August 3, 2021: Library locations will reopen to Harvard students, faculty, and staff for the fall semester. See the full reopening schedule.

Curious about Houghton’s collections?

Visit our new lobby gallery to discover a selection of rare books and manuscripts, literary and performing arts archives, with reflections by the students, faculty, fellow, staff and others who use them. This ten-case display will change three times a year.

Items on view this fall include:

  • An eleventh century Qur’anic manuscript
  • Early editions of Dante’s Divine Comedy
  • Shakespeare’s First Folio
  • The only surviving book from John Harvard’s library
  • Texts printed in the Massachusett language at the Harvard Indian College
  • Relics of pioneer aeronaut John Jeffries
  • A curtain speech in the hand of African American actor Ira Aldridge
  • An early printing of the Declaration of Sentiments
  • A draft of a poem by Sylvia Plath
  • Original artwork for a recent adaptation of Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.

History of Ideas

Witness breakthroughs in intellectual history through the original manuscripts and printed books that introduced them to the world, on display in the new History of Ideas exhibition case.

Nicolaus Copernicus' Sun-Centered Solar System

This fall, see rare copies of the First Account (1540) and On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres (1543), the two publications that announced Nicolaus Copernicus’ groundbreaking theory of heliocentric cosmology.

The History of Ideas case was created in recognition of a generous gift for the renovation of Houghton Library's Reading Room by alumni donors who wish to remain anonymous. The case hosts exhibits of items from the collections of the donor and the library that change three times a year.