Book collections

Cover of "Northern ethnographic landscapes"

Publications from the National Museum of Natural History's Arctic Studies Center (ACS), part of the Department of Anthropology. The Arctic Studies Center, established in 1988, is the only U.S. government program with a special focus on northern cultural research and education. In keeping with this mandate, the Arctic Studies Center...

The Bella C. Landauer Collection of Aeronautical Sheet Music is one of the treasures in the National Air and Space Museum Library. The earliest known aeronautical song was published in 1785. Entitled Chanson sur le Globe Aerostatique, it depicts a Montgolfier balloon ascending from the Tuilleries in Paris. This piece was followed...

A banner-shaped image of paint samples from a Benjamin Moore catatalog. The colors are light pastels: yellow, pink, blue, green and orange. The text on the left reads "House Colors, A Pure Linseed Oil Paint"

Founded in Brooklyn in 1883, the Benjamin Moore company is best known today for their innovative interior and exterior house paints. Smithsonian Libraries collection of Benjamin Moore trade catalogs reveals a variety of products and color trends throughout the company’s history including coach and car paints from their earliest days.

COLORED MEN WHO SERVED IN THE CONGRESS OF THE UNITED STATES. Image sourced from "The Negro in American History; men and women eminent in the evolution of the American of African descent" by John Wesley Cromwell, 1914.

This collection contains material from almost every branch of the Libraries, including our new location in the National Museum of African American History and Culture. We've put this together to celebrate the opening of our newest Smithsonian museum in September 2016 and to showcase some of the public domain material we hold that supports...

Color in a New Light

From chemistry to couture, feathers to physics, color is a topic that links science, history, art and culture. This collection includes books featured in the exhibition "Color in a new Light" as well as rare and interesting titles from across the Libraries collections that reveal the many ways we use, understand, and see color.

American garden-making has evolved over time, shaped by history, social attitudes, the environment, and new ideas. The books in this collection illustrate this history and complement the exhibition Cultivating America's Gardens produced by the Libraries and Smithsonian Gardens.

Page from Jones' the Grammar of Ornament

Design Digitized is a collection of rare books from the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum Library collection. Digitization was supported in part by funds from the Metropolitan New York Library Council (METRO) through the New York State Regional Bibliographic Databases Program.

first page of a handwritten letter from Galileo Galilei letter Nicolas Peiresc in 1635

This collection includes correspondence, study and laboratory books, notes, diaries, and hand-lettered texts by notable scientists from the 13th to the 20th centuries. Authors like Isaac Newton, Johannes Kepler, Galileo Galilei, Tycho Brahe, Nicola Tesla, Albert Einstein and many other significant scientific figures are represented. The manuscripts were carefully...

Fantastic Worlds

The companion collection to our exhibition Fantastic Worlds: Science and Fiction 1780-1910. Travel back to a time when new frontiers of science were emerging. We took to the air, charted remote corners of the earth, and harnessed the power of steam and electricity. Writers explored the farther reaches of this new scientific...

Detail of exhibition cover showing Chinese calligraphy

Selected publications from the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery and Freer Gallery of Art including their Occasional Papers, Ars Orientalis, and Ars Islamica along with publications about their collections.

George Perkins Marsh portrait

In the spring of 1849, the newly founded Smithsonian Institution purchased its first collection, a group of European prints and art books assembled by Vermont Congressman George Perkins Marsh. Although unrelated to the Smithsonian’s then primarily scientific orientation, they were viewed as a comprehensive way to satisfy the Congressional mandate for an art gallery that was part of the...

illustration of two cherubs holding a crown over the title of the book "Dialogo di Galileo Galilei"

In 1955 Bern Dibner, the noted science book collector and founder of the Burndy Library, published Heralds of Science as Represented by Two Hundred Epochal Books and Pamphlets Selected from the Burndy Library.  To construct the list, Dibner selected two hundred items he owned that “proclaimed new truths or hypotheses in science.” Two hundred titles, he felt, was an adequate number to...

detail of a Japanese color print showing a small frog leaping into the water, with lilies and reeds

The Freer|Sackler Library's collection of illustrated Japanese rare books includes over 1,000 volumes previously owned by Charles Lang Freer. Often filled with color illustrations, many by famous artists such as Andō Hiroshige and Katsushika Hokusai.  These beautiful woodblock printed works of art were published during the Edo and Meiji periods (1600-1912).  Another group of Japanese rare...

detail of porcelain from the title page of the Guide through the Royal Porcelain Works

Public Domain works related to hallmarks, factory marks, and other production marks on silverware, pottery, and porcelain.

part of the table of contents for Navy directory : officers of the United States Navy and Marine Corps etc.,1941

These directories are registers of officers, and sometimes cadets and midshipmen, in the Navy, Marine Corps, and US Naval Reserve for periods including 1776-1887, WW I and WW II. As far as we know, they are not available online elsewhere and are a gold mine of information for genealogical researchers and military historians. 
Please note, due to the tight binding of some volumes,...

photograph of a ferry from Around the Caribbean and across Panama

Books from our STRI library, as well as NMAH and NMNH selected to illustrate the history of the Panama Canal and U.S./Panama relations. In commemoration of the Centennial of the Panama Canal in 2014.

collage of images from various digital editions

The Smithsonian Libraries have been digitizing books since 1996. Many of the first books made available online included explanatory essays by prominent scholars, additional details about the books such as collations, or contextual information that had been researched by library staff or visiting fellows. The original "Digital Editions" each occupied their own mini-website and had a distinct...

Sketch of three male scientists looking into microscope

Trade catalogs for scientific instruments. This collection represents a sampling of the overall holdings of scientific instrument trade literature in the Smithsonian Libraries. Digitized catalogs are gradually being migrated from the old site

detail of the Smithsonian seal from "the sun and the welfare of man" by C.G. Abbot

Historical publications from the Smithsonian Institution and it's many divisions including the Bureau of American Ethnology. Many of these titles can be found with additional data in the Biodiversity Heritage Library.

Illustration of soldiers rushing into battle

The Great War profoundly changed not just the geo-political landcape of Europe, and an entire generation, but also the culture, economics, politics, and technology of countries outside the immediate combatants. To commemorate the United States' entry into World War I in April 1917, we present selections from our collections related to aviation and military history as well as politics, comics...

Grainy grayscale illustration of shore

During the United States Exploring Expedition, thousands of plant and animal species unknown to Western science had been discovered and collected; thousands of miles of coastline had been accurately surveyed and mapped for the first time; the peoples of the innumerable islands of the Pacific and the lands of northwestern North America had been contacted and studied (some for the first time...