Guide to the Research Collections



A description of Americana in the Rare Book Division is found in chapter 52. Voyages and travels, exploration, and colonization are fully represented in combination with extensive collections of newspapers and periodicals, especially from the eighteenth century. The collection of United States almanacs is particularly strong, with those published before 1820 kept in the Rare Book Division.

The American Revolution is documented by a large collection of contemporaneous colonial and British books and pamphlets which bear on political separation. In the Rare Book Division an important group of broadsides issued during this period is also present, including the first printing of the Declaration of Independence, as well as one of the two known copies of its first New York printing. The collection also includes two copies of the epochal "Northwest Ordinance" of 1787, by which the Continental Congress established a form of government for the little-populated territories north of the Ohio River.

Post-Revolutionary historical materials include a number of rare western works. The library has collected extensively in the literature of the period of western expansion. It has many of the titles listed in H.R. Wagner's The Plains and the Rockies ... 1800-1865, and is attempting to complete its holdings with original editions or reprints and photostatic copies.

Confederate imprints are another feature. Three kinds of subject material are notable: documents of the Confederacy and its various states, individual accounts of Southern men and women, and schoolbooks.

Other works of interest kept in the Rare Book Division include early imprints relating to the American Indian. Early editions of the writings of historic personages include those of John Smith, the Mathers, and Noah Webster. Biographical materials include an outstanding collection of eulogies on Washington.1 Works on the history of religion in the United States are numerous; the library's holdings of the early titles printed in America and England listed in H.M. Dexter's Congregationalism of the Last Three Hundred Years as Seen in Its Literature (1880), which noted Lenox Library copies, are most creditable. Later church history materials comprise collections on the Mormons and the Shakers. There is also a good collection on the Seventh Day Adventists.

Other materials of historical interest include colonial and Confederate paper money housed in the Rare Book Division, as well as miscellaneous coins, tokens, and medals. Of these, the more important groups consist of Washington medals and the copper and brass tokens of the Civil War period. The outstanding collection of United States postage stamps (1850-1926) presented to the library by Benjamin K. Miller is permanently displayed in the Central Building.2