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Small Special Collections Library, UVa

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An Overview of the Collections

Collections in American History and Literature | Other Author Collections | Jefferson Papers | Virginiana | African American Collections | Collections Development Policy


The Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library administers over 13 million manuscripts, 3.6 million items in the University archives, and 325,000 rare books, as well as approximately 5,000 maps, over 4,000 broadsides; more than 250,000 photographs and small prints; over 8,000 reels of microfilm; and substantial holdings of audio recordings, motion picture films, and ephemera.

Foremost among its holdings are the:

Collections in American History and Literature

The major emphases of the Department's collections are American history and literature, and the following two important personal libraries are the major collections in these specialties.

Tracy W. McGregor Library of American History

The first acquired was the Tracy W. McGregor Library which contains Americana and accounts of travel and exploration in the Western Hemisphere from the fifteenth through the nineteenth centuries. Among its holdings are large collections of the records of the North American Land Company, an important land speculation group of the colonial and early Republic period, and of British General John Forbes service in North American during the French and Indian War. There is also a substantial collection of material about the Mather family of New England, especially of Increase and Cotton Mather.

Clifton Waller Barrett Library of American Literature

The second library is that of Clifton Waller Barrett. As Herbert Cahoon wrote for the Library's dedication in 1960, it contains "insofar as it has been possible to assemble them, all fiction, poetry, drama, and essays published by an American in book form [from 1775] up to and including the year 1875; for the years remaining [to 1950] it contains a very nearly complete collection of the works of every major American writer." The manuscript component of this library is similarly comprehensive.

William Faulkner Collection

The department also holds the largest collection of Faulkner's manuscripts, the major portion donated by the William Faulkner Foundation to which the author bequeathed his papers. Donations of important collections of books (such as the Faulkner Collection of Linton R. Massey), manuscripts collections, and purchases have built the Faulkner Collection to pre-eminence in the world

Other American Literature Collections

The John Henry Ingram's Poe Collection

This collection, assembled by Edgar Allan Poe's English biographer, include transcripts of Poe letters (the originals of a number of which are not extant), and interviews with persons who had known Poe. It is one of four collections that formed the basis of the then newly-established Manuscripts Division in the 1930s.

It is common for the Department of Special Collections to hold both books and major collections of the papers of Virginia authors. Notable among them are the collections of Ellen Glasgow, James Branch Cabell, Mary Johnston, and John Dos Passos which represent the major archives of each author's papers.

Other Author Collections

Complementary Western author collections include those of:

  • Jorge Luis Borges
    This collection is the strongest known and includes all known literary manuscripts, with the exception of one in private hands. The books are extensive and include many exceedingly rare items.
  • Matthew Arnold
    Begun by a faculty member, it includes all known correspondence, both copies and a large component of originals. It has been the basis in recent years for a new edition of Arnold's correspondence, edited by an English Department faculty member.
  • Richard Dodderidge Blackmore
  • Also begun by a faculty member, the collection represents a substantial holding of the correspondence of the author of Lorna Doone.
  • Alfred, Lord Tennyson
    This collection contains both literary manuscripts and correspondence and was assembled in honor of Edgar Finley Shannon, then president-elect of the University; Mr. Shannon is a noted Tennyson scholar, and co-editor of Tennyson's correspondence.

Jefferson Papers

As Thomas Jefferson was the creator of the University of Virginia, he was also the creator of its library, selecting all of the nearly 7,000 books for it. The Library's collection of Jefferson papers numbers about 3,300 items and includes a substantial number of his architectural drawings for the University. Complementing his papers are smaller collections of those of James Madison and others of this period.


The Library has long collected Virginiana, and has been fortunate in attracting endowments for the support of acquisitions in this area; the Elizabeth Cocke Coles Collection of Books About Virginia, and the Alfred Henry Byrd Fund are the two most important. Major acquisitions of books, papers, and other materials for the Virginiana collections have come through gifts from alumni and friends of the University and the Library. Most important among the historical manuscripts collections is the series of papers, largely nineteenth century, from Virginia and southern families. The renowned Lee Family of Virginia placed its papers, rich sources of Revolutionary history, in the Library before 1832. During the next century many other prominent families followed suit, including the Randolphs, Berkeleys, Cockes, Cabells, Carrs, Bryans, Tuckers, and Harrisons. These papers are mined constantly for studies in many areas, from African-American to social and political history.

Twentieth-century Virginia and national political and public affairs collections include the papers of U.S. Senators Carter Glass, Harry F. Byrd, Sr., and Jr., and William B. Spong, as well as those of many representatives such as Howard Worth Smith. Cabinet officers are represented by the papers of Secretary of State Edward R. Stettinius, Jr., Attorney General Homer Stille Cummings, and Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson. Other areas in which the collections are strong include business records, the military, especially from the Civil War, and environmental groups.

African American Collections

Special efforts have been made in recent years to acquire collections which document the history of African-Americans in Virginia and the South. The University of Virginia is represented by 478 collections in Afro- American Sources in Virginia: A Guide to Manuscripts published in 1990 by the University Press of Virginia. A recent acquisition is the papers of the Southern Elections Fund, ca. 1968-75, including professional and personal correspondence of Julian Bond, the Fund's chairman. Included is correspondence, mailing lists, newsletters, printed material, photographs, slides, videotapes, and miscellany produced by the various officers and trustees of the organization. The Fund was established to funnel campaign funds and technical assistance to progressive Southern political candidates.

Collection Development Policy

The Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library acquires printed books, manuscripts, maps, broadsides, photographs, prints and drawings, sheet music, sound recordings, digital images, artifacts, and other formats in support of the Library's mission to serve the undergraduate and graduate teaching and research programs of the University.

Read our collection development policy


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