University of Notre Dame


Hesburgh Libraries

Rare Books & Special Collections

U.S. History and Culture

Photograph of a manuscript letter with patriotic letterhead illustration in the upper left corner.
Personal letter on patriotic letterhead of Union Civil War soldier Elhanan W. Moberly, Co. C, 6th Indiana Infantry.

The print and manuscript holdings in Note Dame's Special Collections include substantial primary source material for students of U.S. history and culture. Especially notable is the Joyce Sports Research Collection, an extensive body of books, periodicals, printed ephemera, photographs, and manuscripts relating to sport and physical culture in the United States. Most materials predate 1970. The Catholic Americana collections feature both 19th century books and periodicals and 20th century printed ephemera, including an accumulation of Catholic pamphlets that is among the largest of its kind. Several substantial collections relate to modern American poetry, including the extensive personal library of Robert Creeley, the 1990s papers of Edward Dorn, and an accumulation of little magazines and other items from mid-century ("Small Press/Mimeograph Revolution 1940s-1970s").

Among the rare book collections are American imprints from the colonial era to the 20th century, as well as early European imprints on North American exploration and settlement. Subject emphases in rare books include 19th century American imprints on botany, and first and fine editions of works from the American literary canon. Among the writers most conspicuously represented are Melville, Whitman, London, Cather, T. S. Eliot, and Carl Sandburg.

American manuscript holdings are primarily of historical and/or social interest. Individual collections (showing unity of provenance) are typically small, seldom exceeding more than a few hundred items. There are record groups dating back to 17th century New England, but the era of greatest concentration is the 19th century, particularly the period of the American Civil War. Narrative forms predominate, especially letter groups and diaries. Most of the North American manuscript collections are unpublished.

Several collections in less usual formats are also worthy of mention. The Edward and Sheila Scanlan Collection of Maps of the Great Lakes Region includes more than 200 items, 16th to 19th centuries, that record the early cartography of the Great Lakes and Mississippi watersheds. Finally, Special Collections's numismatic holdings include important collections of colonial American coins and paper money, Washington medals, 19th century tokens, and Confederate currency.