Collection Development Statement

Last updated July 2020


The libraries of Johns Hopkins University (founded 1876) encompass three historically discrete rare book and manuscript library collections: Special Collections in the Milton S. Eisenhower Library (MSEL), the George Peabody Library (GPL), and the John Work Garrett Library (JWG).

Special Collections at MSEL represent primarily a consolidation of rare books formerly held within the university’s long-standing humanities departmental libraries: Near Eastern Studies, Classics, History, History of Art, History of Science & Technology, German & Romance Languages & Literatures, English, and Philosophy. These collections have been augmented in recent decades with abundant collections of early (pre-1800) materials gathered by private collectors as well as by antiquarian booksellers, including: the Arthur Machen Collection of incunabula and early imprints; the Dr. Elliott and Eileen Hinkes Collection of Rare Books in the History of Scientific Discovery; the Arthur and Janet Freeman Bibliotheca Fictiva Collection in the history of literary forgery; and the Women of the Book Collection on the religious culture of early modern women. Early imprints held by the Institute for the History of Medicine are administered by the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, rather than the Sheridan Libraries, though individual records of these books are accessible through the main Sheridan Libraries on-line catalogue.

The George Peabody Library is a spectacular architectural space and collection, originally founded in 1857 as a universal public research library in Baltimore, and built up steadily over more than 150 years. Its primary strengths in early books include incunabula and sixteenth-century imprints, natural history, travels and voyages, atlases, archaeology, Spanish Golden Age literature, and museum history. The John Work Garrett Library was originally private rare book collection gathered by two generations of the Garrett family of Baltimore, primarily between the 1880s and early 1940s, which are housed in the historic Evergreen mansion a few miles from the Homewood campus. Its strengths include early manuscripts and incunabula, rare books of the New World discovery, natural history (particularly ornithology), early Marylandiana, and folio illustrated plate books. The library also houses the Tudor & Stuart Club Collection of English Renaissance literature, the Julius Hoffmann Bible Collection, and the Laurence Hall Fowler Collection of architectural history.

To read more about these various collections, see Earle Havens (ed., with Prof. Walter Stephens, JHU), Literary Forgery in Early Modern Europe, 1450-1800 (2019); Havens (ed.), Bibliomania: 150 Years of Collecting Rare Books at the George Peabody Library (2017); Havens and Abigal Sia, “‘A Memorial to My Family’: The Story of the John Work Garrett Library,” in Evergreen, the Garrett Family, Collectors & Connoisseurs: The Evergreen Museum & Library (2017), 157-97; Havens, Renaissance Printers’ Devices: Essays on the Early Arts of Printing & the King Memorial Windows of Johns Hopkins University (2015); Havens (ed.), Fakes, Lies, and Forgeries: Rare Books and Manuscripts from the Arthur and Janet Freeman Bibliotheca Fictiva Collection (2014; 2nd ed., 2016); Havens (ed.), The Dr. Elliot and Eileen Hinkes Collection of Books in the History of Scientific Discovery at Johns Hopkins University (2011); Elizabeth Baer, The Fowler Architectural Collection of the Johns Hopkins University (1961; rpt. 1991)

Departments/Disciplines/Programs/Subject Areas Supported

The early book and manuscript collections (pre-1800) at JHU reflect the strengths of the humanities departments around which they were built, and continue to support, in particular: Modern Languages & Literatures, Classics, Near Eastern Studies, History, History of Art, History of Science & Technology, and English. The collections are also rich in the history of museums, and provide significant support to the Museums and Society undergraduate program.

Formats Collected

Formats and materials acquired generally:

  • Imprints (incunabula to late hand-press period)
  • Manuscripts consist mainly of scribally produced codices and, exceptionally, individual items (i.e., letters, literary fragments, etc.)
  • Printed ephemera

Formats and materials collected selectively or by request:

  • Early periodicals and publications of learned societies (Royal Society, etc.)
  • Juvenalia
  • Medieval and Renaissance lluminated manuscripts
  • Philosophy
  • Bibliography

Languages Collected

Early books are collected primarily in Latin, some ancient Greek, also Italian, French, Spanish, some Dutch and German.

Chronological and Geographic Focus

Emphasis is generally placed on 16th-18th c. scholarly humanist and historical works—particularly those related to classical antiquity and its Renaissance reception—as well as influential works of early modern vernacular literature, natural philosophy, and the material histories of books.

Special areas of focus include the history of forgery, early modern women religious, pre-1700 printed ephemera, the history of museums and libraries, and architecture.


  • Virginia Fox Stern Center for the History of the Book in the Renaissance (Sheridan Libraries)
  • Charles S. Singleton Center for the Study of Premodern Europe (Krieger School of Arts & Sciences)
  • Grass Humanities Institute (Krieger School of Arts & Sciences)
  • Museums & Society Program (undergraduate minor, Krieger School of Arts & Sciences)

Subject Librarian

Joshua Everett
Librarian for Anthropology, Sociology, and Area Studies
(410) 516-1231