Manuscripts and Archives

Visitation, from the Heures de Nostre Dame selonc lusaige de Rome.
Visitation, from the Heures de Nostre Dame selonc lusaige de Rome. c.1400. Case MS 188.

The Newberry has a rich and varied collection of manuscripts ranging from medieval Books of Hours to twentieth-century scrapbooks and letters.

The Newberry houses over 800 Modern Manuscript collections (ca. 1700 to the present) totaling about 15,000 linear feet.

The Edward E. Ayer Collection contains over 1,350 single manuscripts and manuscript collections documenting the American Indian dating from the seventeenth through twentieth centuries.

The Everett D. Graff Collection contains 462 single manuscripts and manuscript collections dating mainly from the 19th century and relating to the exploration, settlement, and development of the country west of the Mississippi River.

The Midwest Dance Collection, centered on Chicago, consists of the Ann Barzel Dance Research Collection and the papers and archives of over 80 dancers, journalists, choreographers, dance companies, schools, festivals, and dance advocacy groups.

The Midwest Manuscript Collection contains over 600 collections focusing on Chicago and the Midwest from the early 19th century to the present. Subject strengths include the arts, business, Civil War, clubs and organizations, family papers, journalism, literature, music, politics, railroads, religion, social action, theater, and women.

The Newberry’s own comprehensive archives document the history of this 125-year-old independent research library and its engagement with the city.

Wing Modern Manuscript Collection within the John M. Wing Collection on the History of Printing, includes the papers and archives of over 60 individuals and firms involved with printing and publishing in Chicago and elsewhere.

To discover Modern Manuscript Collections:

  • Search or Browse all Modern Manuscript Collection Abstracts (summary descriptions of almost all collections, often with links to more detailed online inventories and collection-level catalog records)
  • Search across the online inventories and catalog records of many Modern Manuscript Collections via ArchiveGrid (the best way to conduct an in-depth search of collection content)
  • Search for Modern Manuscripts in the Online Catalog (catalog records describing individual manuscript items or collections, often with links to more detailed online inventories)

Newberry librarians have compiled Research Guides containing bibliographies, checklists, and other resources helpful in directing research at the Newberry. The below guides may be helpful for those beginning their manuscript research at the Newberry.

  • The Newberry has about 260 pre-1500 European manuscripts, several dozen individual documents and charters, and hundreds of fragments.
  • There are approximately 2,000 post-1500 European manuscripts at the Newberry. Lists of post-1500 manuscripts are available in French, Italian, and English. Many more European manuscripts, in these and other languages, are listed in the Online Catalog.
  • To complement its unmatched holdings of printed books on calligraphy and handwriting, the Newberry has assembled over 600 original Calligraphic Manuscripts for study and exhibit. These represent a comprehensive, representative selection of scripts and formats from all periods from the fifteenth to the mid-twentieth century.
  • The library has about 400 Spanish-American Colonial Manuscripts, mostly in the Ayer Collection.
  • More than 500 Philippine Manuscripts are included in the Ayer Collection.
  • Over 500 manuscript maps and 2,200 manuscript map reproductions are described in the Cartographic Catalog.

Please call the reference desk at (312) 255-3506 with questions on our holdings, or Contact a Librarian with research questions.

Digital Resources

Below is a list of related digital resources.

The story of the American West has exerted a powerful influence over the psyche of the modern world, helping to fashion senses of national identity as well as permeating literary and cinematic culture. The Graff collection is a unique resource which will allow scholars to explore all of these subject areas in great detail. *Access to this subscription database is only available on-site through any of the Newberry’s public computers.*

This virtual exhibition is based on The Aztecs and the Making of Colonial Mexico, a display of original manuscripts, books, and other materials at the Newberry from September 28, 2006 through January 13, 2007. The virtual exhibit includes the complete text from the original gallery exhibit and digitized images of many of the manuscripts and books that were displayed.

Today most Americans remember the War of 1812 for inspiring Francis Scott Key to write “The Star Spangled Banner.” Many of the conflict’s most familiar events—the battle of New Orleans, impressment of American sailors into the British Navy, and the British assault on Washington.

The Capirola manuscript is a beautiful example of Renaissance lute tablature that has recently been made available online by the Programme Ricercar through the Center for Renaissance Studies at the University of Tours, France. This resource is in French with no English translation.