primary sources at yale
top left image Overview of Collections

These Yale collections are devoted to acquiring and providing access to primary source materials. See the “Tools for Discovery” section for tips on how to identify primary sources in these collections as well as in the general library collections. View a map showing collection locations.
peabody ycba yuag instruments arts library babylonian collection beinecke divinity lewis walpole law manuscripts and archives maps medical history music oral history
Faber Birren

The Robert B. Haas Family Arts Library Special Collections are composed of materials from the former Art+Architecture and Drama Libraries as well as the Arts of the Book Collection. These previously separate special collections are now united in the Special Collections Reading Room. Rare and unique, modern and contemporary, published and manuscript materials are gathered together to create a resource that includes both research materials about and examples of the arts.

Materials from the former Art+Architecture Library range from contemporary catalogues raisonnes to 18th and 19th century works on artists and architecture. Important collections are the Faber Birren Collection of Books on Color, the Volvelle Collection, and the Skowhegan Lecture Archive.

Materials from the former Arts of the Book Collection focus on printing, papermaking, typography, and other arts that serve the book. Of particular note are the Fritz Kredel Archive, the Carl P. Rollins Printing Library and Papers, the Fritz Eichenberg Archive, the Richard Minsky Archive, and a broad selection of fine press and artists' books, as well as other intriguingly printed and bound items.

Materials from the former Drama Library document theatrical production through photographic prints, production books, scrapbooks, and ephemera. Highlights include the Rollo Peters Archive, the Rockefeller Theatrical Prints Collection, the Doolittle Collection of Japanese Theatre Prints, and the George Pierce Baker Collection.

Hours: Monday-Thursday 10 a.m.-12 pm and 1 p.m.-4 p.m. with reduced hours (afternoons only) during recess and holiday periods.
Location: 180 York Street
Phone: 203 432-1712
Web site: (back to top)

Babylonian Collection

Some 5000 years ago, writing developed in the lower valley of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, and spread from there to the rest of ancient Mesopotamia, approximately present-day Iraq. The writing, called cuneiform (“wedge-shaped”), spread from there over the entire Near East. The Babylonian Collection houses the largest assemblage of cuneiform inscriptions in the United States, and one of the five largest in the world. The bulk of the inscriptions consists of clay tablets in all sizes and shapes. There are also a number of inscribed monuments on stone and other materials, some of considerable artistic interest, including a large collection of stamp and cylinder seals. In addition, the Collection maintains a complete library in the fields of Assyriology (the study of ancient Mesopotamia), Hittitology (ancient Anatolia, roughly equivalent to modern Turkey), and Near Eastern archaeology. It publishes several monograph series through the Yale University Press. The Collection is primarily for the use of students and faculty in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, but it is also open to visiting scholars and to all interested members of the Yale community and the general public.

Hours: Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Location: Sterling Memorial Library, 120 High St., Rooms 318-327
Phone: 203 432-1837
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Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library

The Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library is Yale University’s principal repository for literary papers and for early manuscripts and rare books in the fields of literature, theology, history, and the natural sciences. Beinecke includes the following collections:

> General Collection (Medieval and Renaissance)
> General Collection (Modern)
> Collection of American Literature
> Collection of Western Americana
> Collection of German Literature
> Osborn Collection
> Playing Cards

The Beinecke collections afford opportunities for interdisciplinary research in such fields as medieval, Renaissance, and eighteenth-century studies, art history, photography, American studies, the history of printing, and modernism in art and literature.

Hours: Reading Room: Monday-Thursday, 8:30 a.m.- 8 p.m.; Friday, 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m.; Exhibition area: Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. & Saturdays (when Yale College is in session), 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Location: Beinecke Plaza (corner of Wall and High Streets)
Phone: 203 432-2972
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Divinity Library
Special Collections at the Divinity Library include original and microform archival and manuscript resources related to the following areas:

> Records of Christian missionary activities overseas.
> Records of Protestant Christian religious work among college and university students.
> Personal papers of American clergy, evangelists, and religious leaders, particularly those involved in missions, ecumenical work, or student work, those from the New England area, and those of Congregational background.
> Personal papers of Yale Divinity School faculty, deans, and prominent alumni

The Special Collections department also oversees the library’s rare book, hymnal, Bible, and pamphlet collections.

Hours: Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Location: 409 Prospect Street
Phone: 203 432-5301
Web site: (back to top)

Government Documents

The Center is a depository for documents from the U.S. federal government, Canadian federal government, United Nations, Food and Agriculture Organization, and the European Union.

