Collection Overview

The University Archives documents the administration and activities of Wesleyan University since its founding in 1831. The Archives includes material in a variety of formats from presidents, faculty, student groups, departments, and more.  In addition to Wesleyan’s institutional records, SC&A also has several major collections of personal papers, including those of Henry Bacon, John Cage, and William Manchester.  Another significant group of papers, the Collection on Legal Change, highlights people and organizations that shaped U.S. public policy in the 20th century. SC&A also holds local history materials about Middletown and the surrounding area.

Wesleyan’s over 30,000-volume rare book collection ranges from medieval manuscript codices and early printed books (circa 1455-1505) to 21st-century fine press and artists’ books, and covers numerous formats, including books, pamphlets, broadsides, and maps.   The core of the rare book collection was donated to the University by George W. Davison (class of 1892) from his personal collection, featuring numerous incunabula, the four Shakespeare folios, and first editions from notable authors including Milton, Dickens, Austen, Byron, Shelley, the Brontës, and others.  SC&A also holds the collections of other significant donors, such as Frank Kirkwood Hallock (class of 1882), Leonard Baskin, Caroline Clark Barney (class of 1895), Hugh Lancelot Beales, and Nathan Comfort Starr.  More recent acquisitions have focused on fine press and artists’ books – books that are unusual or special in both their form and content.  These works of art challenge conventional understandings of the book format, and often tackle social and political issues.