Local Libraries


From Worcester To Providence, the collections of rare and special collections is unprecedented. Worcester's American Antiquarian Society's mission continues to "encourage the collection and preservation of the Antiquities of our country, and of curious and valuable productions in Art and Nature [that] have a tendency to enlarge the sphere of human knowledge." In fact, any printed publication from the earliest days of America is considered a goal for the America Antiquarian Society's world renowned collection. The American Antiquarian Society is available to the public after a brief registration form and interview are completed. It is located at 185 Salisbury Street, Worcester, Ma. 01609.

However, the collections of the Providence's Public Library are also significant treasures worth understanding for their broad refection of culture and history of southeastern New England. These sixteen collections, located at 225 Washington Street, Providence, RI 02903-3283,  are carefully  preserved for viewing and research for current and future generations:

1. The Daniel Berkeley Updike Printing Collection - One of most celebrated printer's in American history, Daniel Updike's collection of hand presses, rare books by Giambattista Bodoni, engraved portraits, printing manuals, over 8000 volumes, letters, manuscripts

2. George W. Potter and Alfred Williams Memorial Collection on Irish Culture - Original document from 1918 Easter Rising, known as Ireland's declaration of freedom. Sheet music, books, pamphlets and facsimiles of the Book of Kells and Book of Durrow. Irish folklore, Yeats and other Irish writers. Potter and Williams were benefactors and both former editors of the Providence Journal.

3. Paul C. Nicholson Whaling Collection - 750 logbooks recording the events of 1000 whaling voyages. Everyday routines on board ships with some dramatic occurrences such as mutinies, stowaways and desertions. Prints and photographs of whales, ships, harppons and associated implements. Bequethed by Paul Nicholson in 1956.

4. C. Fiske Harris Civil War and Slavery Collection - Newspaper clippings, Versions of Uncle Tom's Cabin, photos, books, sheet music and letters by Rhode Island soldiers. Printed speeches of Abraham Lincoln and the largest collection at Providence Library.

5. Walter Hammond Barney Whist Collection - 500 volume collection on card game, whist, from 18th-19th centuries. Bequeathed by Barney after his death in 1917. Only known collection of its kind in Nation.

6. The Edith Wetmore Collection of Children's Books - 1850 children's books in twenty languages donated by Newport socialite Edith Wetmore in 1955.  Books range from the fifteenth century to the twentieth century with most of the well known hildren authors represented. Highlights include a 1499 Latin grammar book, a 15th century Bible highly illustrated and the very first, rare edition of Beatrix Potter's Peter Rabbit.

7. The William H. Edwards Collection on Legal History - 1050 books donated by Attorney Wm Edwards, a Providence Lawyer,  in 1968. Most twentieth century books, but some from 17th-19th century. Biographies, British legal classics, more.

8. General Collection of Rare Books - About a thousand rare books of all genre, including a signed book by George Washington on New Hampshire history, LaFontaines 4 volume Fables with illustrations by Jean-Baptiste Oudry and British color-plate books.

9. Edith Wetmore Collection of Illustrated Books - Besides the children's books, Wetmore donated 400 illustrated books, including Don Quixote (Ashedene Press), the Four Gospels (Golden Cockerell Press) and Livres D'Artistes and more.

10. The Edward B. Hanes Checkers Collection - 560 books on checkers dating to 1572, these being Italian and Spanish books on the game.  1923 Bequest by this Oak Bluffs, Ma gent who often attended checker tournaments in Providence

11. The Louis Huntoon Collection of WWI and WWII Posters - 150 mostly American posters (some French and British) on WWI-II given to the library by Louis Huntoon from East Greenwich in 1965

12. The John H. Percival Collection on Magic - 1200 Books on magic with broad collection of photographs, letters, periodicals given to the Library in 1970 by Percival, a Providence magician. Inscriptions on some books by Houdini and Blackstone.

13. The Updike/Arnold Collection of Manuscripts - 800 letters and manuscripts, primarily written by early Rhode Islanders, was given partly by Daniel Berkeley Updike in 1891 and Frederick Arnold in 1893. The Updike collection consists mostly of family letters , many of whom were prominent lawyers and politicians. Rhode Island history comprises most of the Arnold manuscripts.  Fourteen US presidents, several kings and literary figures such as Oliver Wendell Holmes, Henry Wadsowrth Longfellow, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Edgar Rice Burroughs and William Dean Howells.

14. The Alfred Brownell Collection of Ship Models and Books on Maritime History - One of the finest ship builders in America, Alfred Brownell donated models of all Atlantic Coast fishing vessels to the Providence Library beginning in 1947. Eleven models are on display along with rare and beautifully illustrated books.

15. The Updike Pamphlet Collection - 150 pamphlets and 515 rare books from the family estate, mostly from the 17th to mid 19th century. Rhode Island politics, education, theology and law are the prime subjects along with books on the French Indian War, the Boston Massacre, the Dorr War, the Revolutionary War, slavery and suffrage. A 1791 pamphlet describes an account of a trial and execution in Kingston, RI of a famous highwayman containing a dictionary of special language used by highwaymen at the time and of high interest to linguists.

16. The David Wallis Reeves Collection of Band Music - Second only to John Phillips Sousa, Band leader Wallis Reeves contains a large collection of printed and manuscript band music that belonged to the American Band. Also contains autographed manuscripts, including Wallis Reeves own compositions signed and arrangements of works of other composers.


About the Rhode Island Historical Society

Founded in 1822, the Rhode Island Historical Society is a privately endowed, membership organization dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing Rhode Island's history. The nationís fourth-oldest state historical society, the RIHS houses distinguished museum and library collections that comprise more than 20,000 objects and 500,000 written, recorded, and photographed items. From seventeenth-century manuscripts documenting the beginnings of European settlement to the first television news archives established by a U.S. historical society, the collections document four centuries of Ocean State history and its people. To learn more about the RIHS, please visit: http://www.rihs.org


About RIHS Collections

The holdings of the Rhode Island Historical Society constitute the premier collection of materials, in both volume and variety, relating to the history of the state and its people.  From the relics of the original settlers to the archives of the Cool Moose political party, the RIHS collections have something for every research interest.

Museum collections include superb examples of Rhode Island-made furniture, portraits, textiles, industrial, household, and agricultural tools, and esoteric Rhode Island relics.


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