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Access to digitized Special Collections materials is available to all researchers free of charge on the Wellesley College Digital Scholarship and Archive site.
The Durant Collection
The Durant Collection of 7,600 volumes was presented at the opening of Wellesley College in 1875 by its founders Mr. and Mrs. Henry Fowle Durant. The Durants were keen observers of their time, and their collection reflects their wide ranging interests in the social sciences, history, education, classical civilization, exploration, and travel.
The Rare Books Collection
Among the many treasures in this collection are a large papyrus fragment of the Book of the Dead, ca. 500 B.C.E., a vellum charter signed by Holy Roman Emperor Otto III in 997 C.E., an Italian 15th century gradual, early German Bibles, and tracts by Martin Luther. The Rare Books Collection has been augmented substantially over the years by purchases and gifts from faculty, alumnae, and friends, increasing its size to about 12,000 volumes in a variety of fields.
The Plimpton Collection
The Plimpton Collection was presented to Wellesley in 1904 by George Arthur Plimpton in memory of his wife, Frances Taylor Pearsons, class of 1884. Gathered for the most part by Mrs. Plimpton herself, the collection of 1,200 volumes represents the history of Italian literature from the 14th to the 17th century.
The Elbert Collection
The Elbert Collection of approximately 800 volumes on slavery, emancipation, and Reconstruction was assembled by Ella Smith, class of 1888, the second black graduate of Wellesley College, and by her husband, Dr. Samuel G. Elbert. Though American in focus, the Elbert Collection is not limited to works by American authors nor to information about slavery in the United States.
The Alcove of North American Languages
The Alcove of North American Languages was given in 1887 by Eben Norton Horsford, son of a missionary among the Senecas and friend of Henry Fowle Durant. The printed catalog of Professor Horsford's collection lists 280 volumes, including dictionaries, vocabularies, grammars, translations of the Bible in Indian languages, and works in or about early primitive languages from all parts of the world.
The Juvenile Collection
Built through the generosity of many individual donors, has been steadily growing to its present size of over 1,000 volumes. Though it contains some eighteenth-century works, the collection is composed for the most part of 19th- and early 20th-century material. Primers, songbooks, folk tales, and fairy tales provide excellent source materials for the study of social history, psychology, literature, and book illustration.
The English Poetry Collection
The English Poetry Collection is the largest of the Wellesley Special Collections, with over 12,000 volumes and fifteen linear feet of autograph letters and manuscripts.
The Marks Collection
The Marks Collection, bequeathed in 1964, contains some 150 volumes and forty-five linear feet of documents concerning Jamaica. They were assembled by Jeannette Marks of the class of 1899 during her research for her book The Family of the Barrett (Macmillan, 1938), which concerns the Barrett family plantation in Jamaica.
The Guy Walker Jr. Collection
On deposit since 1981 from the St. Mark's School in Southborough, Massachusetts, the Guy Walker, Jr. Collection consists of 384 volumes documenting the history of book illustration
The Ruskin Collection
The Ruskin Collection of 866 volumes was presented in 1920 by Charles Eliot Goodspeed, well-known Boston bookseller and father of two alumnae. A comprehensive one-author collection, it contains editions of Ruskin's major works in the original parts, many rare pamphlets, autographs, presentation copies, exhibition catalogs, drawings, and watercolors, as well as biographical and critical material.
The Book Arts Collection
The Books Arts Collection is devoted to the history and art of the book. The research component of the collection consists of over 3,500 volumes documenting all aspects of book production: papermaking, printing, illustration, binding, bibliography, and publishing. In addition, there are over 4,000 volumes of specimens, ranging from the great typographers such as Aldus, Baskerville and Bodoni up to the twentieth-century renaissance of modern fine printing.