Uncommon Works: The Rare Book Collection at the Maryland Historical Society

The indefatigable Francis O'Neill, longtime Reference Librarian, in the stacks. Maryland Historical Society - Galleries and Museums - Staff -Francis O'Neill - Technical Services Librarian - Book Sale, Presently the Reference Librarian (2017), 1982, Subject Vertical File, MdHS.

The indefatigable Francis O’Neill, longtime Reference Librarian, in the stacks.
Subject Vertical File, MdHS.

Since the Maryland Historical Society’s founding in 1844, the library has amassed a spectacular collection of over seven million items.  MdHS archivists and librarians care for such treasures as Charles Carroll of Carrollton’s copy of the William J. Stone Declaration of Independence, the extensive collection of business and personal papers of Baltimore socialite and businesswoman Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte, an original Edgar Allan Poe poem, and Francis Scott Key’s handwritten manuscript of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” as well as hundreds of manuscript and photograph collections related to Maryland’s history. The Rare Book Collection is another gem of the library.

The Rare Book Collection holds nearly 3,000 volumes which touch on all facets of Maryland history. These uncommon published works range in topic from fiction by Maryland authors to educational manuals to treatises on politics, religion, and science. The oldest volumes date from the early 1600s. Many of the early members of the Society donated important tomes from their personal libraries. The library also participated in exchange programs with other institutions to build its research holdings. When the Library Company of Baltimore dissolved in 1856, the library took over its vast collection of books, folios, and pamphlets, which nearly quadrupled the Society’s holdings. The collection has grown into a valuable resource utilized by many researchers every year. An inventory of the collection can be found here. For more information on the Rare Book Collection and other library collections, please visit our Collections Overview. (Lara Westwood)

Check out a few highlights from the collection in the slideshow below (Hover over images for more information on each title):










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