The Primary Source Librarian

Dedicated to Excellence in Teaching with Primary Sources

Special Collections of Note

I loved this article–Libraries’ Surprising Special Collections–from author Kristin Ohlson. In the article, Ohlson highlights eight libraries that hold special collections of such variety and richness that they hint at hundreds more yet to be discovered by amateurs like me.

  • A chess collection at the John Griswold White Reading Room in Cleveland. Over 30,000 books about chess and checkers, 12th-century Arabic manuscripts, 50 Indian treatises, thousands of chess pieces, and more.
  • Fore-edge books at the Boston Public Library. “These books feature a painting along the fore-edge (opposite the spine) of the book that can only be seen when the pages are subtly fanned—when the book is closed, gold leaf on the outside edge of the pages hides the image.”
  • America’s largest collection of Arabic papyrus, parchment, and paper documents at the University of Utah’s J. Willard Marriott Library.
  • A collection related to literary forgers, hoaxers, and other literary frauds at the University of Delaware.
  • A collection of nurse romance novels at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee.
  • The world’s largest collection of “tobacciana” at the New York Public Library. This collection even includes the most valuable baseball card of all time–the 1910 Honus Wagner card that Wagner pulled because he did not want children buying tobacco to get his card.
  • America’s largest World War I print aviation collection at the Saint Paul Public Library.
  • The Judaica Sound Archive at Florida Atlantic University.

I won’t put in all the links here because I’m on the road and short on time, but you can find several links within the article. Do you know of other collections hiding in your local library archives?

Chewing Tobacco

“Little Katie Chewing Tobacco”

The Emergence of Advertising in America: 1850-1920

American Memory, Library of Congress


4 Responses to “Special Collections of Note”

  1. Kathy says:

    “nurse romance novels” – I’ll have to check that one out 🙂


  2. Mary says:

    Did you check out the link to nurse romance novels? The archives post a “nurse romance cover of the week” image, but I’m a little concerned that those covers stopped in August of 2008. Still, it’s fun to look at the archive of covers of the week. I didn’t even know there was such a category!

  3. Kathy says:

    They have one for this week (Mar 23-Mar 29). It’s a hoot to look at the cover and read the summary. This one was from 1965, for only .40.

  4. Mary says:

    What fun! West Point Nurse! To think that we were both in high school when this book was written: “Her heart lurched again at the sight of him … She closed her eyes and took a deep breath to fight the sudden feeling of faintness.”

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