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Updated September 30, 2012  

Published February 8, 2012

Beale Treasure Story
A Pamphlet and a Book in Morriss' Personal Library


Beale researchers have long suspected that the keys used by Beale to encipher his papers were developed from texts taken from books in Mr. Morriss' personal library.
It is known from a deed record dated February 12, 1846, between Daniel J. Warwick and his aunt Sarah Morriss, that the Morrisses' household furniture included a "bureau and bookcase." So the Morrisses most likely had a small collection of books, probably purchased during the "good days" prior to Mr. Morriss' loss of fortune that occurred in 1819.
"What were the titles of books in the Morrisses' library?" is a question left entirely to conjecture. However, I do know of one title that is apt to have been in Morrisses' library. Actually, it is a thirty-one page pamphlet with the following title:     

Proceedings and Report of the Commissioners for the University of Virginia. Presented December 8, 1818, Read and referred to a Select Committee, Richmond: Printed by Thomas Ritchie, Printer for the Commonwealth. 1818.

A copy of a deed signed by 99 subscribers is reprinted on pages 29 & 30 of the pamphlet. This deed was laid before the Board of Commissioners for the University of Virginia, on the first day of August 1818, and it reads in part:

"Be it therefore known, that we, the subscribers, contributors and founders of the establishment of the Central College, near Charlottesville, do hereby authorize and empower the Visitors of the said College, or a majority of them, or the proctor thereof, to offer, through the said Commissioners, to the President and Directors of the Literary Fund, the said Central College, with all the lands, moneys, credits and other property thereto belonging, and of the same to make an absolute conveyance: On condition, that the lands of the said College be ultimately adopted by the Legislature as the site of the said University. In witness whereof, we have hereto subscribed our names."

The meaning of terms "Visitors," "Commissioners," and "Literary Fund" can be inferred from the context in which the terms are used within the pamphlet.

The list of subscribers contains the names of Robert Morriss and his brother-in-law and business partner, William Mitchell, as well as those of former presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Madison.

The University of Virginia was founded by Jefferson in 1819, on the site of Central College. Central College was founded in 1816 on the site of Albemarle Academy. Albemarle Academy was founded in 1803. Further investigation would be needed to determine the exact connection between Morriss & Mitchell and Central College.

In any case, Morriss and Mitchell would have been proud of the role they played in the founding of the University of Virginia. The two men would likely have received, or at least sought and obtained copies of the pamphlet. This is the sort of thing that one would show to one's friends, and something that Morriss is apt to have shown to Beale.

A pdf copy of the Proceedings and Report can be downloaded from this website by clicking on the link below. Note: Two copies of page 29 are provided to ensure readability of the text.

(Text Added Sept. 30, 2012) I know of another multi-volume set of books that may have been in Mr. Morriss' library. Beale's letter of May 9, 1822, to Mr. Morriss contains a possible clue to this set of books.

Volume four of the 1813 London edition of The Plays of William Shakespeare [1] contains a footnote to one of the plays (Two Gentlemen of Verona) in which the phrase "the game is not worth the candle" is printed (see page 312). A similar phrase "the game is worth the candle" appears in Beale's letter of May 9, 1822, and it is thought that his might possibly be a clue to a book that Morriss might very well have had in his library. The set contains 21 volumes. A contemporary Lynchburg newspaper advertisement for this work could not be located. But, a January 7, 1820, advertisement in the Lynchburg Press for Ward & Digges' (this Ward was Giles Ward father of James B. Ward) bookstore includes the following short title: Shakespeare's Plays. While it is possible that this could be an advertisement for the 1813 London edition, it is more apt to be an advertisement for the 1819 London edition [2], entitled The Plays of Shakespeare, in  nine volumes. There appears to be no way to determine this for certain.

Beale investigator Kenneth W. Dobyns did his own independent study of the anachronisms (words that appear to be used in the wrong period of time) occurring in Beale's letter of January 4, 1822 (see also Beale Codes—Were They a Hoax?). He focused on the words "stampeding", "improvised" and "appliances." He found that the three words were not in common usage in 1822, and on the basis concluded that Beale's letter of January 4th was not written as early as claimed (1822), although as I have pointed out in item #2 on webpage "Arguments and Counterarguments" that Beale's letter could have been written in 1822 and the three words could have been added much later by the anonymous author of the pamphlet during an editing step or as a result of a revision of the text, without changing the sum and substance of Beale's letter.

In any case, Mr. Dobyns pointed out an interesting fact about the word "appliance" or the plural "appliances." Shakespeare used the word "appliances" in the same sense as used in Beale's letter as early as 1597 in his play Henry IV and again in his play Hen VIII, in 1613. I found the word "appliances" also used in Shakespeare's play "Measure for Measure." But, as Dobyn's observed, the word does not appear in Webster's 1806 dictionary, although it does appear in his 1828 dictionary as "The act of applying or thing applied" but listed as "obsolete, Shakespeare." The word appears to have gone out of use, and then revived about 1861. On that basis, Dobyns concluded that "appliances" was not a word that Beale would have used in his 1822 letter to Mr. Morriss. And, I agree with this. But, just suppose that Beale was a reader of Shakespeare's plays. If there is a chance, even a small chance that Beale actually did use the word "appliances" in his letter to Mr. Morriss, the choice of that word could have been influenced as a consequence of reading Shakespeare's plays while at Mr. Morriss' boarding house, in which case this may be an indication that Mr. Morriss' library included a set of Shakespeare's plays.

[1] The Plays of William Shakespeare. Volume the fourth. Containing Tempest. Two Gentlemen of Verona, Midsummer Night's Dream. London, Printed for J. Nichols and Son; &c. 1813, ppp 306-312.

[2] The Plays of Shakespeare, Carefully Revised from the Best Editions. In 9 volumes. London: printed for W. Alason, 1819.

Download a pdf copy of PROCEEDINGS AND REPORT.

The titles of other works likely to have existed in the Morrisses' library, together with a short discussion of each work, are given in Appendix 7 of BEALE TREASURE STORY: New Insights (2011).