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Research Guides

Book Arts & Rare Book Collections: 19th Century American Literature

Historically significant, rare and collectible books from the Libraries Special Collections Division.

Featured Book

19th Century Publishers' Bindings Database

Thanks to UW volunteers, almost ten thousand scans of publishers' bindings have been collected over the years. Accessible on internal, special collections computers, the database provides a visual and readable guide for a portion of publishers' bindings that belong to UW. Supported by a search function, items can be targeted and retrieved at the convenience of the user.

If you are interested in consulting this database, please email the curator. 




About the 19th Century American Literature Collection

The 19th Century American Literature Collection is a resource for the study of a wide range of authors, well-known and undiscovered. Americans during the 19th century were forging a unique artistic and literary identity during contentious socio-political conflicts. Special Collections’ vast selection of 19th century published literature and serials is an excellent source for examining the relationship between art, culture, and politics in the United States.  

This endowment supported Collection includes extensive holdings of published works of 19th century American authors, with an emphasis on women authors. All major literary figures of 19th century America are represented including H. W. Longfellow, H. Melville, N. Hawthorne, H. B. Stowe, H. D. Thoreau and R. W. Emerson along with scarce editions of popular writers of the time who are little known now. First editions, variant editions and illustrated books provide a research collection for textual studies. Some holdings of related photographic and visual materials and some limited manuscript materials. Letters of H. W. Longfellow are major manuscript holding.

Although the vast majority of the books in the Collection were published in the 19th century, books published in the 18th and 20th centuries are also represented.

English literature’s canon has long been dominated by white, cis-gendered men. At the University of Washington, we have taken special care to collect, when feasible, underrepresented communities, especially women, BIPOC, and LGBTQIA+ writers within the Authors Collection and 19th Century American Literature Collection. Bear in mind, these materials are historic and consequently tethered to the cultural sentiments of their time and may not align with our current understanding of respect and social justice. We offer research support through our reading room and by appointment with the curator if you are embarking on research related to material that may cause harm or distress.

Starting Your Research

Please find a list of print, online, and audio/visual resources to start your research. This section serves as a jumping off point and is by no means exhaustive.