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Rare Books and Manuscripts in Smith College Special Collections

Introductory information about the rare books and manuscripts in the Mortimer Rare Book Collection

What is Special Collections?

Smith College Special Collections is a unit within Smith College Libraries. As a special collections library, it is home to materials outside the general library collection, including rare books, archives (historic records), manuscripts, maps, oral history interviews, and audiovisual material. These materials do not circulate outside of the library and are used onsite in the Reading Room. The Reading Room is open to all researchers working on a variety of projects including fiction books, art pieces, documentaries, family history, academic publications, and coursework. 

For more information about Smith College Special Collections, please visit our website.

To learn how to access the collection, please visit the Search Special Collections page.

Mortimer Rare Book Collection


The Mortimer Rare Book Collection includes rare, historical printed books, medieval European manuscripts, literary archives, artists’ books, and other historical and cultural material texts. As part of Special Collections, these rare books and manuscripts support the curriculum of the College and enable us to function as a laboratory for the exploration of material history and culture. The collection scope is chronologically and geographically broad, with substantial holdings in English and American literature, botany, history of science, early children's literature, fine press books, and artists’ books.


History of the Mortimer Rare Book Collection 

Smith College created its first Rare Book Room in the 1937 addition to Neilson Library, where it was located on the first floor mezzanine. In the 1962 Neilson Library renovation, the Rare Book Room was enlarged and moved to the third floor to accommodate further growth. It was renamed the Mortimer Rare Book Room in 1994, in honor of curator and teacher Ruth Mortimer, who significantly broadened collection use for teaching and learning. Now known as the Mortimer Rare Book Collection, the repository continues to grow and be a meaningful part of the curriculum as part of Smith College Special Collections. A History of the Mortimer Rare Book Room is forthcoming.