Modern Books & Manuscripts Collection


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.

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