Marcus McCorison was named president emeritus of the American
Society at his retirement, after thirty-two years of distinguished
Appointed the Society's librarian in 1960, he was named director
a title that was changed to president in 1989 and that he retained
his retirement in 1992. 'During his long tenure, he acquired some
items, ranging from a single letter or broadside to a run of
of issues of a single newspaper title.' His contribution is not
only by numbers; these new acquisitions enhanced the Society's
of nineteenth-century materials, while adding to the colonial and
era resources for which it was already famous. A noted
McCorison greatly enhanced access to the Society's collections
the creation of a machine-readable cataloguing system and
the production of bibliographies that would include AAS holdings.
the foundations for a scholarly community through the
the fellowship program to draw visiting scholars to Worcester and
academic programs that put fellows in touch with scholars in the
He also enlarged the institution's endowment with well-organized
campaigns and personal appeals to potential donors.
After serving with the United States Naval Reserve during World
McCorison graduated from Ripon College in 1950 and earned masters
from the University of Vermont (1951) and Columbia University
His academic study was interrupted by U.S. Army service as a first
in Korea in 1951-52. His first professional position was as
of the Kellogg Hubbard Library in Montpelier, Vermont. In 1955 he
the chief of rare books at Dartmouth College. After accepting the
at the Society in 1960, McCorison moved to Worcester and gradually
involved with most of the historical associations in the region.
a trustee of The Fruitlands Museum in Harvard, Massachusetts until
and was a trustee of both Old Sturbridge Village and Historic
He is a member of the Club of Odd Volumes, the Colonial Society of
and the Massachusetts Historical Society. His professional
include service as president of the Bibliographical Society of
on the Board of Governors of the Research Libraries Group, and as
of the Independent Research Libraries Association.
McCorison is also an author. In 1963, after thirteen years of
he published his Vermont Imprints, 1778-1820 which lists every
published in Vermont before 1821. His essay entitled "The
of American Bibliography, or Book History Plain and Fancy"
by the University of Texas in 1991, the same year his
and Byte-size Bibliography, or How to Digest Expanding Sources of
appeared in the Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society.
produced dozens of articles on the history of American printing
several of which were published in the Proceedings of the American
Society, including "Isaiah Thomas, The American Antiquarian
and the Future" (1981), and "Early American Bookbindings
the Collection of Michael Papantonio" (1983).
In 1995 the Society's Council voted to commission a portrait of
emeritus and McCorison was requested to select a painter to
likeness. With his wife Janet, he went to several galleries on
Newbury Street and looked at the work of contemporary painters. In
they searched through dozens of artists' portfolios on file at the
Society before selecting the South American painter Numael Pulido.
admired the attention to detail, softened realism, and high gloss
typical of nineteenth-century painting styles in Pulido's work.
Pulido was born in Colombia and came to the United States in 1958.
studied painting at the Art Students' League in New York and
his work at the National Academy of Design. In the 1970s, he moved
Hancock, New Hampshire, 'temporarily withdrawing from the gallery
to experiment in depth with the techniques of oil painting.'(2)
spent the 1980s in Europe, living in London and working as a still
and portrait painter. He returned to the United States in 1989.
Sittings for McCorison's portrait began in August 1995. The
originally planned to paint McCorison out-of-doors, standing in
of the Society's building. He remembered, 'Georgia Barnhill [the
Andrew W. Mellon Curator of Graphic Arts] and the McCorisons
of the idea, but Georgia said at one point, rather wistfully,
guess I will always see him surrounded by his books." I went
with my plan, but her remark was working on my mind. I was already
advanced with sketches and photographs for the painting when one
I woke up with the clear conviction that Georgia was right. So
was this impression that I didn't hesitate to reconsider the whole
The finished work, depicting McCorison seated at a desk covered
was unveiled for the members of the Society at the 1996 annual
At the presentation, Society President Ellen S. Dunlap spoke of
drawn from the image. 'The painting is rich in true-life detail.
the canvas, Marcus looks back at us from his work, from which we
interrupting him. We recognize the desk, the chair, the books,
look on his face. It is as if he is about to speak to us, and we
him well enough to be certain what he is about to say: "Be
the great mission and purpose of this library." "Raise
money." "Buy more books!"'(4) The painting hangs in
Council Room in Antiquarian Hall.
1) John B. Hench, 'Serendipity and Synergy: Collection
and Research Opportunities at the American Antiquarian Society in
Era,' Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society 102
2) Numael Pulido, autobiographical sketch, April 1997,
3) Numael Pulido to Lauren Hewes, April 6, 1997, American
4) Ellen S. Dunlap, 'Report of the Council,' Proceedings
Antiquarian Society 106 (October 1996): 208-9.