Book collections

A collage of faces, books, the wright flyer, a squid and a background of leaves and plants.

Magnificent Obsessions: Why We Collect

The Smithsonian Libraries has long benefited from the generosity of book collectors who have helped build our world-class museum library system. Our exhibition, Magnificent Obsessions: Why We Collect, tells the captivating stories of the book...

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

Dibner Library Manuscripts

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...

Uncle Tom's Cabin Banner

Uncle Tom's Cabin: Early and Notable Editions

Uncle Tom’s Cabin, one of the most influential books in American history, was written by Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811–1896) to inform readers of the appalling realities of American slavery. First published in March 1852, the novel quickly became an international bestseller, second only...

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

Japanese Illustrated Books from the Edo and Meiji Periods

The National Museum of Asian Art 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 are by famous artists such as Andō Hiroshige and Katsushika Hokusai.  These beautiful woodblock...

Cover of the ABECEDARIUM book showing a dozen illustrated letters

The Rare Books of Abecedarium

Part history, part coloring book, and part guide to historic books, the Smithsonian Libraries’ Abecedarium: An Adult Coloring Book for Bibliophiles is a contemplative and inspiring way to experience art, science, and culture from the Renaissance through early modern times. Where...

Seven people dressed in early 1900's japanese and western clothing

Charles Lang Freer’s Library

In 1906, industrialist Charles Lang Freer gave his collection of Asian and American art and related materials in a gift that...

pictures of a raven, duck, book, star, quill pen and basket with the Creek (or Muskokee) names under them.

Early Publications in American Indian Languages

The Smithsonian Libraries has one of the premier Native North American language and linguistics collections in the world, resulting from the exceptional work of the Smithsonian Institution since its founding.  Many of the early printed texts are the works of missionaries in their endeavor to...

Painting of a young man in late 1700's attire wearing a graduation cap and gown, sitting outdoors in a chair, holding a book

James Smithson's Library

James Smithson (c.1765-1829), an 18th-century gentleman of science, included his library with his bequest to the United States founding the Smithsonian Institution. The collection consists of...

black and white image of Siberian reindeer herder camp with sleds and tents

Arctic Studies Center

The Arctic Studies Center (ASC) is a program in the National Museum of Natural History's Department of Anthropology. Established in 1988, it is the only U.S. government program with a...

detail of illustration of hops from Köhler's Medizinal-Pflanzen in naturgetreuen

Beer and Brewing

Without undue gravity, we present this active collection of beer, brewing, and brewing industry related material.  You can also browse our collection of Trade Literature (catalogs) related to ...

Bella C. Landauer Collection of Aeronautical Sheet Music

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,...

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

Benjamin Moore Catalogs

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...

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.

Celebrating African American History and Culture

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...

Color in a New Light

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...

Cultivating America's Gardens

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

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.

Fantastic Worlds

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...

George Perkins Marsh portrait

George Perkins Marsh

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...

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

Heralds of Science

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...

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

Marks on Silver, Pottery, and Porcelain

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

Detail of exhibition cover showing Chinese calligraphy

National Museum of Asian Art Publications

Selected publications by the National Museum of Asian Art including their Occasional Papers, Ars Orientalis, and Ars Islamica along with publications about their collections.

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

Navy and Marine Directories

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...

photograph of a ferry from Around the Caribbean and across Panama

Panama Canal Centennial

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

Scholarly 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...

Sketch of three male scientists looking into microscope

Scientific Instruments

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

Smithsonian Legacy Publications

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

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...

Section of Illustration from p.58 of Crofutt's New Overland Tourist, and Pacific Coast Guide [...] with caption "Pallisades of the Humboldt River, C.P.R.R."

The Transcontinental Railroad

Completed in 1869 with the driving of the famous "Golden Spike" at Promontory Summit, Utah, the Transcontinental Railroad revolutionized transportation across the United States and fundamentally changed the American West, sparking social, economic, environmental, and political change.

Grainy grayscale illustration of shore

United States Exploring Expedition

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...

Image of the Women's Pavilion from 1876 Centennial International Exhibition

World's Fairs

Books, catalogs, and ephemera from various World's Fairs and Expositions.

Most of the items in this collection were digitized by an outside vendor as part of a special project and are presented as "access copies", that is, they are to be used primarily for informational purposes and do...