>Selected government documents are available in the Social Science Library reference collection.
>Government documents housed in the Government Documents & Information Center can be requested through Orbis (the Yale Library catalog) Place Requests function and delivered to any library on campus.
>Government documents not found in Orbis can be requested using this Place Requests form
>Non-Yale affiliates can access Government Documents & Information Center collections in a variety of ways; see here for details.
>More information about accessing the Government Documents & Information Center collections.

Phone: 203 432-3211
Web site: (back to top)

Lewis Walpole Library
The Lewis Walpole Library, a department of Yale University Library, has significant holdings of eighteenth-century English books, manuscripts, prints, drawings, watercolors and paintings. A leading non-circulating research library for English eighteenth-century studies and the prime source for the study of Horace Walpole, it was bequeathed to Yale by Wilmarth Sheldon Lewis (1895-1979), who devoted his life to collecting the letters and works of Horace Walpole (1717-1797) and to editing the Yale Edition of Horace Walpole’s Correspondence, whose 48 volumes opened windows as no other work on the life and culture of Georgian Britain.

Almost every aspect of the eighteenth century is covered by the library's holdings. The centerpiece of the book collections is a considerable portion of Horace Walpole’s own library from his house at Strawberry Hill. The library’s collection of prints and drawings is particularly strong in caricatures, portraits, and topographical views, including more than 13,000 personal and political satirical prints and drawings from the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

Hours: Monday-Friday, 8.30 a.m.-5 p.m., by appointment.
Location: 154 Main Street, Farmington, CT
Phone: 860 677-2140
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Law Library
One of the nation’s top collections of rare law books is housed in the Paskus-Danziger Rare Book Room of the Lillian Goldman Library at the Yale Law School. The collection is particularly strong in Anglo-American common law materials, including case reports, digests, statutes, trials, treatises, and popular works on the law. Other strengths include Roman and canon law, international law (especially the works of Hugo Grotius and Samuel Pufendorf), and early law books from most European countries. Of special interest ...

> The William Blackstone Collection, the world’s largest collection of the works of Sir William Blackstone (1723-1780), author of Commentaries on the Laws of England, the most influential book in the Anglo-American common law tradition.
> The Founders Collection, books once owned by the founders of the Yale Law School (Seth Staples, Samuel Hitchcock, and David Daggett), which formed the original nucleus of the school’s law library.
> The 18th-century law libraries of Lewis Morris, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and John Worthington, an attorney in Springfield, Mass.
> The Walter Pforzeimer Collection of books and manuscripts on copyright.
> Legal manuscripts from the 12th to the 20th centuries, including early treatises, English case reports, early American lawyers’ account books, and 19th-century student notebooks from the law schools at Yale, Columbia, and Litchfield, Connecticut. [Note: legal manuscript collections in Manuscripts and Archives, Sterling Memorial Library.]
> The Roman-Canon Law Collection of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York, on deposit since 2006, totaling over 1,600 volumes.
> Italian municipal statutes from the 14th to the 19th centuries, from Amalfi to Zumelle, in 750 printed volumes and 55 manuscripts.

Hours: Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
Location: Sterling Law Building, 127 Wall St., Level L2, Room 003
Phone: 203 432-4494
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Manuscripts and Archives
Manuscripts and Archives promotes and sustains the research and teaching missions of Yale University by acquiring, preserving, and making available primary source materials to the local, national, and international community. It also serves as the documentary memory of Yale University.

Its collections document a wide array of persons, organizations, and subject areas. Many have a strong link to the university, either to the institution itself; to the faculty, students, alumni, and other members of the Yale community; or to areas in which Yale has had strong teaching and research interests. Manuscripts and Archives also works closely with the University Library’s area curators to collect materials with an international focus.

Major highlights of the collections include holdings related to the United States, Latin America, South Africa, East Asia, the former Soviet Union and the Middle East. For the United States, especially well documented are the fields of social commentary, diplomatic history, legal history, health policy, environmental policy, architecture history, and the history and culture of lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgenders. International collections of note document the history of colonial Latin America, especially Peru and Mexico and the history of southern Africa.

Hours: Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m.-4:45 p.m. (For extended hours during the academic term, see
Location: Sterling Memorial Library, 128 Wall St.
Phone: 203 432-1744
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Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies
This collection of over 4,000 videotaped interviews with witnesses and survivors of the Holocaust, the Fortunoff Video Archive for Holocaust Testimonies is part of Manuscripts and Archives, at Sterling Memorial Library.

Hours: by appointment, Monday - Friday, 8:30 a.m.-4:45 p.m
Location: Sterling Memorial Library, Mss. & Archives, 128 Wall St.
Phone: 203 432-1879
Web site: (back to top)

Law Library
The Collection houses one of the largest university map collections in the country. All types of maps are represented, covering the world from the 15th century to the present. The historical collection includes many landmarks in the history of cartography, and is especially strong in early (pre-1850) maps of the United States.

