Celebrating Research


Russell J. Bowen Collection on Intelligence, Special Collections Research Center

Georgetown University Library

Collection Profile

Among the modern treasures of the Georgetown University Library is the remarkable collection of books on the subjects of intelligence, espionage, covert activities, and related fields assembled by the late Col. Russell J. Bowen, a chemical engineer and a technical intelligence analyst for many years with the Central Intelligence Agency. One of the largest collections of its kind in the country, it numbers more than 14,000 titles, many being scarce and some being rare, such as the first edition of Matthew Smith's Memoirs of Secret Service (1699). The collection includes works on cryptography, signals intelligence, tradecraft of all kinds, and the application of modern technology to intelligence gathering. Approximately 5,300 titles are listed in the 1983 bibliography of the collection as it then existed, Scholars' Guide to Intelligence Literature, with subject and title indices. Approximately 11,000 titles are more fully indexed in The Electronic Database of the Russell J. Bowen Collection published in 1991 by the National Intelligence Book Center and later updated. All the books are cataloged in the library's database.

The non-fiction collection is supplemented by the Bowen Spy Fiction Collection, another gift of Colonel Bowen, and is a separately maintained collection of more than 3,500 titles in the spy fiction genre. Largely English language in content, it includes such rarities as The Algerine Spy (1787). Its main value, however, lies in documenting the post–James Bond Anglo-American taste for espionage thrillers, although it includes a large number of earlier works and extends as well to encompass parodies and exploitative take-offs.

Colonel Bowen in his will left an endowment to the library, which has been used to enlarge the intelligence collection with both books and manuscripts, for example, the recent acquisition of the fascinating correspondence between novelist Graham Greene and spy Kim Philby. The presence of the Bowen Collection at the university has attracted other benefactors, one being former Director of Central Intelligence William E. Colby, who donated his intelligence library, containing many presentation copies, with the comment: "If Georgetown is good enough for Russ Bowen, it's good enough for me." Subsequently, other important collections have come to the library: the Howard Oakley collection of cryptography; papers of Martin S. Quigley concerning his work for the OSS in World War II; papers of the noted CIA counterintelligence figure Dr. Cleveland C. Cram, which deal in part with Kim Philby; archives of FBI special agent and spycatcher Robert J. Lamphere, who worked with the Venona intercepts and helped capture Klaus Fuchs; files of author and intelligence officer Edgar J. Applewhite, containing much about the CIA's James Jesus Angleton; and the vast archive of intelligence writer Anthony Cave Brown, who remarked, when finishing his Philby biography Treason in the Blood (1994), that if he had known earlier about the Bowen Collection, he could have saved two years of research time. Most recently, the library has been given the extensive papers of Richard Helms, Director of Central Intelligence under Presidents Johnson and Nixon.

Collection Profile and Overview: Nicholas B. Scheetz
Illustrations: David Hagen

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