Honorary Degree Citation for Carolyn Nelson '63

President Oden, it is an honor to present Carolyn Williamson Nelson for the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa.

Carolyn Nelson is well known to the Carleton community as an alumna, parent, and friend of the college.  A member of the class of 1963, she graduated magna cum laude with distinction in English and the Virginia McKnight Binger Prize in the Humanities.  Soon after graduating, she married Robert Nelson of the class of ‘62.  Their children, Eric and Melissa, are also members of the classes of ‘89 and ‘91.

Beyond the Bald Spot, Carolyn Nelson is known to the world of scholarship as a skilled, scrupulous, and tenacious bibliographer.  After taking her Ph.D. in English at the University of Chicago in 1967 and subsequently raising her family, Carolyn spent the ‘80s and early ‘90s working at Yale University Library on a major bibliographical project, updating the foundational Short-Title Catalogue of Books . . .  1641-1700 first published by Yale librarian Donald Wing shortly after World War II.

Wing’s catalogue provides information about the authorship, publisher, printer, date, variant versions, and locations of every book printed between the years 1641 and 1700 in England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, and British America and every book in the English language printed anywhere else during this period.  In our age of Google book searches, it might be hard to grasp the importance of such a resource.  But because seventeenth-century books were printed by hand, any two copies of an edition are likely to differ significantly; it is never enough to examine only one.  In assisting scholars to locate copies of works in libraries and archives all over the world, in unmasking those authors, printers, and publishers who, for fear of prosecution, chose to hide behind the veil of anonymity, Wing is an essential reference tool.

In revising it, Dr. Nelson served first as assistant editor and then as co-editor, overseeing the correction, expansion, and publication of the new edition.  The expansion was dramatic: the revised first volume was half as long again as its predecessor; an entirely new fourth volume, of over 1000 triple-columned pages, indexed works by printer, publisher, and chronology, thus helping to foster the discipline of book history.

While working on the revision of Wing, Dr Nelson also found time to co-author a companion catalogue.  British Newspapers and Periodicals 1641-1700 was a ground-breaking work which, for the first time, laid firm bibliographical foundations for the scholarly investigation of early English journalism; this is now a burgeoning interdisciplinary field.

Through these works and others Carolyn Nelson has furnished students of the English-speaking world in the early modern period with bibliographical guidance that is at once authoritative, comprehensive, and enabling. For this, she has earned the gratitude of scholars around the globe.

President Oden, I am honored to present Carolyn Williamson Nelson for the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa.