930 or to the formal dedication of the building, which was held on 11 April 1931—or perhaps he meant the opening of the Rare Books Room, which was ready on 22 February 1931 (“Report of the Librarian, July 1, 1930–June 30, 1931”, 3; Tinker, “Reflections of a Curator”, 8). Whenever he assumed duties, the transition in responsibility may explain some of the obscurity surrounding how Yale acquired certain items in the sale (see Sothebyʼs Sale of Ruskin Manuscripts and Library, 1930: The Buyers).
Documentation remains to be uncovered to reconstruct fully by what agency Yaleʼs acquisitions from the Sothebyʼs sales made their way to the library. Two important lots from the 1930 sale, Ruskinʼs juvenilia and his letters to his father, were bought probably by Hugh Allen, who was a son of Ruskinʼs publisher, George Allen, and who may have acted as an agent directly for Yale. Other lots from the 1930 sale were bought by an agent on the behalf of the Boston rare book dealer and Ruskin collector, Charles E. Goodspeed (1867–1950), who sold the lots to Yale in November 1930 (see Sothebyʼs Sale of Ruskin Manuscripts and Library, 1930: The Buyers). Whatever the exact arrangements were, it seems unlikely that these important Ruskin investments would have been undertaken without his urging and involvement of Tinker.
Tinker and Ruskin Studies
While Tinkerʼs scholarship was centered in Boswell and Johnson studies—at least initially, until difficulties with access to manuscripts derailed his aspirations to continue editing Boswellʼs papers—Ruskin and the Pre‐Raphaelites held an important place in his teaching, collecting, and writing. In 1908, Tinker published Selections from the Works of John Ruskin, an anthology that he distanced from “such a volume as used to be entitled Elegant Extracts”, instead reprinting chapters and lectures from Ruskinʼs works in as complete a form as practicable in order “to insure a correct notion of the general complexion” of the criticʼs ideas. For Tinker, Ruskinʼs thought and literary style constituted a unity, which must be studied as “one continuous development” (pp. iii, xii, xix). Such a position would have favored the acquisition of Ruskinʼs juvenilia and letters to his father, along with later manuscripts sampling the wide range of Ruskinʼs interests, that Yale gained from the Sothebyʼs Sale of Ruskin Manuscripts and Library, 1930.
Tinkerʼs personal collection of Ruskin included five autograph letters; and his rare and first‐edition printed Ruskin, while not aspiring to comprehensiveness, ranged widely across Ruskinʼs interests and rhetorical styles (see Metzdorf, The Tinker Library, 371–74). He and his students had access, moreover, to a comprehensive Ruskin collection belonging to R. B. Adam, which Adam donated to Yale University Library in 1929, in friendship and in support of Tinkerʼs tireless advocacy on behalf of the libraryʼs collections (Hyde, “Adam, Tinker, and Newton”, 304). Equally beneficial to the libraryʼs Ruskin holdings, if less happily in circumstances, the Boston book dealer Charles E. Goodspeed (1867–1950) donated the manuscripts in his keeping, which had been damaged by his house fire in 1941. Tinker, at that time still keeper of rare books and manuscripts, was Goodspeedʼs correspondent during the salvage, and presumably Tinker helped oversee the care of the scorched items. A decade earlier, Goodspeed had served as the primary, if not perhaps the exclusive mediator for Yaleʼs acquisitions from the Sothebyʼs Ruskin sales. Goodspeed entrusted Yale University Library with the remains of his Ruskin collection because, it was said, he wished “to complete Yaleʼs holdings of the available major Ruskin manuscripts, so many of which had passed through his hands on their way to New Haven” (Hogan, “Yale Collection of the Manuscripts of John Ruskin”, 69).
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