Books & Pamphlets
The Massachusetts Historical Society's collection of published materials is divided into several broad categories: Books and Pamphlets (described below), Broadsides, Early Imprints, Maps, and Newspapers.
The General Research Collection
The books in the General Research Collection primarily address the history of Massachusetts from the time of European settlement to the present, although not exclusively. Materials about the early history of New England and the United States in general, especially from the colonial period through the Civil War, are also available.
The MHS research collection also includes valuable primary and secondary published materials on Canadian history, religion, 19th-century popular literature, music, and education, especially Boston imprints. Records for all books in the Research Collection are available in ABIGAIL.
Family History Resources
The MHS has strong collections of published biographical, genealogical, and local history information that support research on its manuscript collections, but our holdings do not duplicate the exhaustive family and local history collections or services provided by The New England Historic Genealogical Society (www.AmericanAncestors.org). Researchers working primarily on family history should consult the collections of the NEHGS first.
Over the years, the MHS has received collections of books from individual donors that have been kept intact and are referred to as "special libraries." These special libraries range from the private libraries of Henry Adams, Thomas Dowse, and Robert C. Waterston, to organizational collections of the Massachusetts Society for Promoting Agriculture, and subject-specific collections of collectors William Bentinck-Smith (U.S. history), Francis Russell Hart (Caribbeana), and Russell Knight (Shakers).
Records for most of the Society's special libraries are available in ABIGAIL. A few of our smaller special libraries are stored offsite and are available only in our internal card catalog; consult the reader services staff for more information.
The MHS holds more than 30,000 pamphlets, arranged by date of publication, from 1820 to the present. The strength of the pamphlet collection lies in the diversity of subject content: almost every facet of 19th- and early-20th-century life in Massachusetts, and to a lesser extent in New England, appears in contemporary pamphlet literature. Researchers will find the collection especially strong for the last half of the 19th century. Records for the pamphlet collection are available in ABIGAIL.