The Ellesmere Manuscript of Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales, c. 1400-1405. Shown is the introduction to "The Knight's Tale."
Scholars from around the world conduct academic research in the Library’s nearly six million manuscripts dealing with English and American history and literature from the 11th century to the present, and with the complementary fields of European medieval manuscripts, Renaissance exploration and cartography, Latin American history, and the History of Science and Technology.
Particular strengths include Middle English literature, English politics and law in the Early Modern era, the English aristocracy from the later Middle Ages through the 18th century, American colonial history, 18th century British and American military history, the American Revolution, the Civil War, the exploration and development of the American West, the development of American observational astronomy in the 20th century, and California from its discovery to the present.
English and American literary collections from the 14th century to the present day are especially strong in materials relating to Middle English verse and prose, Renaissance poetry, the 18th century, Victorian literature and the pre-Raphaelites, American literature in the 19th and 20th centuries, the relations of authors to editors, and the development of English and American drama over 500 years. There are full archives of several distinguished modern authors including Jack London, Wallace Stevens, Kingsley Amis, Christopher Isherwood, Charles Bukowski, and Hilary Mantel.
Henry David Thoreau, Walden, autograph manuscript, 1846–53.
On Permanent View
A selection of the most famous and interesting items from the collections, including illuminated Books of Hours, the Ellesmere manuscript of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, Renaissance maps, letters and documents by George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, Thoreau’s autograph manuscript of Walden, records of the California missions, and manuscripts by Jack London, Christopher Isherwood, and Charles Bukowski, are on public display in the Library’s Main Exhibition Hall; rare scientific manuscripts are shown in the Dibner Hall of Science; changing short-term exhibits regularly explore specific topics in greater depth.
A small portion of the collection is on view in the Library Exhibition Hall. More than 1,000 of the Library’s manuscript collections are described in collection-level summaries in The Huntington Library Online Catalog and are searchable in OCLC’s WorldCat. Detailed descriptive handlists of nearly 200 of these are posted on the Online Archive of California (OAC), and more than 3000 images from the medieval collections are available in the Digital Scriptorium.
For registered Huntington researchers, a traditional card catalog, closed to further entries as of January 1, 1994, provides access to cataloged collections by author; further finding aids are available for most collections.