Update:

We have resumed some on-campus services, including book pickup, virtual consultations, and fulfilling scanning/digitization requests. Many library materials are available online, but our buildings remain closed until further notice.

Houghton Library

Today: Closed

Highlights

Home to Harvard’s rare books and manuscripts, literary and performing arts archives, and more: a destination for students, scholars, and the public.

  • Teach with primary sources
  • Research rare books
  • Attend free exhibits & events
  • Tour our historic building
Exhibits and events are free and open to the public. The reading room is open to all adult researchers. Class visits by appointment.

Research at Houghton

Renovation Project

The Houghton Library building is currently closed as we modernize our research and teaching facilities, expand our exhibition galleries, and improve physical access to our spaces and holdings.

Houghton Publications

Harvard Library Bulletin logo.
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Harvard Library Bulletin

Peer-reviewed scholarly articles that reflect and promote the research potential of Harvard Library’s wide-ranging collections.

Harvard Review cover
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Harvard Review

A semi-annual literary journal showcasing poetry, essays, and short fiction from both emerging and established writers.

The cover of Houghton Library at 75
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More Houghton Library Publications

Browse additional works published by Houghton Library via the Harvard University Press.

Explore Collections

Since 1942, Houghton’s founding collections have been greatly augmented by a curatorial team whose responsibilities are now divided by period or theme. Today’s curators balance consolidating Houghton’s areas of traditional strength, and forging new directions to better serve the library’s mission to support teaching and research.

Modern Books and Manuscripts: World Culture, 1800 to Today

Manuscripts, books, photographs, and popular culture material with a focus on literature and history of Europe and the Americas, and Arabic and Indic manuscripts. Additional subjects include the history of missions; the Russian Revolution; publishing history; music; philosophy and much more.

Early Modern Books and Manuscripts 

Books, manuscripts and prints from the period 1600-1800. The collection is very broad in scope but particular areas of focus include the history of the Atlantic world, European and American literature, mathematics and physical sciences, and the history of the book.

Early Books and Manuscripts 

Material dating from approximately 3000 BCE to 1600 CE and ranging from papyri to early and illuminated manuscripts to early printed books. While there is an emphasis on Western languages and cultures, the collection is also strong in Arabic, Indic, Persian, and Syriac manuscripts.

Harvard Theatre Collection

Rare books, manuscripts, images, ephemera, and audiovisual materials documenting the performing arts, with particular strengths in Anglo-American theater, ballet, opera, music, and historical forms of popular entertainment.

Printing and Graphic Arts

Original artifacts from all periods illustrating the book arts and the materiality and historical development of the book, whether manuscript or printed. Primary emphasis is on books in languages that use the roman alphabet, although the collection includes representative examples from other cultural traditions.

Woodberry Poetry Room

The Woodberry Poetry Room is a warm, welcoming poetry library and landmark audio-visual archive featuring over 5,000 spoken voice recordings, located in Lamont Library and overseen by Houghton Library.

Copyright Questions 

The vast majority of Houghton material is either in the public domain or under copyrights not controlled by Houghton Library.

Houghton Library does not require that researchers request permission to quote from or publish images of most collection material (a few exceptions are listed below), nor does it charge permission or use fees. Permission, however, may be needed from other copyright holders or executors.

When to Contact Us

Please notify the library if you plan to publish facsimile editions of Houghton materials, and for articles, editorial projects, biographical and critical works that incorporate a substantial portion of a manuscript and/or collection. The library may wish to receive a copy of such works for its records.

Researchers must notify the library when publishing images of or quoting from the collections listed below. The list includes the major collections for which these conditions apply, but it’s not exhaustive. Please email the library with any questions.

  • American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM)
  • American Repertory Theatre Production Videos
  • Thomas Bouchard
  • Emily Dickinson
  • T.S. Eliot (some collections*)
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • Joseph Clark Grew
  • Iranian Oral History Project
  • Alix Jeffry
  • Frederick Kiesler
  • John Lindquist archive
  • Amy Lowell
  • Angus McBean archive
  • L.E. Sissman
  • Andrei Sakharov Archives
  • Arks Smith
  • Tobi Tobias
  • Gore Vidal
  • Thomas Wolfe*

*There can be no reproduction or publication of material in these collections without advance permission from the copyright holder.

For material protected by copyright, certain uses (including but not limited to quoting, publishing, performing, and reproducing) may require permission from the copyright holder. When required, it’s the researcher’s responsibility to obtain such permissions.

The following resources may be helpful in this regard:

Several online resources can be useful in finding the current copyright holder of a work, and requesting licensing permission:

  • The WATCH File (Writers, Artists, and Their Copyright Holders) maintained by the Harry Ransom Center and the University of Reading is a database of copyright contacts for writers, artists, and prominent figures in other creative fields.
  • Artists Rights Society is a copyright, licensing and monitoring organization for visual artists in the United States.
  • DACS is a visual artists’ rights management organization in the United Kingdom.
  • The ADAGP is a French collective which monitors copyright in the visual arts.
  • ASCAP and BMI are performing rights organizations which license and collect royalties for musical works.

Citations

Houghton Library asks that researchers cite all material referenced, quoted, or reproduced with the following citation format:

[Call number]. Houghton Library, Harvard University.

For example, a photograph reproduced from the Henry James papers would be cited as: MS Am 1094 (2245). Houghton Library, Harvard University.

