John Hay Library: Collections

see also: Collections A to Z 

Administrative Units | Authors | Literature | History | Art & History of the Book
Science, Technology, & Medicine | Magic & Occult | Graphic Resources

Special Collections is the division of the Brown University Library which houses those materials which require special handling and preservation. While many of the items in Special Collections are rare or unique, a majority of the materials are part of large subject-oriented collections which are maintained as discrete units. Altogether, Special Collections consists of over 250 separate collections, some of which are listed below,  numbering some 2,500,000 items. For further information about our collections write, phone, or fax us at the numbers at the bottom of this page, e-mail us at,  consult our listing of collections a to z, or review our collection-level records

Administrative Units: 

Walt Whitman.  Frontispiece to Leaves of Grass (Brooklyn, 1855)Harris Collection of American Poetry and Plays

The Harris Collection of American Poetry and Plays is composed of approximately 250,000 volumes of American and Canadian poetry, plays, and vocal music dating from 1609 to the present day. It is perhaps the largest and most comprehensive collection of its kind in any research library.

See also: Leaves of an Hour : Developing Literary and Popular Culture Collections at Brown University Library 

Paul Revere. The Bloody Massacre. Hand-colored engraving. Boston, 1770 Anne S. K. Brown Military Collection

The Anne S. K. Brown Military Collection is the foremost American collection of material devoted to the history and iconography of soldiers and soldiering, and is one of the world's largest collections devoted to the study of military and naval uniforms. It was formed over a period of forty years by the late Mrs. John Nicholas Brown (1906-1985) of Providence and is still growing.

Brown University Archives

The University Archives, dating from 1763, contains copies of the official publications of the University and the papers of many of its departments, officers, and affiliated groups.

See also:
Education for Everybody: Brown's Innovation and Influence in Collegiate Education
Remembering Brown Sports

Manuscript Collections

The Manuscript collections contain literary, historical, and  scientific manuscripts generated by individuals, families, institutions, and organizations and totaling over 2,000,000 pieces of paper.

Broadsides Collection

The Broadsides Collection houses broadsides (single-sheet imprints), posters, bookplates, prints, postcards, and photographs. From a nucleus of 8,000 pieces in 1928, holdings have increased to over 40,000 items.  See also: Carriers' Addresses in 19th Century America

Author Collections

Search Library Catalog
Bookplate for the Daniel J. Leab Orwell Collection from an original drawing in the collection.
  • William Blake
  • John Buchan - Manuscript Finding Aid
  • Harry Crosby - Manuscript Finding Aid
    American poet and, with Caresse Crosby, founder of the Black Sun Press in Paris. Proofs of two books, typescripts of poems, ten diaries and notebooks for 1926-1929, biographical notes, and letters about Crosby and his press.
  • Dante
    Approximately 1,700 volumes, consisting in scholarly editions of the 15th through the 19th centuries of Dante's works, in particular the Divine Comedy, commentaries (chiefly in Italian), and other supportive works.
  • Grotius
  • John Hay - Manuscript Finding Aid
  • Horace
  • T. E. Lawrence (uncataloged)
  • H.P. Lovecraft
    Extensive holdings of manuscripts, letters, editions of Lovecraft's works in all languages, periodicals, biographical and critical works, and many supportive collections of manuscript and printed materials of Lovecraft friends and associates.
  • Niccolo Machiavelli
  • JosÈ Rodrigues Migueis
  • George Orwell
  • Brown-Ives Shakespeare
  • Bernard Shaw
  • Henry David Thoreau
    Albert E. Lownes Thoreau Collection, consisting of over 1,000 items, and including books by Thoreau, later editions of his writing, biographical and critical works, and books from his personal library. There are also periodicals, engravings, photographs, a striking original sketch of Thoreau, maps, broadsides, museum objects, and other memorabilia. The Collection includes a number of Thoreau letters, college papers and journal excerpts. Noteworthy is an album entitled "Concordia", a collection of autograph letters, portraits, and original sketches of Concord personalities. See: Manuscript Finding Aid
  • Lester Frank Ward
  • H. G. Wells (uncataloged) - collection-level record
  • Emile Zola - Manuscript Finding Aid

Literature Search Library Catalog

  • Asa Cushman Collection. 
    Plays in manuscript parts and prompt copies, the working library of a mid-19th century actor-manager.

  • Children's Literature

    • Lucy Truman Aldrich Collection of Rare Illustrated Children's Books Collection-level Catalog Record

    • Dr. Arlene Pillar Collection of Children's Literature
      Over 3,000 volumes of children's literature primarily form the 1970s and 1980s, including many illustrated works and fiction for young adults.

