Houghton Library opened its doors in 1942. Throughout 2017, we are celebrating the library’s world-class collections, and support of research and teaching over the last 75 years. Join in the celebrations by participating in our year-long program of events that promises visitors a unique glimpse of some of Houghton’s most treasured holdings:

  • Three exhibitions showcasing highlights from Houghton's collection selected by Harvard faculty, and the library’s curators, archivists and librarians
  • Film series screening movies inspired by or connected to Houghton’s literary archives
  • Houghton Library at 75, a new guide to the collections
  • Houghton Library: Who Cares? A 75th Anniversary Symposium exploring why and how curators, conservators, artists and researchers care for special collections
  • Weekly tours, and special events

For updates, check back here, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.


  • Critics lowered their eyebrows after watching John Lithgow, a 6’4” American, transform into the stout British Bulldog in the 2016 @Netflix series ‘The Crown.’ This watercolor of Lithgow as Winston Churchill was painted by the actor himself and is featured in our current exhibit, John Lithgow: Actor as Artist, on display through July 29. 2016MT-55 Courtesy of John Lithgow @thecrownnetflix #johnlithgow #thecrown #thecrownnetflix #netflix #winstonchurchill #harvardtheatrecollection #houghtonlibrary #harvardlibrary
  • The Houghton75 podcast has been launched! Find it on iTunes, SoundCloud, and on the podcast menu on the link in our profile.

Every week, we will feature a different faculty member at Harvard speaking about a favorite item in the collection, and how it relates to their research and teaching. We also hand-selected interesting music to accompany each episode.

Listen and subscribe today!

#librariesofinstagram #houghtonlibrary #podcast #faculty #teaching #rarebooks #manuscripts #interview #houghton75 #audio
  • There is a long history of Valentine's verses being composed and sent to one's beloved. Here is the end of a flowery one from 1843. It is part of Houghton's autograph collection, and is presumed to be by John Palfrey (1796-1881). [Autograph File (Palfrey, John Gorham)]⠀
Lady fair and lady bright - ⠀
Eyes of beauty sparkling light,⠀
Lady from the realms above⠀
When all is harmony and love,⠀
Lady of a heavenly birth⠀
Too much alas! for this dull earth⠀
Lady fair, be, lady, mine⠀
Take this for your Valentine.⠀
February 14, 1843⠀
#valentinesday #palfrey #poetry #verse #1843 #19thcentury #modern #autograph #houghtonlibrary #librariesofinstagram⠀
  • We have a soft spot for circular and spherical diagrams in astronomical manuscripts. So here's one for #sciencesaturday from a French manuscript from ca. 1600 titled "Abregé cosmographique : divisé en deux livres." [MS Fr 122]⠀
This part seems to be about constructing an astrolabe, that scientific instrument common in the Middle Ages and Renaissance as a means to identify stars, and use them to measure one's latitude (or local time, knowing the latitude).⠀
#science #diagram #astrolabe #astronomy #manuscript #french #1600 #librariesofinstagram #houghtonlibrary #harvardlibrary #specialcollections #rarebooks #earlymodern
  • Did you know Houghton had a printing room in Lamont Library? Venture down to the lowest level (D) of Lamont, and you can peek in the cage and see cases of type, ink balls, a press, and other fun printing stuff.⠀
Here, curator of Printing and Graphic Arts, Hope Mayo, is telling a number of first year students about the wonders of printing with metal type on a special "behind the scenes" tour last week.⠀
Hope on the printing room: "The foundation of the present Houghton Library Printing Room dates from 1938, when Philip Hofer (Harvard BA 1921, MFA 1929) came back to Harvard with the intention of founding a Printing and Graphic Arts Collection (now part of Houghton Library). For this he not only acquired books and manuscripts that would enable students to study great examples of printing and illustration.  He also thought that students should understand how these artifacts were made, and, to this end, acquired the iron hand press, type, and other equipment needed for setting up a printing shop. In the years since then more equipment has been added to the room, and it has been used in various contexts, including  the teaching of descriptive bibliography in the 1950s and 1960s and the current series of workshops that are offered on request."⠀
#letterpressprinting #printing #moveabletype #uppercase #lowercase #houghtonlibrary #lamontlibrary #harvardlibrary #hiddentreasures #bookarts #harvard2020 #behindthescenes #handpress #typetuesday
  • A little trailer for our exhibition "HIST 75H: A Masterclass on Houghton Library" (through Apr 22, 2017)

Check it out, and then see more about it and other 75th anniversary activities through the link in our profile.

#harvard #faculty #exhibition #houghtonlibrary #houghton75 #facultychoice #anniversary #75years #librariesofinstagram #harvardlibrary #manuscript #rarebooks #specialcollections
  • Another moment in the reading room that we couldn't pass by. ⠀
All six wood blocks for a large scale print known as Die Kunst dess Buchhaltens [An allegory of commerce] were set up for consultation. This picture actually gets a piece of all of them, if you can find the edges.⠀
The holes in the foreground where you can see the table below would have contained metal letterpress type to print words separate from those carved into the wood block. ⠀
This was used for printing for the first time by Michael Manger in Augsburg in 1585.⠀
#woodblock #printing #pandga #realia #printshop #allegory #commerce #broadside #16thcentury #readingroom #librariesofinstagram #harvardlibrary #houghtonlibrary #germany #augsburg #antwerp
  • If you have ever been to Houghton, and on a Houghton Library Tour (every Friday at 2pm!), you might have seen this lovely portrait of Emily Dickinson and her siblings hanging in the Dickinson Room (painted by Otis Bullard, ca. 1840).⠀
Now, you can see it for the first time outside of Houghton!⠀
If you are in or near New York City, the portrait can be viewed @themorganlibrary in the exhibition "I’m Nobody! Who are you? The Life and Poetry of Emily Dickinson." The exhibition opens today and can visited through May 21, 2017.⠀
#emilydickinson #dickinson #painting #oilpainting #1840 #19thcentury #modern #exhibition #loan #ontheroad #librariesofinstagram #poetry #pressedflowers #becauseicouldnotstopfordeath #hopeisathingwithfeathers
  • It's not every day we have two double elephant folios of The Birds of America in the reading room at one time. We couldn't miss this opportunity to post this.⠀
(Staff member in picture for scale)⠀
The Birds of America was published between 1827 and 1838 from original drawings by John James Audubon, which can also be consulted at Houghton.⠀
[AC8.Au292.827b and HEW] ⠀
#huge #bigbooks #birdsofamerica #audubon #johnjamesaudubon #rarebooks #houghtonlibrary #readingroom #modern #19thcentury #birds #ornithology

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  • Beyond Beyond Words
    In the fall of 2016, the major exhibition Beyond Words: Illuminated Manuscripts in Boston Collections dazzled the press and the public alike. Divided across three venues, 260 medieval and Renaissance manuscripts and early printed books from nineteen Boston-area collections shone on gorgeous display. It was the largest exhibition of its kind ever held in North America and […]
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    This post is part of an ongoing series featuring items from the exhibition Open House 75: Houghton Staff Select on display in the Edison and Newman Room from May 8 – August 19, 2017. The British Romantic poet Lord Byron (1788-1824) followed up his successful Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage (1812) with a series of popular Oriental Tales, […]
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    This post is part of an ongoing series featuring items from the exhibition Open House 75: Houghton Staff Select on display in the Edison and Newman Room from May 8 – August 19, 2017. In the fall of 1954 Tennessee Williams was desperate for a hit. After the meteoric successes of The Glass Menagerie and […]
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