Modern Books & Manuscripts Collection
- The bookplate collection at Houghton Library comprises over 20,000 individual plates, from book collectors and libraries all over the world.
The Modern Books & Manuscripts Collection encompasses materials in all formats dating from 1800 to the present. The department has responsibility for approximately 9.5 million manuscripts and 250,000 rare books and serials, many with important associations, plus substantial numbers of printed ephemera, photographs, drawings, paintings, and objects. While the focus of the collection is on the literature and history of Europe and the Americas, it also includes large holdings of Arabic, Indic, and Syriac manuscripts. (The corresponding printed collections are largely held at Widener Library.) In addition to general strengths in American and European literature and history, there are concentrations in British, French, German, Latin American, Modern Greek, Russian, and Scandinavian literature; the history of missions, particularly those of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions; the Russian Revolution; publishing history; music; and philosophy.
The Modern Books and Manuscripts Department does not hold all post-1800 material in the Houghton collections. The Theodore Roosevelt Collection, George Edward Woodberry Poetry Room (contemporary poetry in English), Printing and Graphic Arts Collection (illustrated books, artist books, and fine press books), and Harvard Theatre Collection all specialize in some aspect of the modern era, and their holdings overlap and intersect with those of the general Modern collection.
Information concerning the department’s holdings can be found in both HOLLIS (rare books, codex manuscripts, and collection-level descriptions of personal papers and archives) and OASIS (detailed finding aids for all cataloged manuscript and archival collections). Collection materials are consulted in the Houghton Reading Room.
For information on acquiring permission to publish or reproduce collection materials, see Houghton Library Reproductions and Permissions.
- E-mail the Modern Books & Manuscripts Collection staff for information about the collections, permissions, and programs.
- E-mail the Reference Desk for information regarding access and use of the collections.
- For a complete listing of staff see the Houghton Staff Directory
For those interested in "what's new," the department produces a browsable list of new acquisitions each year, and maintains a Modern Books and Manuscripts Blog. Most new acquisitions are available for research shortly after receipt; but please check HOLLIS for full information and any access restrictions that may apply.
Houghton Library’s 19th-century American literary collections include the papers of the Alcott family, Emily Dickinson, Ralph Emerson, Margaret Fuller, Thomas Wentworth Higginson, Sarah Orne Jewett, Herman Melville, Oliver Wendell Holmes (Sr. and Jr.), the James family, William Dean Howells, James Russell Lowell, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Samuel Gridley Howe and Julia Ward Howe, Edward Bellamy, Celia Thaxter, and others. It also includes the archives of Boston publishers Houghton Mifflin Company and Little, Brown. The library’s printed holdings of all of these authors is also virtually complete and, for many, substantial portions of their libraries are also held. The Bibliography of American Literature (BAL) was based at Houghton to take full advantage of this richness.
The list of 20th-century authors’ papers is also extensive: Henry Adams, Witter Bynner, T.S. Eliot, Edwin Arlington Robinson, Alexander Woollcott, Lafcadio Hearn, Thomas Wolfe, Robert Frost, John P. Marquand, John Dos Passos, John Cheever, John Updike, John Ashbery, E.E. Cummings, Amy Lowell, Gore Vidal, and many others, as well as the records of New Directions Publishing Corp., Houghton Mifflin, Little, Brown, Golden Book Magazine,The Atlantic Monthly, and The Nation.
- 'Life is in the transitions': William James, 1842-1910
- Public Poet, Private Man: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow at 200
- The Emily Dickinson Collection
Houghton Library’s collections of 19th-century British and Irish literature contain the papers of many writers and artists, and include strong holdings on the Romantics, with manuscript collections of John Keats and his circle, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Mary Shelley, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and William Wordsworth, along with manuscript collections of Charlotte Brontë, Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Robert Browning, Charles Dodgson, Rudyard Kipling, Andrew Lang, Edward Lear, Walter Pater, Sir William Rothenstein, Algernon Swinburne, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, William Makepeace Thackeray, Oscar Wilde, and Francis James Child’s papers on English and Scottish ballads.
Houghton’s collections also include the papers of the following 20th-century British and Irish writers and artists: W.H. Auden, Max Beerbohm, James Joyce, John Masefield, George Moore, Dorothy Sayers, George Bernard Shaw, Dylan Thomas, and William Butler Yeats.
Books in parts, broadsides (particularly of poetry and ballads), and important association copies have also been collected significantly.
In all cases, collections of papers are complimented by in-depth collections of these authors’ printed works. For some authors, such as Charles Dickens, emphasis has been placed on their printed books. Those seeking details on the Library’s holdings should first search HOLLIS, the library’s online catalog.
Houghton Library's collection of 19th- and 20th-century German-language materials focuses on literature, music and philosophy.
Manuscript collections of notable writers include the papers of Richard Beer-Hofmann, Bertolt Brecht, Heinrich Heine, Hugo von Hofmannsthal, W.G. Sebald's translator Michael Hulse, Thomas Mann, Rainer Maria Rilke, Stefan Zweig, and others.
In addition, the collections include the papers of philosopher Franz Clemens Brentano, artists Lyonel Feininger and George Grosz, architect Walter Gropius, politician Ruth Fischer, musicians Rudolf Kolisch and Louis Krasner, sociologist Leo Lowenthal, music collector Hans Moldenhauer, and critic and translator Harry Zohn. Also notable is the "My Life in Germany" collection, containing over 260 autobiographies of German individuals submitted to a 1940 essay contest.
The published works of many major German, Austrian, and Swiss writers have been collected aggressively. Houghton's print collections contain complete or nearly-complete collections of the works of Peter Altenberg, Ingeborg Bachmann, Thomas Bernhard, Heinrich Böll, Bertolt Brecht, Elias Canetti, Paul Celan, Richard Dehmel, Heimito von Doderer, Alfred Döblin, Annette von Drost-Hülshoff, Günter Eich, Hans Enzensberger, Lion Feuchtwanger, Theodor Fontane, Friedrich Frieherr de la Motte Fouqué, Max Frisch, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Günter Grass, Peter Handke, Gerhart Hauptmann, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Heinrich Heine, Hermann Hesse, E.T.A. Hoffmann, Hugo von Hofmannsthal (see the Karl Jacoby collection of printed works by Hofmannsthal), Friedrich Hölderlin, Ödön Edmund Josef von Horváth, Jean Paul, Franz Kafka, Karl Kraus, Else Lasker-Schüler, Siegfried Lenz, Heinrich Mann, Thomas Mann, Conrad Ferdinand Meyer, Freidrich Nietzsche, Rainer Maria Rilke, Nelly Sachs, August and Friedrich von Schlegel, Arno Schmidt, W.G. Sebald, Carl Spitteler, Adalbert Stifter, Ludwig Tieck, B. Traven, Christa Wolf, Stefan Zweig, and many others, along with runs of various German literary periodicals.
For more information on the history of the collection, see
Walsh, James E. “Twenty Years of German Collection-Building, 1966--1986: An Exhibition.” Harvard Library Bulletin. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Library. Volume XXXIII, Number 4 (Fall 1985): 425 – 443.