  • Michael J. Ciaraldi Collection of Comic Books and Comic Art 
    A collection of approximately 60,000 comic books, graphic novels, comic art, and related materials, dating from the mid-1970s to the present. Collection-level Catalog Record

  • Martha Dickinson Bianchi Collection 
    Consists of the papers of the family of Emily Dickinson, along with the 3,000 volume family library from "The Evergreens," the Dickinson home in Amherst Massachusetts; supplemented by gifts from Barton St. Armand and George Monteiro, of additional items from the same source.

  • Gay and Lesbian Literature Collection

    • Katzoff Collection - Collection-level Catalog Record
      Approximately 1.500 volumes of gay and lesbian literature, primarily of recent imprint, based on the personal library of Richard Katzoff.

    • Preston ArchivePersonal and professional correspondence including letters from friends, other writers, and groups whose focus is gay life and rights. Original typescripts of his writings; photographs; magazines with articles he authored; clippings; books written by Preston and others. See: Josiah Record, Bibliophile Article

    • Gay Men's Pulp Fiction.  A collection of  over 4,500 volumes of gay men's pulp fiction. Search the database

    • Scott O'Hara Papers.  Literary and personal papers, 1979-1998, of Scott O'Hara (1961-1998), pornographic film actor, author, magazine publisher, also containing publications that include material by or about him.  See: Provisional inventory

    • James Jackson Bequest Approximately 1500 titles in the area of gay/lesbian literature, much of it dating from the pre-Stonewall era. The Jackson Collection contains many titles not owned my Brown and virtually all are in very good condition and retain their dust jackets. There are a quite a few lesbian-related titles which fills in a gap in our existing holdings and quite a few gay-related science fiction and fantasy titles which complement one of existing collection strengths. Quite a few of the books are signed or inscribed, this being particularly true of the post-Stonewall titles. 

  • James Laughlin Collection 
    Bequest of James Laughlin, poet and publisher of New Directions Press, and the gifts of his widow.  It is composed of approximately 5,000 volumes from his personal library, and focuses on editions of William Carlos Williams, Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein, Thomas Merton, and other major 20th century literary figures. (uncataloged)

  • William Chauncey Langdon Collection of Pageants
    Collection of pageants directed and organized by Langdon, founder and President of the American Pageant Association, and also includes scripts, correspondence, photographs, and memorabilia relating to other pageants of the early 20th century.

  • Kimball Collection 
    18th and 19th century English literature assembled by Walter H. Kimball, Class of 1894.

  • Lamont Collection
    Originally the working library of Brown Professor of Rhetoric Hammond Lamont. The principal focus of the collection is 18th and 19th century English literature with an emphasis on prose. Notable for its novels published between 1760-1840, particularly those by women writers and over 100 17th and 18th century tracts by Jeremy Collier and William Prynne, among others, exhorting against the pernicious moral influence of the stage.  

  • Miller Collection of Wit and Humor
    Approximately 40,000 volumes of wit and humor, including theatrical biographies and memoirs, joke books, comic magazines, cartoon books, ethnic humor, folklore.  Primarily 20th century American and British. (uncataloged)  See: Collection-level Catalog Record

  • Romance Novels by Brown and Rhode Island Authors

  • Screenplays, 1938-1980. 
    90 dialogue and post-production scripts from a variety of major American studios. 

  • American Television Scripts. 
    Over 1000 items representing 730 different programs.

  • Robert J. Tierney Collection of Entertainment Memorabilia. 
    Posters, scripts, tickets, photographs, and other ephemera related to theatrical and entertainment events in the local area over the past fifty years. 

  • Tinker Collection 
    19th and 20th century American prose writers (uncataloged)

  • Wandering Jew Collection
    The gift of W. Easton Louttit, Jr., Class of 1925, this collection includes plays, poems, novels, and stories as well as critical, philosophical, and scholarly studies of the archetypical story of the men shut out from the human community and doomed to wander eternally.

History Search Library Catalog
  • George Earl Church Collection 
    Over 3,500 volumes of economic, historic, geographic and descriptive studies collected by Colonel Church, who spent his later life as an explorer and engineer in South America. See also the Latin American Travelogues digital project .

  • Eberstadt Collection 
    Approximately 300 printed accounts of the development of the American West.

  • Gordon Hall and Grace Hoag Collection of Dissenting and Extremist Printed Propaganda. Contains documents representing a broad spectrum of militant political, social and religious dissent in the United States, from the post-World War II period to the present. 

