Home‎ > ‎

Institutional Support for Research in Book History


Wood engraving after Edward Burne-Jones, Kelmscott Chaucer (1896), detail.

SEVERAL UNITS of the University of Minnesota, including divisions of the University of Minnesota Libraries, support research in book history. Elsewhere in the Twin Cities area there is an unusual mix of public and private institutions that encourage such research. 

  • University of Minnesota Libraries. The University of Minnesota Libraries is the seventeenth largest research library system in the country. Although all its divisions support research in book history, certain collections are unusually important for such research and are listed separately below. Most are housed in the the  Elmer L. Andersen Library, an impressive new facility (see construction images).
    • Special Collections and Rare Books. Relevant collections include:
    • The Children’s Literature Research Collections. Including two major general collections:
      • The Kerlan Collection. More than 75,000 children’s books, primarily by twentieth-century American writers, as well as manuscript and illustration materials for more than 9,000 titles; also numerous periodicals, reference works, and publishers’ catalogues.
      • The Hess Collection. Important collection of inexpensive, popular literature from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, such as story papers, dime novels, series books, Big Little Books, pulps, and comic books.
    • The James Ford Bell Library. Some 20,000 rare books from the period 1400–1800, written by merchants, travelers, explorers, missionaries, and colonists, documenting the expansion of Europe; also numerous maps and manuscripts.
    • Manuscripts Division. Many relevant materials, including:
      • Frederick Manfred papers (1928–94). Correspondence, journals, notes, outlines, and manuscript drafts of his novels.
      • John Berryman papers (1914–72). Correspondence, diaries, notes, and drafts of his poetry and prose; lecture notes, financial papers, and photographs.
      • James Wright papers (1943–85). Correspondence, journals, manuscripts, typescripts, galley proofs of his poetry and prose works; photographs, clippings, classroom notes.
      • John Berryman papers (1914–72). Correspondence, diaries, notes, and drafts of his poetry and prose; lecture notes, financial papers, and photographs.
      • Robert Bly papers. More than 80,000 pages of handwritten manuscripts, a journal spanning nearly 50 years, notebooks, drafts of translations, and extensive correspondence with James Wright, Donald Hall, James Dickey and many others.
    • Ames Library of South Asia. More than 25,000 volumes, mainly documenting relations between Great Britain and India, including many imporant nineteenth-century illustrated books.
    • Owen H. Wangensteen Historical Library of Biology and Medicine. Approximately 60,000 books, manuscripts, and journals dating from the early fifteenth century to 1920, including landmark volumes illustrating botany and human anatomy.
    • Andersen Horticultural Library. Some 10,000 volumes and more than 500 periodicals on horticulture, botany, natural history and landscape, including classics of early European botany and horticulture.
    • Electronic Text Research Center.  A central library resource for accessing electronic texts. Also the site of Women’s Travel Writing, 1830–1930, a text-digitization project.
  • Minneapolis Public Library. The main library is housed in a new building, designed by Cesar Pelli, which opened 2006. Relevant special collections are in two divisions:
    • Minneapolis Athenaeum. Begun as a private subscription library in 1859 and now operated as a private corporation under contract with the Minneapolis Public Library, the Athenaeum holds 100,000 volumes of special interest, many of them illustrated, including:
      • Spencer Natural History Collection
      • North American Indians Collection
      • Early American Exploration and Travel Collection
      • Heffelfinger Aesop’s and Others’ Fables Collection
      • History of Books and Printing Collection
    • Special Collections Department. Including:
      • Kittleson Word War II Collection: some 10,000 volumes, pamphlets, and posters
      • Nineteenth-Century American Studies Collection: more than 4,500 books, manuscripts, and ephemera by nineteenth-century American authors who worked predominately in New England and  New York
      • Huttner Abolition and Anti-Slavery Collection: nearly 900 books, pamphlets, broadsides, and photographs
      • History of Books and Printing Collection: developed in cooperation with the Minneapolis Athenaeum
  • Hill Monastic Manuscript Library. Part of St. John’s University and located about an hour’s drive from the Twin Cities, the Hill Monastic Library has established a microfilm archive of some 90,000 medieval and Renaissance manuscript volumes held by libraries in Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa.
  • The Bakken Library and Museum. Approximately 11,000 books, journals, and manuscripts from the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries, focused on the history of electricity and magnetism and their applications in the life sciences and medicine.
  • Minnesota History Center. Headquarters of the the Minnesota Historical Society (founded in 1849) and its extensive Library. Included among some 8,000 manuscript collections are materials relevant to writers (e.g., Brenda Ueland, 1860–1985; Meridel Le Sueur, 1900–1996); to readers (e.g., the Spring Lake Literary Society, 1855; the Vicksburg Union Literary Society, 1863); and to cultural philanthropy (e.g., the Bush Foundation, 1953–1995).
  • Open Book. A nonprofit consortium of several leading Twin Cities book-related enterprises, including The Loft Literary Center and Milkweed Editions, housed in a large, newly renovated building near the University of Minnesota campus. Of special relevance: Minnesota Center for Book Arts. Founded in 1983 and now the most comprehensive independent book-arts facility in the nation, MCBA provides facilities for letterpress printing, hand bookbinding and papermaking, and also mounts important exhibits in the book arts.
  • Minnesota Center for the Book. Sponsored by the Minnesota Humanities Commission, and affiliated with the Center for the Book at the Library of Congress, the Minnesota Center for the Book promotes books, reading, libraries, and literacy. The Center administers the Minnesota Book Awards program.
  • Minnesota publishers—numbering more than 130—include Afton Historical Society Press, Coffee House Press, Graywolf Press, Milkweed Editions, Minnesota Historical Society Press, and University of Minnesota Press.
  • Twin Cities Books. A map locating selected independent book stores, dealers in used or antiquarian books, and related organizations in the Twin Cities area.

Border after marbled paper by Linda Dexter Hancher

Michael Hancher, Department of English, University of Minnesota
URL: http://mh.cla.umn.edu/book2.btml; comments to: mh@umn.edu
Created October 2000; last revised July 16, 2007.

The views and opinions expressed in this page are strictly those of the page author. The contents of this page have not been reviewed or approved by the University of Minnesota.