A Collector’s Collection:The Rosenbach Museum & Library



In terms of our Americana holdings, I could go on and on. I think it’s best if I give you a printed list of our Americana highpoints. [Hands me a printed list, several pages long, which reads in part:]

The Rosenbach’s collection of Americana (excluding American literature) consists of some 2,800 printed volumes and over 137,000 manuscripts, and ranges in date from Amerigo Vespucci’s Mundus novus (1504) to the typed carbon copy of the Atlantic Charter signed by Franklin Delano Roosevelt (August 1941).

….The Rosenbach collections are rich in explorers’ descriptions of Native peoples and their cultures; treaties (including a collection of 230 printed treaties made between the United States and various tribes between 1824 and 1869); and scriptures, liturgical, and devotional works produced for the use of Christian missionaries, many in Native American languages; Indian captivity narratives; and the first complete Bible printed in the Western Hemisphere (1661-1663), the “Eliot Indian Bible” in the Natick language of Massachusetts.

The collection is strongest in material of the colonial and revolutionary periods. It documents virtually every important aspect of American history; letters by Cortez and Pizarro detailing their activities in New World; a broadside published by the Virginia Company 1609 to interest stockholders in the settlement (one of three known copies); the famous Bay Psalm Book, one of only three still in its original binding; volumes of political tracts from the libraries of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson; survey maps by Washington; letters by Adams, Franklin, Washington, Jefferson, Deane, etc. The period of the Civil War is particularly well documented in manuscript material by the major participants – Lincoln, Grant, and Lee. The list includes: Lee’s resignation from the Army in 1861; Lincoln’s manuscript of the Baltimore Address (April 18, 1864); the document proposing the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution (1865), signed by members of the House and Senate and Grant’s draft of his telegram announcing Lee’s surrender.
---From a leaflet entitled “The Americana Collection,” The Rosenbach Museum & Library, n.d.

AT: Actually, the biography contains a great story which illustrates both Dr. Rosenbach’s considerable talents as a salesman and his early appreciation of the importance of Americana and the Americas as a genre. Permit me, if you will, to indulge in a quote from the bio on the sale of a major Americana collection to a Mr. Edward S. Harkness here.