Scope and arrangement
Nelson's papers, 1850s-1930s, consist primarily of correspondence. Manuscripts, legal and financial documents, reports, organizational records, scrapbooks, photographs, and printed material are also included. These document his years in Newbern, North Carolina at the end of the Civil War and for a decade afterwards, his later career as a librarian and bibliographer, and his involvement with library and bibliographic organizations.
The Charles Alexander Nelson papers are arranged in six series:
Correspondence, chiefly letters received by Nelson with some drafts or copies of his letters, consists of general correspondence, 1859-1930s, two thirds of which (a) is in good chronological order while the rest (b) is in order only by decade; a group of letters dating from the 1880s-1890s organized alphabetically by correspondent (c); and a letterbook, 1870-1893 (d).
A group of papers from Nelson's years in Newbern consists of: additional correspondence, 1867-1876; legal documents accumulated by Nelson as a Justice of the Peace, 1867-1872; some financial records of the First Congregational Society of New Bern, 1865-1867; a small group of financial records, chiefly bills and receipts, documenting personal and professional expenses while in Newbern; a record book of the Ward One Grant and Colfax Club of the City of Newbern, 1868; and miscellaneous clippings, printed material, and photographs.
Manuscripts of Nelson's reports, as Librarian, to the Library Committee of the Howard Memorial Library, New Orleans.
Correspondence, reports, minutes, and printed material of organizations to which Nelson belonged, including: the American Library Association (chiefly records, 1892-1893, of its World's Columbian Exposition Committee, of which Nelson was a member); the Bibliographical Society of America; New York Library Club, 1880s-early twentieth century; and the Twilight Club, a New York social club, 1886-1903. Additional records of these and other organizations can be found in the correspondence and printed material.
Manuscripts, proof, and notes of Nelson's Waltham, Past and Present...; proof of his Bibliography of Columbiana, 1754-1904; manuscript of his translation of the Vindiciae Typographicae, a book concerning Johann Gutenberg by Johann D. Schoepflein; manuscripts of essays and talks, and fragmentary writings and notes.
Included here are invitations received by Nelson, 1880s-1910s, chiefly from libraries and book trade organizations; printed material documenting Harvard alumni activities and additional correspondence between Nelson and classmates, 1910s-1920s (a 1920 photograph of the Class of 1860 is included); printed material from Cambridge High School, 1850s; scrapbooks, two manuscript book catalogs, and printed and miscellaneous items.
A group of letters that may have been collected by Nelson for their autograph value include three to the publishers Gould and Lincoln from John Dowling, November 15, 1856, Henry Jackson, November 13, 1865, and J. Newton Brown, March 20, 1857, all concerning a book, The Progress of Baptist Principles by a Professor Curtis. Four others, from Rev. F. Wayland, July 12, 1860, Judge Peleg Sprague, September 30, 1852, Cleveland Abbe, October 13, 1870, and C. A. Guillette (or Guilamatti), undated, are unrelated. None are addressed to Nelson.