The extensive and varied Special Collections held by the Library range from Colonial Era manuscripts, legal documents and publications through original photographic prints and glass plate negatives to illustrated and annotated early 18th and 19th century volumes, including literary first editions and art and children’s books. These unique, fragile materials, while they provide broad and revealing views of the historical development of Lenox and the surrounding area, are not limited to regional interests. The presence and participation of significant figures such as Nathaniel Hawthorne, Edith Wharton, Andrew Carnegie, Leonard Bernstein and others in Lenox life and activities lend the Special Collections importance and value that transcend the Berkshires. As such, these materials are consulted by scholars, researchers and students from throughout the country. At the same time, the Special Collections are also heavily used by new and local residents seeking to gain a sense of place and understanding of their home.
Fanny Kemble Collection
Famed actress, Fanny Kemble (1809-1903) was one of Lenox’s most celebrated residents. Books, manuscripts and other documents, many of them left to the Library by Mrs. Kemble herself, provide a definitive and comprehensive assembly of materials relating to her life and letters. Of interest not only to researchers, items from the collection are often in demand from other institutions for exhibitions.
The following collections are undergoing archival & organizational review and re-evaluation. For these reasons, they are current unavailable for use. Please contact the executive director for further information.
The Judge Julius Rockwell Collection
This is the Library’s most extensive historical collection, encompassing 18th and 19th century local, state and national history. Among these holdings are a letter to Judge Rockwell from Abraham Lincoln and the original galleys of George H. Tucker’s History of the Town of Lenox.
Elizabeth MacKinstry Collection
Elizabeth MacKinstry, noted children’s author and illustrator, donated her significant collection of illustrated children’s books of the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries to the Lenox Library. The collection also consists of works authored by MacKinstry and subsequent contributions of other historic children’s books.
The Thomas Egleston Collection
The Egleston Collection offers primary and secondary sources on the Pre-Revolutionary history of Massachusetts. Between 200-300 books and pamphlets provide rare documentation of state history. The collection includes books from the library of Daniel Webster.
Archival and Reference Collection
Besides the rich holdings of the special collections, there are additional rare books, manuscripts and ephemera that, due to their fragility and uniqueness, are not part of the circulating collection but are available for use upon request.
The Tanglewood Papers are historical papers documenting the pre-Tanglewood history of the Berkshire Symphonic Festival and the Berkshire Music Center, as well as the founding of Tanglewood and the building of its music pavilion – “The Shed.”
The papers are from the estate of well-known summer resident, Gertrude Robinson Smith, whose fundraising efforts resulted in construction of “The Shed.”
This Collection is available only through appointment with the Music & Reference Librarian.
The Edwin Hale Lincoln Photography Collection
Edwin Hale Lincoln was born in Westminster, Massachusetts in 1848, the son of a Universalist minister. After serving in the Civil War as a drummer boy and a stint as a page in the Massachusetts House of Representatives, Lincoln went into the photographic business in Brockton in 1876. He pioneered photographing yachts under full sail in Newport, Rhode Island and became one of the first photographers to specialize in documenting large estates. He first visited Lenox in 1883 and moved permanently to the area in 1893, just as the Berkshire “Summer Cottages” were reaching their zenith. For the next several decades, Lincoln would capture in remarkable photographs not only the grandeur and scale of the estates but also their fragility and impermanence.
At the same time, Lincoln began a 20 year labor of love – an extensive photographic study of New England wild flowers. In 1914, he published his photographs in a handmade, small-edition folio of platinum prints called Wild Flowers of New England. Lincoln’s wildflower studies were widely used in university botany departments and in schools of fine art. He also made studies of trees, orchids, and landscapes. Lincoln photographed with an 8 x 10 view camera and printed primarily on platinum paper.
The Library’s collection consists of 745 original glass plate and film negatives of the Berkshire estates, as well as a complete set of study prints. In addition, the Library has one of the few remaining sets of Wild Flowers of New England.
Click here to print a copy of the application form for reproduction rights.
The Local History Photograph Collection
This collection contains more than 300 original prints dating from the earliest days of the use of the medium in the 19th century. Unlike the Lincoln Collection, the majority of these images capture the full dimensions of life in 19th Century Lenox, ranging from the wealthiest to the most ordinary inhabitants.