SMU purchases explorer’s 200-year-old journal

SMU purchases John Maley's 370-page account of his early 19th-century explorations of the American Southwest.

Staff Writer

When John Maley sold a 370-page account of his early 19th-century explorations of the American Southwest, he thought his work would be published.

That never happened.

Maley Journal
From the John Maley Journal
Instead, the intended publisher pulled out a chunk of the journal, cutting it off mid-sentence, sewed those pages together in two parts and gave them to a scientist at Yale University, where they have been ever since.

Almost 200 years later, a dealer in rare books and manuscripts found the remainder of the journal in a cluttered barn in western Pennsylvania.

That 188-page portion has found its way to Southern Methodist University’s DeGolyer Library.

In conjunction with the opening of the George W. Bush Presidential Center, SMU purchased the bound volume last fall and dedicated it to George and Laura Bush. It was the 4 millionth volume acquired by SMU’s library system, a milestone achieved during the centennial year of the university’s libraries.

The SMU journal’s stiff leather covers are loose and its spine is eroded, but Maley’s finely inked penmanship is still clear on the handmade linen pages.

“It’s surprising it survived who knows what conditions for this long,” said Michael Brown, the Philadelphia bookseller who found the journal.

When he discovered it, he had no idea who Maley was. . .

“Finding an unknown is a once-in-a-lifetime find,” (Brown) said.

Russell Martin, director of the DeGolyer Library, knew that SMU’s centennial host committee wanted to present a special gift to the Bushes. He suggested the journal when he saw it last fall in a catalog.

Read the full story. (a subscription may be required.)