The Rare Book Collection of the Boston Athenæum reflects the collecting interests of the Library as it has narrowed its focus from being encyclopedic in the 19th century to its current focus on the humanities. While there are surprising examples of early works on many subjects in the Athenæum, researchers should expect to find depth in certain specific subject areas.
Early American history is a particular strength with resources in the Library’s extraordinary collections of early American imprints, 18th and 19th century tracts, early United States government documents, early American broadsides, publications in Native American languages, early Boston newspapers, imprints of the Confederate States of America, and portions of the personal libraries of Cardinal Cheverus, Henry Knox, and George Washington.
The Library also houses the King’s Chapel Collection of mostly 17th century theological works, the Brimmer Collection of 18th and early 19th century European books on the fine arts, the Groome Gypsy Collection, the Danforth Alchemy Collection, and the Merrymount Press Collection.
Also, the rare book collection includes author’s collections featuring the works of Lord Byron, John Masefield, T. S. Eliot, and John Fowles, and an extensive collection on the art of the book including bookbinding, fine printing, and contemporary artists’ books.
Stanley Ellis Cushing
Anne C. and David J. Bromer Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts