February 4, 2016
Starkville, MS (January 28th, 2016) – MaxxSouth Broadband, a provider of high-speed Internet, cable TV and phone services in northern Mississippi is donating, on February 5th, a major collection of rare, early Mississippi law books to the Mississippi State University Libraries’ Special Collections Department.
The collection comprises 59 publications that are finely bound in 45 volumes—making it the largest known number of rare Mississippi Territorial imprints published prior to 1817. Mississippi State Libraries will officially welcome the collection with a reception on Friday, February 5th that will include university administrators along with local and state government officials.
The donation was assembled from the private library of John Robinson Block, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Toledo Blade. The Blade and Post-Gazette, like MaxxSouth, are subsidiaries of Block Communications. As a lifelong newspaperman and grandson of Block Communication’s founder, Mr. Block is committed to preserving print culture in today’s digital age.
“It’s been a privilege to form this partnership with Mississippi State University,” Mr. Block said. “I’m pleased that this important collection will have a new home where it can benefit the community and be available for future generations.”
Over the course of more than thirty years, Mr. Block has assembled an extensive collection of rare books and manuscripts relating to early American legal history and its British precedents. In fact, his compilation of early Mississippi laws rivals the combined holdings of the Mississippi State Law Library and the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.
“Curating these books and documents has been a very personal endeavor and I’m grateful to find the same devotion in MSU Dean of Libraries’ Dean Frances Coleman and Special Collections Rare Book Coordinator Fred Smith,” Block said. “This is a gift to the residents of Mississippi and serves as a way to respect the area’s rich history.”
With a 114-year history, Block Communications and its board members believe strongly in the responsibility of media companies to be socially invested in the communities where they operate. That guiding value now continues with MaxxSouth Broadband’s presence in Mississippi.
“In my nearly four decades of working in the communications industry, I have never experienced a better corporate citizen than Block Communications,” said Peter Kahelin, MaxxSouth Broadband’s President and CEO. “We are honored to be a part of the Block Communications family and its dedication to giving back to our communities.”
MaxxSouth and Block Communications are confident they’ve found the perfect home for the books at the Mississippi State University Libraries. The Special Collections Department holds one of the country’s most important collections of rare “Mississippiana,” to which MaxxSouth hopes the early Mississippi law collection will be a favorable addition.
“This exceptional academic library department provides the highest standards of organization, security, and preservation for its vast collection of rare books and manuscripts,” Mr. Block said. “We appreciate that the materials are actively used and made available to students, faculty, and the wider research community.”
The ultimate hope of Mr. Block and MaxxSouth is that these laws—in their non-electronic, material form—will provide ongoing opportunities for the Mississippi State Libraries to engage students and other audiences in the history of government, law, and printing in the state of Mississippi in ways that only the original printed materials can provide.
Mr. Block’s donated collection of 19th-century Mississippi territorial and state session laws was printed between 1801 and 1898, and includes:
• The scarce first publication of the laws of Mississippi Territory (printed in Washington, D.C., in 1801).
The largest and most significant known collection of session laws from the Mississippi Territory (all printed at Natchez between 1805 and 1815), of which seven are the only known complete examples, and all are excessively rare. This group of Mississippi imprints provides an excellent overview of the work of the pioneer printers of the region, including one example by the “proto-printer” of the territory, Andrew Marschalk, who would be later appointed the first state printer of Mississippi.
• The first digest of the laws of the Mississippi territory, published in 1808, compiled by Judge Harry Toulmin, who had earlier performed the same task for the state of Kentucky. The work prints the only appearance of the acts of the first session of the fourth general assembly. The contents include the territorial constitution, and, as the title page states, “the ordinance for the government of the territory of the United States north-west of the River Ohio… such acts of Congress as relate to the Mississippi Territory, to land titles within the same, to crimes and misdemeanors, and the intercourse with the Indian nations, together with the articles of agreement and cession between the United States and the state of Georgia.”
• State session laws from 1818 to 1859, showing the development of the legal system from a context of early frontier conditions to a highly regulated plantation-dominated society, with detailed slave codes, and increasing isolation from the growing industrial power of the North.
• Five Civil War Era imprints published between 1861 and 1865.
• Reconstruction and post-Reconstruction era laws through 1898.
About MaxxSouth Broadband:
MaxxSouth Broadband service area for video, high-speed Internet and digital phone stretches more than 200 miles and includes 20 counties and 60 communities in northern Mississippi and Alabama. The company currently has approximately 80,000 subscribers for broadband services and passes 110,000 homes. Operating as a subsidiary of the reputable and diversified media holding company Block Communications Inc., MaxxSouth Broadband continues to expand and enhance its state-of-the-art broadband network in the communities it serves. For more information, visit www.MaxxSouth.com
To take a look at WTVA’s news coverage of the event, click here.