Celebrating Research

  Library Overviews & Collection Profiles Contact:
ARL Web Manager

Brown University Library

Library Overview

Since its foundation in 1764, Brown has accumulated, through gift and purchase, one of the larger academically situated special collections in the United States. Holdings currently consist of some 400,000 books in 300 discrete book collections exclusive of the general rare book collection, several thousand manuscript collections, and the University Archives. Major strengths include American literature, particularly a comprehensive collection of American and Canadian poetry and plays, but also numerous strong collections of prose authors, e.g., Thoreau, Poe, Lovecraft, Pound, and Whitman. In recent decades, the American literature collections, complemented by substantial holdings in sheet music and broadsides, have expanded to incorporate literary sub-genres, including comic books, fantasy literature, and pulp fiction. Another extension has been the acquisition of literary publishing archives, notably St. Martin's Press, Feminist Press, Conjunctions, and a number of private fine presses. Paralleling American literature are several important collections in British and Continental literature and history, including over 900 incunabula as well as author collections of Horace, Orwell, T. E. Lawrence, Wells, Shaw, Machiavelli, Dante, and Zola. American history is a major strength at Brown with collections ranging from one of the nation's largest Lincoln collections to major holdings in post-1950 radical and dissenting literature, to the archive of the Gorham Silver Company. The history of science and the pseudo-sciences are well-represented at Brown, with holdings in the natural and physical sciences as well as mathematics and medicine and several recent collections relating to temperance and alcohol addiction. The pseudo-sciences include several collections of occult materials as well as a major collection on conjuring and magic that spans spiritualism, witchcraft, and performance magic. The John Hay also houses one of the largest philatelic collections in the country.

Brown University
John Hay Library
20 Prospect St.
Providence, Rhode Island 02912
(401) 863-3723 (t)
(401) 863-2093 (f)