Center for Dewey Studies obtain five new volumes

By Gus Bode

Philosopher John Dewey relied on Plato’s Dialogues

Factoid:The Center for Dewey Studies is located at the corner of Oakland and Whitney. For more information call 453-2629. Books in special collections are non-circulating and can be viewed on request at the second floor reading room at Morris Library from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Highlighted passages and written notes in books may not seem like a big deal, but for Dewey scholars, they give insight to the inner thoughts of a great American philosopher.


Five volumes of books written by Plato with annotations by Dewey have made their way to Special Collections at Morris Library.

Dewey was a philosopher who focused on education and helped promote the change from memorizing facts and concepts to learning based on a foundation of knowledge.

The books were donated to a library in New York as a fund-raiser, but after a librarian researching the volumes found that Carbondale was home to the Center for Dewey Studies, Morris Library officials had the first opportunity to purchase the books.

David Koch, associate professor and dean of special collections, said that although these five volumes of Dewey’s books published in 1892, they were still in good shape.

The center has most of Dewey’s personal library but some of the books are missing from the collection.

“Dewey had a habit of things he liked, he would give to someone else,” Koch said. “He probably gave these away.”

Although Koch would not reveal the actual price, he did say it was “reasonable” and was paid through donations.


Katie Salzmann, archivist and curator of manuscripts for special collections, said a woman from a New York library contacted her about the discovery.

“Luckily they realized that the books would have a research value,” she said. “It’s significant in finding another piece of the puzzle that complements our collections.”

Scholars from all over the world come to the Center for Dewey Studies, which is housed in Carbondale and affiliated with the College of Liberal Arts, and works with special collections, to elaborate on his philosophies, find unpublished ideas and write papers and books about him.

Larry Hickman, director of the center, said the books are a significant addition to the collection because they show the thought process of Dewey and give explanation to some of his early papers.

“These are particularly important because they deal with Greek philosophy with works of Plato. More importantly they are interesting to us because they have notes,” he said, “so we’ll find some of the things that he was thinking about as he wrote those articles.”

Hickman said the reason Dewey’s annotations are so important to scholars is because it gives them an insider’s looks at his first thoughts.

“When you write in a candid way as you do for your own lecture notes or to a friends, sometimes your thought process is more apparent, and the words themselves are less polished than if you’re writing for publication,” he said. “We’re very interested to see what Dewey was thinking about; what were his first impressions in terms of word choice rather than second and third choices. These are little glimpses into the way Dewey’s mind worked.”

Reporter Lindsey Mastis can be reached at [email protected]