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Board of Trustees - Former Trustees
Nathaniel Bradstreet Shurtleff
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Trustee of the Boston Public Library, 1852-1868. Born 1810 in Boston; died 1874.
Physician, antiquary, genealogist, politician and author. A graduate of Harvard University in 1831 and of its medical school in 1834, Nathaniel Shurtleff was passionate about Massachusetts history which led to his thorough editing and publishing of several collections of early Massachusetts records, as well as tracing his family to eleven of the Mayflower Pilgrims. Following his terms as Boston’s mayor between 1868 and 1870, he published, A Topographical and Historical Description of Boston, his most important work, in 1871. Nathaniel Shurtleff created for the Library the book numbering system that denoted the exact alcove, range and shelf location of each book, and co-developed the rules and regulations for public use of the Reading Room at the original Mason Street site of the Library.

“Nathaniel Bradstreet Shurtleff”, Dictionary of American Biography Base Set. American Council of Learned Societies, 1928-1936. Reproduced in Biography Resource Center. [Online database] Farmington Hills, MI: The Gale Group, 2003. at via BPL Electronic Resources web page.

“Nathaniel Bradstreet Shurtleff”, Virtual Americans Biographies [online database] at

Wadlin, Horace G. The Public Library of the City of Boston: A History. Boston: Trustees of the Boston Public Library, 1911.

Whitehill, Walter Muir. Boston Public Library: A Centennial History. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1956

"Mayor Nathaniel B. Shurtleff", salt print, 1850's, from Massachusetts Political Archive, Print Dept.