Saturday, May 9, 2015

Houghton Library is the primary repository for rare books and manuscripts at Harvard University. It is part of the Harvard College Library within the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Houghton is located on the south side of Harvard Yard, next to Widener Library.


Houghton Library

Harvard's first special collections library began as the Treasure Room of Gore Hall in 1908. The Treasure Room moved to Widener Library after that library was completed in 1915. In March 1938, looking to supply Harvard's most valuable collections with more space and improved storage conditions, Harvard College Librarian Keyes DeWitt Metcalf presented the Harvard Corporation with a set of proposals which would eventually lead to the creation of Houghton Library, Lamont Library, and the New England Deposit Library. Funding for Houghton was raised privately, with the largest portion coming from Arthur A. Houghton Jr., in the form of shares of stock in Corning Glass Works. Construction was largely completed by the fall of 1941, and the library opened on February 28, 1942.

Houghton holds collections of papers of Samuel Johnson, Emily Dickinson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Margaret Fuller, John Keats, Gore Vidal, Ralph Waldo Emerson and his family, Bronson Alcott and his daughter Louisa May Alcott, along with the papers of other notable transcendentalists, Theodore Roosevelt, T.S. Eliot, E.E. Cummings, Henry James, William James, James Joyce, John Updike and many others.

Houghton also holds the letters of Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, who commanded the 54th Massachusetts during the Civil War, and was killed during the assault on Fort Wagner.


Houghton Library

Houghton has five main curatorial departments:

  • Early Books and Manuscripts, which includes a large collection of Medieval and Renaissance manuscripts and over 2,500 incunabula.
  • Early Modern Books and Manuscripts, featuring the Donald and Mary Hyde Collection of Dr. Samuel Johnson, one of the largest collections of books and manuscripts relating to Samuel Johnson and his circle.
  • Modern Books and Manuscripts, which recently acquired the papers of novelist John Updike.
    • Modern Books & Manuscripts New Acquisitions Blog
  • Printing & Graphic Arts which documents the history and art of book production.
  • The Harvard Theatre Collection covering the history of the performing arts.


Houghton Library
  • A Houghton Library Chronicle, 1942â€"1992. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard College Library. 1992. OCLC 26633110. 
  • Centuries of books & manuscripts : collectors and friends, scholars and librarians build the Harvard College Library : an exhibition on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of Houghton Library, 1942â€"1992. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard College Library. 1992. OCLC 26024581. 

External links

Houghton Library
  • Houghton Library home page
  • Online exhibition: Public Poet, Private Man: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow at 200
  • Online exhibition: Books in Books: Reflections on Reading and Writing in the Middle Ages
  • Online exhibition: Harvard's Lincoln
  • Online exhibition: A Monument More Durable Than Brass: The Donald and Mary Hyde Collection of Dr. Samuel Johnson
  • Online exhibition: History of the Harry Elkins Widener Memorial Collection
  • Online exhibition: "I shall ever be your dearest love": John Keats and Fanny Brawne
  • Houghton Library Blog
  • Department of Modern Books & Manuscripts new acquisitions blog

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