Exhibition Loans

As we focus on renovating Houghton Library, we are imposing a moratorium on exhibition loans from April 2019 through December 2020. We will honor any loans that have already been approved for this time period; we will also consider loan requests for exhibitions opening in or after January 2021, but it may take longer than usual to respond.

Please bear in mind that due to our conservation assessment process for all outgoing loans, we ask to receive on-campus requests six months in advance of exhibition openings, and external requests twelve months ahead of opening. We appreciate your understanding of our need for a temporary loan moratorium. We look forward to January 2021 when we can resume our partnerships with institutions at Harvard and beyond.

If you would like to submit a request to borrow from Houghton for 2021 or later, please complete this form. If you have any other questions, contact Houghton Library’s Registrar, Carie McGinnis

Teaching at Houghton

Exhibits and Events

What's On
Get details about Houghton events & exhibitions delivered to your inbox.

Lecture Series

Each year Houghton Library invites distinguished scholars to deliver four lectures in honor of George Parker Winship, and Philip and Frances Hofer. The lectures are free and open to the public.

 

Join our mailing list for updates on Winship, Hofer and other public programs happening at Houghton.

Frances and Philip Hofer embarking on one of their many journeys to Europe, circa 1954.
Frances and Philip Hofer embarking on one of their many journeys to Europe, circa 1954.

Philip and Frances Hofer Lectures on the Art of the Book

The Philip and Frances Hofer Lecture Series was established in 1968 for the purpose of sponsoring “lectures on subjects of special interest to Harvard students and scholars within the range of the Printing and Graphic Arts field.”

Philip Hofer — Harvard College class of 1921 and founding curator of Houghton's Department of Printing and Graphic Arts — endowed the lecture fund in his name and that of his wife on the occasion of his retirement from Houghton Library.

In addition to the Hofer Lecture Series, Houghton Library in conjunction with the Harvard Art Museum awards an annual Philip Hofer Prize for Collecting Books or Art.

George Parker Winship Lectures on Bibliography

George Parker Winship in the Widener Memorial Room, circa 1920.
George Parker Winship in the Widener Memorial Room, circa 1920.
Harvard University Archives

The Winship Lectures were established in 1968 by a gift from the John Barnard Associates, a society of Harvard book-lovers founded in 1927 by Winship. For further information on Winship and the history of the lecture series, see:

George Parker Winship as Librarian, Typophile and Teacher, edited by Roger Stoddard. Cambridge [Mass.]: The Harvard College Library, 1999.

"The George Parker Winship Lecture Series at Houghton Library: A Bibliographer’s Creed", by G. Thomas Tanselle. Harvard Library Bulletin.Spring 2014, Volume 25, Number 1.

About Houghton Library

Welcome

Thomas Hyry

It is my great pleasure to welcome you to Houghton Library where we advance the pursuit, dissemination, and preservation of knowledge by stewarding a world class collection of rare books, manuscripts, archives, photographs, ephemera and other rare and unique materials.

The library serves as a center for advanced research, object-based and experiential learning, and community enrichment for the Harvard campus, the Boston-Cambridge metropolitan area, and beyond.


Houghton’s collection, which range from the ancient to the contemporary and from the local to the international, brim with potential energy and we take pride not only in the knowledge held and preserved in the library, but especially in the new discoveries and creations we enable and inspire.

Visitors attend an exhibit at Houghton Library

Houghton archivists, curators, librarians, and staff apply deep expertise to our work of building, interpreting, and fostering use of the collections. We seek to provide a welcoming atmosphere for a diverse set of faculty, students, and visitors to the library and we especially welcome first time users as well as seasoned researchers and teachers.

So whether you are an instructor integrating primary sources into your classroom, a scholar seeking new areas for discovery and study, a student beginning research for a class, a senior thesis, or your own interests, or a citizen wanting to learn more about history, society, and culture, we invite you to join us at Houghton. Please explore our website, discover the wealth of resources available for your use, and plan a visit to Houghton Library.

—Thomas Hyry, Florence Fearrington Librarian of Houghton Library

Exterior of Houghton Library

What We Do

  • Provide access to special collections
  • Perform reference and research consultations
  • Teach with primary sources
  • Acquire, catalog, process, and preserve rare books, manuscripts, archives, and more
  • Digitize collection materials to preserve and make them more widely accessible
  • Support research at Harvard and beyond through four fellowship programs
  • Organize and host dynamic public programs, including exhibitions, lectures, poetry readings, and symposia
  • Publish scholarly and literary journals: Harvard Library Bulletin and Harvard Review
  • Maintain an active national and international loan program
  • Conduct tours of the building every Friday

For updates on Houghton, sign up for our newsletter and visit or subscribe to the Houghton Library Blog.

Media and Recording Requests  

Houghton Library is committed to supporting and promoting research, teaching, and learning, while at the same time preserving our rare and unique collections.

Houghton Library is not available as a background setting for non-educational, non-collection-related projects or promotions.

Filming and recording on-site at Houghton Library may be accommodated when:

  • A Harvard faculty member requests filming as part of their teaching program;
  • The University or Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) Administration requests filming to promote education and/or teaching with the Harvard collections; or
  • A request from outside Harvard is for an educational project in which Houghton Library collections are integral.

All filming, recording or media requests should be made at least two weeks in advance. Requests should be emailed to Anne-Marie Eze, Houghton Library's director of scholarly and public programs.