Houghton Library

In response to the challenges posed by COVID-19, Harvard University is transitioning to virtual instruction for graduate and undergraduate classes. Houghton Library is ready to help you plan remote sessions, activities, and access to digitized materials. Please see our teaching page for full details.


Houghton Library is Harvard College's rare books and manuscripts library. The collections at Houghton focus on the study of Western civilization and are especially strong in American, Continental, and English history and literature, but also include significant cultural materials from around the world representing a wide range of experiences. The collections encompass diverse holdings: from the world famous to the entirely unknown, the ancient to the immediate. We host classes in the arts, humanities, sciences, and more.


In August 2019, Houghton Library closed to begin a renovation. Our goal: to make the building more accessible and welcoming while enhancing research and teaching spaces. To learn more about the renovation and interim services, visit the Houghton Renovation websiteWhile the renovation is underway, the library's collections continue to be accessible for teaching and research.

Recent classes at the Houghton Library include Fourth-Year Russian: Language through Literature, HUMAN 20 and Historiography of the History of Science.

Students from PredictionX in class at Houghton Library.

Black panther paper shopping bag, AC95.B5665.969c (167), examined by a Junior Tutorial.

Jeu de lot Dauphin, ThrZ, a game of chance, played by the Tangible Things class.

Bill of sale for a donkey, papyrus, MS Gr SM2223, used in Harvard's HUM 10a.

Student examines a nineteenth century Thai manuscript. MS Typ 439.


  • The Emily Dickinson Collection Houghton Library's Emily Dickinson Collection preserves more than 1,000 autograph poems and some 300 letters.
  • Ludlow-Santo Domingo Library The world’s largest private collection of material on altered states of mind.
  • Donald and Mary Hyde Collection of Dr. Samuel Johnson The premier collection of rare books and manuscripts relating to the life and work of Samuel Johnson.
  • English Broadsides: The Bute, Huth, and Percy Collections Ephemeral posters, advertisements and songs from 17th- and 18th-century England.
  • Medieval & Renaissance Manuscripts Houghton Library's collection of medieval and Renaissance manuscripts represents a significant resource for the study of the literature, art, history, music, philosophy, and theology of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance in Western Europe.
  • Papyri at Houghton Library Works by Homer, Plato, Thucydides, Demosthenes, Menander, and the Gospels, as well as documentary texts for the study of the political, administrative and social history of the Ptolemaic and Roman Egypt.
  • Harvard Theatre Collection Founded in 1901, the Harvard Theatre Collection stands as one of the oldest and largest performing arts collections in the world.
  • Angus McBean Photographic Archive Angus McBean's iconic portraits of actors and entertainers made him almost as famous as his subjects. His archive is among the most complete visual records of the British stage from the 1930s through the 1960s.
  • Harrison D. Horblit Collection of Early Photography Documenting the history of photographic processes and the social history of photography from the time of its invention in the 1830s through 1900.
  • Writing Books A significant collection of works devoted to the practice of handwriting.
  • Woodberry Poetry Room Audio-Visual Collection The Woodberry Poetry Room's audio-visual collection is, according to Seamus Heaney, "indispensable: it contains not only the voices—from different times of their lives—of the greatest poets, but constitutes a living history of modern poetry."
  • Woodberry Poetry Room Blue Star Collection The Woodberry Poetry Room's collection of rare or limited-edition monographs, chapbooks, serials, typescripts, mimeographs, broadsides, portraits, photographs, and related correspondence.
  • Harry Elkins Widener Collection Collected prior to his death on the Titanic in 1912, the Harry Elkins Widener Collection consists of approximately 3,300 volumes housed in the Memorial Room of Widener Library.
  • Staff Services

    • Assistance with presentation of materials in class
    • Assistance with selection of materials
    • Bibliography of materials used in class
    • Reserve class materials for Reading Room Use
    • Pre-class appointment for instructor (required for first time requester, recommended for everyone)
    • Ongoing reference assistance for students interested in using collections for course assignments
    • Introduction to Archives and Special Collections Research
    • Houghton Library Research Guide
    • Support for student-led digital curation of exhibits and collections

    Technology Available

    • Canvas course librarian

    Administrative Information

      Class limit: (none)

    The Houghton Library does not have a publicly available calendar. When making a request, please submit with your preferred times and a staff member will get back to you.