Collections Overview & Guides

 The collections in the Watkinson Library comprise a broad spectrum of research materials in the humanities and social sciences. A large percentage of the collection dates from the 18th and 19th centuries.  Some of the subject strengths include Americana, the Civil War, Native Americans, education, etiquette, British history, architecture, and World War I.  The Watkinson has extensive holdings in literature, including manuscript material, with special strength in 19th and 20th century authors.

Among the library’s highlights are books about ornithology and natural history.  The foundation of the collection was laid in 1900 with the gift of a superb copy of Audubon’s “double-elephant folio” edition of The Birds of America by Dr. Gurdon Wadsworth Russell.  In 1982 the Enders collection began as a gift from Ostrom Enders of about 6,000 titles and a generous endowment, to become one of the finest collections of ornithology in the country.

The Watkinson has an excellent representative collection of medieval manuscripts, including illuminated books of hours, prayers books, and Bibles. A collection of over 200 incunabula (books printed before 1501) are a treasure for the study of early printing and includes 4 copies of the Nuremberg Chronicle.  Sixteenth century titles number about 1,700, printed in the major printing cities of Europe.  Other holdings include first or early editions of Latin and Greek authors and the Trumbull-Prime collection of early illustrated books. The library has representative examples of the important private presses from the 18th through 20th centuries, with an almost complete run of the Ashendene Press.

The Watkinson supports study of the history of the book with secondary materials consisting of extensive numbers of bibliographies and comprehensive reference holdings on all aspects of the book and its production.  It holds a broad range of specimens of bookbinding, papermaking, illustration, fine printing, and contemporary artists’ books.

Guides to Watkinson Resources

Book Arts and the History of the Book

The guide describes Watkinson manuscript and print sources relating to the book, both primary and secondary, and includes a list of relevant periodicals and a subject checklist of Watkinson Library publications.


A description of collections in the Watkinson relating to music, which concentrate on American works from the 18th to the mid-20th centuries.

Popular Culture

Prints, ephemera, music, etiquette, broadsides, posters, etc.

Women's Studies

An overview of some collections in the Watkinson Library relating to Women’s Studies including ephemera, manuscripts, 19th century periodicals, music, textbooks and education, children’s books, American women authors, etiquette books, women’s health, household management, and religion.

Opportunities for Research in the Watkinson Library:  American Periodicals

A series of annotated guides to periodicals in the Watkinson by theme, compiled by Watkinson trustee, bibliophile, and volunteer Dr. Leonard Banco.