Americana

One of the greatest strengths of the Rosenbach’s library is Americana. The central topics of these collections are the European exploration and settlement of the New World and the political and military history of the United States from the first settlements through the Civil War. These histories are told in books and documents such as explorers’ and travelers’ descriptions of the land and its peoples; maps; broadsides; newspapers; scriptures, liturgical, and devotional works for the use of Christian missionaries and converts—many in Native American languages; Indian treaties and captivity narratives; and collections of legal and church documents from the Oregon Territory and colonial Mexico and Peru.

There are also many letters and other writings of figures such as the Spanish explorers Cortéz and Pizarro; Washington (more than 100 letters, including his earliest extant letter), Franklin (more than 100 items including letters, Poor Richard almanacs, and many other products of his printing press), John Adams, Jefferson, Lincoln (more than 60 letters), and Grant (80 of his wartime letters and the draft telegram announcing Lee’s surrender).

Early printing in the New World is illustrated by examples such as one of only eleven known copies of the Bay Psalm Book (1640), the first book printed in what is now the United States; and the first complete Bible printed in the Western Hemisphere (1661-1663), the Eliot Indian Bible in the Natick language of Massachusetts.

A.S.W. Rosenbach formed one of the world’s greatest collections of early American children’s literature. His scholarly bibliography on the subject became the standard reference in its field. While he gave most of this collection to the Free Library of Philadelphia in 1947, the Rosenbach’s Americana collection still contains a number of examples of both instructional and entertaining works for children.

Collection Highlights

Boston, 26th of June, 1775

This broadside gives a breathless account of the British triumph at Bunker Hill.  Hearing of an impending siege of Boston, under cover of night the colonists threw up entrenchments on this strategic isthmus overlooking the city.  General William Howe unwisely launched several frontal assaults, losing nearly half his forces.  “This…

Civil War Photographs

The Rosenbach received a group of sixteen Civil War photographs by Andrew J. Russell (1830-1902), an official Army photographer during the war. Captain Russell was assigned to document the U.S. Military Railroad Construction Corps; accordingly, his images often depict railroads, bridges, etc., but there are also scenes of battlefields and…

The Bay Psalm Book

The Whole Booke of Psalmes, also known as the Bay Psalm book, is the oldest surviving book printed in what became the United States. Eleven copies of it are known to exist; the book in our collection is one of five surviving copies still in the original binding.

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