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Cornell University Library

Library Overview

Cornell University's rare book and manuscript collections date from the founding of the university in 1865. Andrew Dickson White, Cornell's first president, was a life-long book collector who believed that deep collections of primary resources are central to scholarship and teaching. Thanks to White and his first University Librarian, Willard Fiske, the collections grew dramatically in Cornell's early years. White's collection of more than 30,000 volumes reflected his interests in architecture, science, religion, and European and American history. Due in large part to White's collecting passions, Cornell University Library features the largest collection on the French Revolution outside of Paris, the largest collection in North America on European witchcraft, the country's founding collection on the abolitionist movement, and a leading history of science collection. White's gift was followed in 1905 by Willard Fiske's collections on Iceland, Dante, and Petrarch. Outside of Iceland and Denmark, Cornell continues to maintain the most comprehensive collection relating to Icelandic history and culture.

Cornell's rare book and manuscript collections expanded in the twentieth century to include the world's second largest collection on William Wordsworth, the Burgunder Collection of George Bernard Shaw, the Noyes collection of Americana, including a copy of the Gettysburg Address in Lincoln's own hand, along with the papers of Lafayette, Lavoisier, James Joyce, Ford Madox Ford, Wyndham Lewis, and E. B. White. In 1942, a collection of regional history was created to document everyday life in upstate New York, and the Cornell University Archives was officially established in 1951. Additional areas of strength include agriculture, Asian studies, city and regional planning, ornithology, human sexuality, and Native Americans. Today, Cornell's special collections include 400,000 rare books and more than 80 million manuscripts, photographs, prints, and artifacts.

Cornell University Library
Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections
2B Carl A. Kroch Library
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853-5302
607-255-3530 (t)
607-255-9524 (f)