Hours: Monday-Friday, 1-4 p.m.
Location: Sterling Memorial Library, 120 High St., seventh floor.
Phone: 203-432-8269
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Medical Historical Library
The Library contains a large and unique collection of rare medical books, medical journals to 1920, pamphlets, prints, and photographs, as well as current works on the history of medicine. The library was founded in 1940 by the donations of the extensive collections of Harvey Cushing, John F. Fulton, and Arnold C. Klebs. Special strengths are the works of Hippocrates, Galen, Vesalius, Boyle, Harvey, and S. Weir Mitchell, and works on anesthesia, and smallpox inoculation and vaccination. The Library owns over 300 medical incunabula. The notable Clements C. Fry Print Collection has fine prints and drawings from the 16th century to the present on medical subjects by artists such as Gillray, the Cruikshanks, Hogarth, and Daumier. The Peter Parker Collection contains manuscripts of the 19th century medical missionary Peter Parker and paintings by the artist Lam-Qua of patients at Canton Hospital with pronounced pathological conditions. The Edward Clark Streeter Collection of Weights and Measures is one of the most comprehensive and extensive collections of its kind in the world. Parts of this collection are on permanent display throughout the Library.

Hours: Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
Location: 333 Cedar St.
Phone: 203 785-4354
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Microform Reading Room
In the Microform Reading Room, patrons have access to a vast collection of primary source material, covering a large number of countries and time periods.  Examples of primary sources available in microform include medieval manuscripts, the personal papers of Winston Churchill, U.S. State Department records, and records documenting the crimes of the Khmer Rouge regime.  Users may browse major microfilm collections at  Additionally, a database of newspapers on microfilm can be found here

Hours: Same hours as Sterling Memorial Library
Location: Sterling Memorial Library basement (room 20)
Phone: 203 432-1784
Web site: (back to top)

Music Library Special Collections

In addition to its regular collections of books, scores, periodicals, and recordings, the Irving S. Gilmore Music Library possesses a remarkable array of special collections, including approximately 4,000 linear feet of archival materials, 500 individual music manuscripts, 45,000 pieces of sheet music, and 50,000 photographs. The Library owns a large number of rare books and scores printed before 1850; its holdings are particularly strong in historical treatises on music theory, as well as early publications of opera scores, chamber music, and works for keyboard and plucked-string instruments.

The Music Library’s archival collections emphasize American music (including classical, jazz, and musical theater) and German music between the two World Wars, and feature the papers of Charles Ives, Benny Goodman, Vladimir Horowitz, Kurt Weill and Lotte Lenya, and Virgil Thomson. The Paul Hindemith Collection focuses on the composer’s American years, while the Plaut and Dance Archives contain thousands of photographs of classical and jazz musicians. Individual manuscript holdings include autograph manuscripts by J.S. Bach, Frederic Chopin, Johannes Brahms, Robert Schumann, and Franz Liszt.

Hours: By appointment, Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m-5 p.m.
Location: Sterling Memorial Library, 120 High St.
Phone: 203 432-0497
Web site: (back to top)

Historical Sound Recordings
The Yale Collection of Historical Sound Recordings seeks to collect, preserve, and make available for study historical recordings of performers important in Western classical music, jazz, American musical theater, drama, literature, history, and oratory. HSR holds more than 200,000 recordings in a variety of formats, from the beginning of the recording era to the present. It also contains a library of printed materials and microforms offering information about composers, performers, and the recording industry. HSR administers the American Musical Theatre Collection, which incorporates the Cole Porter and E.Y. Harburg Collections as well as other scores, sheet music, manuscripts, books, memorabilia, and recordings.

Hours: By appointment, Monday-Friday, 1-4:30 p.m.
Location: Sterling Memorial Library, 120 High St.
Phone: 203 432-1795
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Oral History, American Music
Oral History, American Music (OHAM) was founded in 1972, following an oral history project with those who knew and worked with composer Charles Ives. This project originated as an adjunct to the Yale Music Library’s Ives Collection of papers and manuscripts. After the success of the Ives project, OHAM was created to obtain memoirs from American composers and those who knew them. It is the only ongoing project in the field of music dedicated to the collection and preservation of oral and video memoirs directly in the voices of those who make our musical history. In addition to creating these invaluable primary source materials, OHAM functions as an archive where the tapes and transcripts are preserved and made available to a wide range of users.

