General Press Kit
The Library Collections at The Huntington
The Huntington Library is one of the largest and most complete independent research libraries in the United States in its fields of specialization. Only a tiny portion of its collection, composed of approximately 9 million items, is on display at any one time in the Main Exhibition Hall and the Dibner Hall of the History of Science. To provide visitors with more access to its holdings, the institution regularly hosts changing exhibitions in the West Hall of the Library and in the MaryLou and George Boone Gallery. Some 1,400 scholars come from around the world every year to conduct advanced humanities research using The Huntington’s collections. Through a rigorous peer-review program, The Huntington awards more than 100 grants annually to scholars in the fields of history, literature, art, and the history of science.
The Huntington’s holdings include English and American history and literature from the 11th century to the present, 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, and the exploration and development of the American West. English and American literary collections from the Renaissance to the present day are especially strong in material relating to 18th-century Britain, Victorian literature and the pre-Raphaelites, American literature in the second half of the 19th century, and theater and drama covering some 500 years.
A selection of the most famous and interesting items from the collections is on public display in the Library’s Main Exhibition Hall.
The collection includes printed books from the 15th through the 20th centuries. The collection also houses maps, broadsides, pamphlets, newspapers, and many other printed formats. The approximately 410,000 items are concentrated in the field of British and American culture, with many topics and periods covered in extraordinary depth.
The Huntington copy of Johann Gutenberg’s Bible is one of 11 surviving copies printed on vellum, and one of three such copies in the United States. It was the first substantial book printed with movable type in the West. Printed in about 1450 in Mainz, Germany, the Bible is in Latin, in the standard medieval Catholic version known as the Vulgate.
The Huntington has the second-largest collection of incunabula in the United States, after the Library of Congress. The term designates books printed before 1501 during the infancy, or “in the cradle,” of the new technology of the printing press.
One of the Library’s most prized works is the first folio edition of William Shakespeare’s collected plays, published in 1623, seven years after his death. The “First Folio” contains 36 plays, 18 of them printed for the first time. This “authorized version,” prepared by his friends and colleagues from “true originall copies,” is the prime source of our knowledge of Shakespeare’s texts.
The Huntington Library houses more than 850,000 prints and negatives spanning the century from 1850 to 1950. This superlative collection, which covers a variety of topics from the American Civil War to the building of the transcontinental railroad, from “Grand Tours” of Europe to modest family photograph albums, is particularly strong in depicting the history and development of the American West. Within this broad regional focus are photographs generated by the great surveys of the American West conducted in the 19th century, commissioned by both railroad corporations and the federal government.
The Huntington traditionally has collected the work of noted photographers, most of whom were active professionally at the end of the 19th century and into the beginning of the 20th. The collection contains significant bodies of work by Carleton Watkins, Carl Moon, Frederick Monsen, Edward Curtis, Alfred A. Hart, F. Jay Haynes, William Henry Jackson, Adam Clark Vroman, Andrew Russell, Eadweard Muybridge, C. C. Pierce, Frances Benjamin Johnston, and others.
In recent years The Huntington has acquired the collections of several commercial photographers whose work documents various phases in the history of Southern California and elsewhere. These include the J. Allen Hawkins collection of Pasadena (1910–60), the “Dick” Whittington collection of the development of Southern California in the postwar boom years, the B. D. Jackson collection depicting the developing suburbs of Los Angeles, and the Maynard Parker collection documenting the modern home and garden in mid-20th-century Southern California.
The historical print collection at The Huntington consists of more than 250,000 images that depict aspects of British and American cultural and political life between the 16th and 19th centuries. Published as separately issued prints and in extra-illustrated books are portraits, historical scenes and events, political and social caricatures, theatrical and literary history, illustrations to Shakespeare’s plays, biblical illustrations, British and American views, and British and American trade cards.
The print collection also is rich in portraiture and iconographic figures and is representative of the history and technical development of printmaking processes through the mid-20th century.
Printed ephemera—that body of material that was produced for a one-time, limited purpose—can be understood generally as transient documents of everyday life. The Huntington’s collection of ephemera is an expansive archive of several hundred thousand pieces. The variety of subjects and formats represented in the larger collection supports historical research in the fields of American and British cultural studies. The collection emphasizes Western history and culture, especially that of Southern California. Among the noteworthy collection of ephemera is the Jay T. Last collection of lithographic and social history.