  • Gorham Company Archives
    Archival records of the company founded in 1831 by silversmith Jabez Gorham of Providence, Rhode Island. At various times the company was the largest manufacturer of silver products, producer and distributor of ecclesiastical goods, and art bronze foundry in the United States. The collection features many thousands of drawings and photographs of Gorham products, reflecting American taste from Victorian times to the present. It also contains corporate, personnel, costing, sales, and advertising records, as well as blueprints, plaster casts, and copper printing plates. Included also are the records of fourteen companies acquired by Gorham.

  • John Hay Collection and John Hay Personal Library  
    Includes over 9,100 manuscripts by Hay and his associates, and 2,000 books by and about Hay and his period.  Includes literary works by Hay and his personal diaries from his Civil War service as Abraham Lincoln's private secretary.

  • Sergei Khruschev Papers
    Includes memorabilia of his father, Nikita Khruschev.  See: web exhibit

  • Chester H. Kirk Collection on Alcoholism and Alcoholics Anonymous 
    See: Collection-level Catalog Record See: web exhibit
    Of the Poison Brand

  • McLellan Lincoln Collection See: Collection-level Catalog Record
    Approximately 15,000 books and newspapers, 2,600 manuscripts (of which some 950 were written or signed by Lincoln), 5,200 broadsides, 6,900 prints and photographs, 250 phonograph records, 320 pieces of sheet music, and 1,560 museum objects affording research opportunities not only in relation to the career of Abraham Lincoln, but also for the entire middle period of American history and political culture

  • Metcalf Collection  
    American and English pamphlet literature of the 17th through the 19th centuries. The collection contains well over 10,000 items including ordination, election-day and dedicatory sermons, Fourth of July orations, plus pamphlets on the Civil War and slavery, the Irish question, Mormonism, agriculture, medicine and women's suffrage to name but a few categories.

  • The Paul R. Dupee Mexican History Collection - See: Three for Three Million
    With but one exception, the Dupee Collection's more than 340 books, broadsides, pamphlets, and periodicals were published after the Mexican republic secured its independence in 1821. Most are Spanish-language sources written by Mexican citizens and published in Mexico. The bulk of the materials falls into the period 1821-50, covering the first decades of Mexican independence and that nation's war with the United States. The collection's nearly 200 broadsides chronicle Mexican partisan politics, religious and anti-clerical debates, popular literature and drama, domestic revolutions and armed conflict with the United States. 

  • Morse Whaling Collection 
    Personal narratives and classics of whaling literature. The collection also includes manuscript log books.

  • Rider Collection 
    Primarily 19th century books, pamphlets, manuscripts, broadsides and newspapers on Rhode Island subjects amassed by the Providence bookseller and antiquarian, Sidney S. Rider.

  • Robert Holbrook Smith Collection of Books, Manuscripts and Memorabilia 
    See: Collection-level Catalog Record
    Five thousand items, including two hundred books, dozens of pieces of memorabilia, and several hundred manuscripts (original and photocopied) and photographs once the property of "Dr. Bob," the legendary co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous.

  • Schirmer Collection on Anti-Imperialism
    Collection now numbers almost 950 titles dealing with the Anti-Imperialist movement of 1898 and its repercussions in United States, Cuban, Puerto Rican, and Filipino history. 

  • Earl Selle Collection
    Contains about 1,000 books, photographs, manuscripts, etc., that document Selle's career as an American journalist in China, 1929-1941 and in Hawaii during World War II. 

  • Swan Antarctica Collection
    In 1996, the Bradford Swan Antarctic Collection was transferred from the John Carter Brown Library to the John Hay. The 225 titles in the original donation have now been catalogued, and in the four years that Antarctic exploration has been a collecting interest of the John Hay, 150 titles have been purchased to supplement Mr. Swan's original collection and to provide reference materials for researchers using the Antarctic materials. See:
    Collection-level Catalog Record

Art and History of the Book  Search Library Catalog
  • Annmary Brown Memorial Collection 
    One of the largest and most important collections of incunables (books printed through the year 1500) in the United States. In addition to incunables, the collection contains sizeable manuscript holdings relating to the American Revolutionary and Civil Wars, and to the 17th-century New England witchcraft phenomenon. 

  • Robert and Margaret Ames Collection of Illustrated Books 
    Contains materials on the history of illustration, particularly nineteenth century books illustrated with woodcuts, wood or steel engravings or by lithography and on the literature of travel and exploration. See: Web Exhibit.