Hours: By appointment, Monday-Friday, 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.
Location: 310 Prospect Street
Phone: 203 432-1988
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Peabody Museum of Natural History
The Museum’s collections are a major component of the research and teaching activities of the Peabody and Yale. The curators and staff are engaged in contributing new knowledge based on the Museum’s research materials and making this knowledge available to the general public and to specialized audiences. All collections are used in undergraduate and graduate teaching and research, as well as in public programs and exhibitions. The Yale Peabody Museum fills many important roles on the Yale University campus, particularly as it has expanded its role in the community and the region, thereby offering a “front door” to the University for the general public.

The Peabody Museum’s collections are searchable through its online catalogs; see The data presented are exported records from the Museum's internal database systems. See the individual online catalogs for specific details about collections data.

Hours: The Museum is open Monday-Saturday 10:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.; Sunday 12:00-5:00 p.m.
Location: 170 Whitney Avenue
Phone: 203 432-5050
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Yale Center for British Art
The Yale Center for British Art houses the most comprehensive collection of English paintings, prints, drawings, rare books, and sculpture outside Great Britain. Given to Yale University by Paul Mellon, Class of 1929, the Center’s resources illustrate British life and culture from the 16th century to the present. The Photo Archive, located within the Reference Library of the Center, consists of over 200,000 black and white photographs of British art worldwide, with a special focus on holdings in United States, Canadian, and Australian collections. The Center’s Department of Rare Books and Archives houses a rare book collection of approximately 27,000 volumes. The emphasis is on printed and manuscript material relating to the visual arts and cultural life in the United Kingdom and former British Empire from the 17th through the end of the 19th century, although the collection also includes a growing collection of contemporary artists' books.

The Center’s Department of Prints and Drawings houses over 20,000 drawings and watercolors and over 30,000 prints. The collection offers a comprehensive view of the development of British graphic art, with an emphasis on the flowering of the British watercolor school in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Other areas of interest include architectural drawings, topographical prints, caricatures, mezzotint portraits, and Shakespearean subjects.

Some holdings of the Center for British Art are recorded in Orbis, the library online catalog, but many of its holdings are recorded only in its internal database. Contact a collections specialist for assistance.

Hours: Reference Library and Photo Archive are open Tuesday-Friday 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. and Saturdays 1-4:30 p.m. when Yale College is in session; Rare Books/Prints and Drawings Study Room is open Tuesday-Friday, 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m
Location: 1080 Chapel Street (the corner of Chapel and High Streets)
Phone: 203 432-2818 (Reference Library/Photo Archive); 203 432-2841 (Rare Books/Prints & Drawings Study Room)
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Yale University Art Gallery
The Yale University Art Gallery is the oldest college art museum in the United States. Founded in 1832 with the gift by Colonel John Trumbull of his paintings of the American Revolution, the Gallery has grown to include more than 100,000 works of art from virtually every culture from ancient times to the present. Known worldwide for its collections of American art, the Jarves Collection of early Italian paintings, the finds excavated at the ancient Roman city of Dura-Europos, and the Société Anonyme Collection of early twentieth-century European and American art formed by Katherine Dreier and Marcel Duchamp, the Gallery and its collections continue to grow through the generosity of its many donors and friends.

Individual curatorial departments provide access to collections in the following fields: African Art, American Decorative Arts, American Paintings and Sculpture, Ancient Art (including the Mediterranean and the ancient Americas), Asian Art, Coins and Medals, Early European Art, Modern and Contemporary Art, and Prints, Drawings, and Photographs. The museum archives are available by appointment with the archivist.

The YUAG collection database is in its initial phase of public access: Thumbnail images and basic information about more than 35,000 of the 185,000 objects in the collection are available. Eventually, more information will be available for each entry, and the research functions of this tool will be expanded.

Hours: Tuesday through Saturday, 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.; Thursday 10:00 a.m. - 8:00 p.m. (closes at 5:00 p.m. in July and August); Sunday 1:00 - 6:00 p.m.. closed Mondays and major holidays.
Location: Chapel at High Street
Phone: 2203 432-0600
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Yale Collection of Musical Instruments

One of the foremost institutions of its kind, the Collection acquires, preserves, and exhibits musical instruments from antiquity to the present, featuring restored examples in demonstration and live performance. It provides access to and disseminates information about its holdings to Yale students, faculty, and staff; to scholars, musicians, and instrument makers; and to the broader public.

The YCMI collection checklist is available in PDF format:

Hours: September through June: Tuesday through Friday, 1pm-4pm; Sunday, 1-5pm. July and August Closed. The Collection is also closed during the Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Spring recesses.
Location: 15 Hillhouse Avenue
Phone: 203 432-0822
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