Rare Books and Special Collections
About the Collection
Archives & Special Collections maintains a diverse collection of rare books, special monograph collections, and graphic materials that support research and instruction in all subject areas represented by the manuscript collections. Unique holdings in the fields of literature, history, book arts, and natural sciences are particularly strong. The collection also affords opportunities for interdisciplinary research in many fields; collection strengths are outlined below.
Items in the Rare Book Collections have been described and can be located using the Library's Online Catalog (HOMER). Consult the Curator of Literary, Natural History and Rare Book Collections for more information.
American and English Literature
First editions, fine press and small press editions, limited editions, and broadsides by a wide range of 19th and 20th century American and British poets, novelists and dramatists can be found in the Rare Book collection. Nearly comprehensive is the collection of American poetry from the Black Mountain, Beat, San Francisco Renaissance, and New York Schools. Print materials extracted from the publishing archives of Bookstore Press, Oyez Press, Penmaen Press, Poets and Poets Press, as well as from the literary manuscript collections, include books, chapbooks, pamphlets, posters, and related ephemera.
The Pierce Welch Gaines Collection of Americana consists of over 4000 items pertaining to the early national period of American History, from 1783 to 1826. The collection is comprised of primary source materials including pamphlets, government documents, travel books, periodicals, newspapers, broadsides, manuscripts, and literary works. The pamphlets, which make up the majority of the collection, amply illustrate the political debates and dialogues of the era.
Book Arts, Graphic Arts, Art History
Illustrated books and periodicals, fine bindings, artists' and experimental books, and works printed by fine and private presses are among the Rare Book collection materials. Significant holdings of botanical and early natural history books, dating from the 16th through the 19th centuries, provide fine specimens of hand-colored illustrations, engravings and lithographs. Original artwork and graphics, bookplates, posters and photographs, representing a variety of printing and illustration techniques, can be made available for viewing. Complementing the bookplates in the Ex Libris collection are over 300 books about bookplates and bookplate artists. A rich collection of broadsides, illustrating collaborations between writers and printmakers, typesetters, graphic artists, and paper makers, can also be found in the Rare Book collection.
Hewitt Apiculture Collection
New England's largest collection of books and print materials on the honeybee is available at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center. The Hewitt Apiculture Collection contains early monographs, handbooks, pamphlets, reference works, periodicals, magazines, recipe books and more. Philemon J. Hewitt, Jr., a resident of Litchfield, Connecticut for most of his life, began keeping bees and collecting bee books at age fifteen. As a Connecticut State Bee Inspector and editor of the EAS Journal, Hewitt met Alphonse Avitable, Emeritus Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and retired Director of the University of Connecticut at Waterbury. Avitable, an author and beekeeper, was instrumental in bringing Hewitt's book collection to the University. All materials in the collection have been cataloged. Titles for individual works can be found in the Library's catalog (HOMER). A brief titles list can be browsed here.
Hispanic History and Culture
Rare books and reference works pertaining to the history and study of the Latin American press can be found within the research collections on Hispanic History and Culture. A significant collection of Mixtec, Aztec, and post-contact/post-conquest codices, as fine fascimiles, convey through pictographic writing a rich record of vanished civilizations. The Chile Collection contains nearly 2,700 volumes that reflect the history and politics of Chile from the sixteenth century through 1940. Included are works of many important authors of Chilean history, as well as rare items such as Alonso del Ovalle's Historia Relacion del Reyno de Chile (1646). The collection of Chilean scholar Jose Toribio Medina consists of over 300 volumes of his bibliographical and historical works. Medina documented the history of the products of the press of a large number of Latin American countries as well as his native Chile.
A rich collection of early illustrated natural history books from the 16th through the 19th centuries are among the holdings of the Rare Book collection. Selectively, these early print materials illustrate the work, practices, travels, and 'discoveries' of herbalists, botanists, horticulturists and naturalists (chiefly European, some American). The history of plant and animal illustration for the purpose of science, as well as its popularization among the reading public in the form of botanical and gardening periodicals, can be traced using early natural history materials among the Rare Book holdings.
This page maintained by M. W. Batt.