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James D. Birchfield Collection Relating to John S. Mayfield

An inventory of his collection at Syracuse University

Finding aid created by: MCI
Date: 20 July 2016

Biographical History

James D. Birchfield was a four-time graduate of Florida State University receiving a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and English Literature, a Master of Arts in Victorian Literature, a Ph.D. in Victorian Literature and 18th Century Literature and a Masters in Librarianship. He worked at the University of Kentucky in the Margaret I. King Library as the Special Collections Curator of Rare Books from 1980 until his retirement in 2013. Amongst his many publications, exhibits and lectures, Birchfield held a special interest in fashion icon Mona Bismarck, publishing a book about her life and creating a collection of material relating to her, which is currently residing at the Filson Historical Society in Kentucky.

John S. Mayfield (1804-1983) was a prolific collector of manuscripts, first editions and other rare materials, focusing later in life on the English poet Algernon Charles Swinburne. He was the son of former U.S. Senator Earle B. Mayfield and Ora Lumpkin. He received a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Texas in 1930, a Master of Arts from Southern Methodist University in 1932, and studied for a doctorate at Columbia University from 1932 to 1935. Mayfield worked in a number of positions within the U.S. government, including chief of recruitment for the U.S. military, a lieutenant commander in the Pacific with the U.S. Navy during the Second World War and eventually the director of personnel at the Department of Defense.

In the 1950s, Mayfield's work in the private sector, most notably as a vice president of the American Rail and Steel Company, allowed him to develop a strong reputation as a collector of rare books, manuscripts and other materials. The main focus of his collecting were materials by American and English poets, including Lord Byron, Amy Lowell, Mark Twain and eventually becoming a leading collector of Algernon Charles Swinburne. In 1961, Mayfield was appointed as a curator of the division of manuscripts and rare books at Syracuse University, and in 1964 presented his Swinburne collection as the Mayfield Library to the university with considerable fanfare. There is no longer a separate Mayfield Library at the University, but the materials from his collection are still a part of the Special Collections Research Center.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The James D. Birchfield Collection Relating to John S. Mayfield consists of materials from and relating to bibliophile and collector John S. Mayfield. Most of this material includes discussion and memorabilia of the English poet, Algernon Charles Swinburne.

Correspondence consists of incoming letters to James D. Birchfield from a number of academic librarians, though the majority are personal and professional correspondence from John S. Mayfield over nearly a decade, from 1974 to 1983.

Photographs include a large number of portraits of John S. Mayfield, a number of which show him posed in front of an image of Algernon Charles Swinburne. Other photographs show Mayfield with his collection, his family and Birchfield.

Printed materials contains various pieces of work by and about Mayfield, including his obituaries written by Birchfield. Other printed materials include pamphlets and articles of interest sent by Mayfield.

The Swinburneiana material included in this collection consist of some memorabilia, artists' reproductions and materials written by and about Algernon Charles Swinburne. One interesting piece of memorabilia is a collectible spoon with a portrait of Swinburne, alleged by Mayfield to be one of only two in existence.

Arrangement of the Collection

Correspondence is arranged alphabetically by correspondent, and then chronologically. The other series are arranged alphabetically by subject matter.


Access Restrictions:

The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advanced notice for retrieval. Researchers are encouraged to contact us in advance concerning the collection material they wish to access for their research.

Use Restrictions:

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

Related Material

For more material relating to Algernon Charles Swinburne, see also the Algernon Charles Swinburne Collection.

Subject Headings


Birchfield, James D.
Mayfield, John S., 1904-1983.
Swinburne, Algernon Charles, 1837-1909.


Collectors and collecting.
English poetry -- 19th century.
English poets.

Genres and Forms

Floppy disks.
Writings (documents)



Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

James D. Birchfield Collection Relating to John S. Mayfield,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

Donated by James D. Birchfield, 2016

Table of Contents



Printed materials