  • Dard Hunter Collection
    Contains most of the works printed or written by papermaker, printer and paper historian, Dard Hunter, as well as works by his associates in the Roycroft shop of East Aurora, New York. Ongoing additions to the collection concentrate on the revival and continuation of hand papermaking in the 20th century.

  • Koopman Collection of Literature and the Book Arts
    English and American literature from the 17th to the early 20th century.  Intended as a laboratory collection for the study of the art and history of the book, it includes the production of many late 19th century private presses, books issued in parts, and literary relics. 

  • St. Martin's Press Archives
    Includes copies of all books published (including current titles) by St. Martin's, correspondence with authors, galleys, proofs, and associated materials from this major American publishing house.

  • Other Publisher's Archives.  
    Burning Deck, Conjunctions, Copper Beach, Feminist Press, Greenhouse, Third & Elm, Unicorn, Vagabond

  • Rollo G. Silver Collection of Printing and Publishing History 
    The working library of Rollo Silver, historian of early American printing, publishing, and typography; includes ca. 3,000 volumes, as well as 45 linear feet of notebooks containing transcriptions or reproductions of primary and secondary source materials.

Science, Technology, and Medicine Search Library Catalog
  • Paul R. Dupee Collection on Fireworks - See: Three for Three Million
    See: Recent Additions

  • Lownes Collection of Significant Books in the History of Science 
    Contains over three-quarters of those texts recognized by scholars as the "great books" of science published since the middle of the 15th century. 

  • History of Science Collection - See: From Euclid to Newton
    A major source for the history of mathematics and astronomy

  • Rhode Island Medical Society Library

  • Saklad Collection of Surgical Anaesthesia
    Over 300 books and medical society publications which trace the development of anesthesiology from the late 18th century to the middle of the 20th century. (uncataloged)

  • Reitman Pharmacopoeia Collection (uncataloged)

  • Snell Mycology Collection
    Over 300 monographs and serials on mushrooms published between 1640 and 1970. (uncataloged)

  • Chester H. Kirk Collection on Alcoholism and Alcoholics Anonymous 
    See: Collection-level Catalog Record  

  • Robert Holbrook Smith Collection of Books, Manuscripts and Memorabilia 
    See: Collection-level Catalog Record
    Five thousand items, including two hundred books, dozens of pieces of memorabilia, and several hundred manuscripts (original and photocopied) and photographs once the property of "Dr. Bob," the legendary co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Magic and Occult   Search Library Catalog
  • Damon Collection of Occult and Visionary Literature
    The collection deals primarily with alchemy, the interpretation of dreams, mysticism, black magic and the Kabbalah plus visionary testaments and manifestations of all kinds.

  • Smith Magic Collection 
    The H. Adrian Smith Collection of Conjuring and Magicana, long considered one of the finest private libraries on conjuring and magic, includes 16th century titles on natural magic, alchemy, astrology, religious rites, and witchcraft. Later holdings include sections on conjuring, card tricks and games, magicians as performers, magic periodicals and other works intended for practicing magicians, posters, ephemera, and realia. The Collection is the gift and bequest of the collector, class of 1930, who as an undergraduate put himself through Brown by giving magic performances.

Graphic Resources   Search Library Catalog
  • Annmary Brown Memorial Gallery of Art

  • Bullard Napoleon Collection 
    Constitutes one of the largest collections of caricatures of Napoleon in the United States, and represents the work of English, French, German Russian, and Spanish artists, and complements similar holdings in the Anne S. K. Brown Collection.

  • Cramer Silver Collection
    Extensive reference library, providing support for collections in the decorative arts, particularly the Gorham Archive.

  • Fritz Eichenberg
    Engravings (25 total) acquired from the estate of Fritz Eichenberg

  • Persian, Mughal, and Indian Miniature Paintings from the Minassian Collection

  • Stamp Collections
    In 1933 Colonel Webster Knight, Class of 1876, bequeathed an almost complete collection of mint United States postage stamps, in blocks of four, along with mint and used singles and blocks of revenue stamps plus an endowment for supporting the collection. The Knight Collection served as a magnet to attract the Peltz and Morriss Collections of Special Delivery stamps, in 1947 and 1960, as well as the George S. Champlin Memorial Stamp Collection of international issues, which began arriving in 1960. 

  • Stow Wengenroth Lithographs

Special Collections Home Library Home Brown Home Contact Us

John Hay Library  •  Brown University 
Box A  •  20 Prospect Street  •  Providence, Rhode Island 02912
401-863-3723 (phone)  •  401-863-2093 (fax) 

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