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John Hay Library

Catalogs, Finding Aids, and Collections


Josiah, the Brown University Library online catalog, includes information for most of the books, periodicals, manuscripts and broadsides in Special Collections. Consult special collections staff in the John Hay Library for information on other materials and formats and for assistance in locating materials.

Finding Aids

Josiah includes collection-level records for all manuscript collections acquired prior to March, 1996. Inventories, finding aids, and the manuscripts card catalog, available in the Library, provide more detailed subject and name access to manuscript collections. The Library is in the process of creating online versions of these paper finding aids. Many of the collections have been digitized and include links from the finding aid to digital facsimiles of letters, photographs, or other objects. See Brown Archival & Manuscript Collection Online and Rhode Island Archival and Manuscript Collections Online (RIAMCO).

Online Digital Collections and Databases

The John Hay Library is an active partner with the Library's Digital Production Services and Center for Digital Scholarship to produce online digital collections and web-based databases of its holdings. Collections digitized to date include African-American Sheet Music, prints, drawings and watercolors from the Anne S. K. Brown Military Collection, works from the collections on alcohol and temperance, and many other areas. See the Center for Digital Scholarship and its Library Web Databases for a full list of digital projects.


The John Hay Library houses the University Library’s collections of rare books and manuscripts, the Archives of the University, and many special collections on a wide variety of topics. Altogether, Special Collections consists of over 250 separate collections, numbering some 2,500,000 items.

Areas of strength include American literature and popular culture, the history of science, political and diplomatic history, and the arts of the book. Collections of particular note include the Harris Collection of American Poetry and Plays, the Anne S. K. Brown Military Collection, the Lownes History of Science Collection, and the McLellan Lincoln Collection. There are in addition notable collections of broadsides, sheet music, and prints.

The Manuscript Collections contain literary, historical, and scientific manuscripts generated by individuals, families, institutions, and organizations and totaling over 2,000,000 items. Literary collections include manuscripts by H. P. Lovecraft, Sarah Helen Whitman, S. J. Perelman, and the archives of numerous literary publishers. Historical collections include over 900 items signed by Abraham Lincoln, and the papers of his secretary, John Hay. There are also collections relating to Rhode Island and Baptist history.

The holdings of the University Archives, document the intellectual, social and cultural life of the University from 1763 to the present day. These records include materials relating to ordinary routines of campus life, as well as special events of all kinds, that contribute to an understanding of the University's structure and its history.

For further information about all the collections at the John Hay Library, see Special Collections.