Morris Wachs (1921-2001) was born in Brooklyn, New York on December 24, 1921 and died in Nashville on August 8, 2001. He was a graduate of Brooklyn College. He received his doctorate at the University of Wisconsin in 1959. He initially taught at DePauw University in Indiana, and then joined Vanderbilt University as associate professor in 1962, retiring in 1992 as Professor Emeritus, after 30 years of service. Professor Wachs was an eighteenth century specialist, with a focus on the poetry of Denis Diderot (1713-1784). Wachs was the descendent of the great rabbinic Cohn family. He was fluent in Yiddish and Hebrew and took an interest in the development of the Judaica Collections in the Divinity School Library at Vanderbilt, playing a role in the acquisition of the Yiddish holdings. He created the annual Jacqueline Wachs Essay Prize for undergraduates in the French and Italian Writing Competition in memory of his wife. Jacqueline Touret Wachs was a long-time senior lecturer with the Department of French & Italian at Vanderbilt. His estate endowed the Blair School of Music with the Morris and Jacqueline Wachs Scholarship. Wachs was well known for his knowledge of the French Enlightenment. As a bibliophile, he helped build the library’s collection of eighteenth-century French literature. He served as a member and chair of the executive committee of the Modern Language Association of America on the French Literature of the Eighteenth Century section.
Morris Wachs was a great book collector, focusing on eighteenth century French literature. His collection is particularly rich in rare popular fiction, providing an insight into the literary tastes of the eighteenth-century. His collection represents material of the Enlightenment, ranging from orientalism, satire, novels, epistolary fiction, almanacs, and fictional travel accounts. The book collection is housed at the Library Annex in separate Microclimate boxes and occupies 116 linear feet. The collection also includes 118 lantern slides housed in an old wooden box, each slide labeled individually. The lantern slides are glass slides with the dimensions of about 3-3/8” x 4”. These slides contain images related to the eighteenth century and the Enlightenment, including book covers, portraits, and paintings. Wachs may have purchased the lantern slides along the Seine River from the bouquinistes of Paris. The lantern slides were digitized by the Visual Resource Center at Vanderbilt and linked to the Bandy Center site.
The collection of about 700 monograph titles and lantern slides was donated (purchase/donation) to the W.T. Bandy Center for Baudelaire and Modern French Studies, Vanderbilt University in 2004 by Sol and Frieda Shaviro, the sister of Morris Wachs.
For additional information: Paul Kingsbury, “Wachs Collection Is ‘World Class’,” Acorn Chronicle, Fall, 2004, p. 14.