Wall of six paintings.

Special Collections

The Athenaeum maintains its special collections to preserve and document the past, to foster delight and wonder and to cultivate an appreciation for excellence in the making of books and art.

Our special collections cover most aspects of the humanities over the whole span of recorded history, from ancient textual artifacts to the latest artists’ books and fine prints.

We hold these rare and significant materials in trust for the understanding and enjoyment of patrons today and for those in generations to come.

By providing access, we enable members and researchers to experience a tangible connection with history, whether for curiosity’s sake, as part of a systematic effort to produce new knowledge, or as inspiration for creativity or critical conversations.

Special Collections
Rare books on display

Rare Books, Maps & Manuscripts

The Library’s collections include author collections featuring the works of Lord Byron, John Masefield, T. S. Eliot, and John Fowles, and an extensive collection on the art of the book including bookbinding, fine printing, and contemporary artists’ books. Learn More

Water color of two pink and one white flamingos at waters edge.

Prints, Drawings & Photographs

The Boston Athenaeum houses a nationally recognized collection of prints, photographs, and drawings dating from the eighteenth century to the present. Learn More

Research our Archives

This archive provides a complete and unbroken record of Boston’s cultural development from 1792 to the present day. Learn More