About the Collections

The Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library holds one of the largest and most dynamic collections of rare books and manuscripts in the world. Its holdings draw hundreds of scholars, artists, and critics from around the world to the reading room each year. Thousands of students from Yale and beyond learn about the history of human thought through hands-on sessions with original artifacts in the Beinecke classrooms. Each year, new acquisitions build on the collections’ strengths and establish new areas of excellence, affording opportunities for interdisciplinary research, scholarly exploration, creativity, and intellectual exchange.

Part of the Yale University Library system, the Beinecke Library opened in 1963 in a building designed by the architectural firm of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, with volumes from the Rare Book Room of Sterling Library, and three special collections: the Collection of American Literature, the Collection of Western Americana, and the Collection of German Literature. These were later joined by the James Marshall and Marie-Louise Osborn Collection. Since its opening, the Beinecke Library has become the principal repository for books in the Yale collection printed anywhere before 1800, books printed in North America before 1821, newspapers and broadsides printed in the United States before 1851, and manuscripts and early printed books from the Middle and Near East, Japan, China, and Korea as well as special formats such as playing cards and maps.

Today, the collections span thousands of linear feet of manuscript and archival material, ranging from ancient papyri and medieval manuscripts to the archived personal papers of modern writers, artists’ books, photographs, avant-garde, audio-visual and born-digital material. On average, the library adds between 10,000 and 15,000 books, 1,200 feet of archival material, and more than 3,000 discrete manuscripts to its holdings each year. The Beinecke’s extensive Digital Library allows visitors to browse more than 1 million images of material from across the collections.

A nexus for original scholarship in a wide range of disciplines, the Beinecke collections are used by scholars and practitioners who have made significant contributions in their fields: from literary and cultural studies to the history of science, music, theater, and art; the history of the book, of photography, graphic design, and architecture; social, intellectual, and political history; medieval, Renaissance, and eighteenth-century Europe; American literature; Western Americana; nineteenth-century imperialism; African American culture; British literature; gay, lesbian, and transgender studies; transatlantic Modernism; postwar counterculture; and contemporary American poetry.


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