Historical manuscripts collection
Held at: Free Library of Philadelphia: Rare Book Department [Contact Us]Philadelphia, PA, 19103
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Free Library of Philadelphia: Rare Book Department. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
Overview and metadata sections
This is a varied collection of historical manuscripts obtained by the Free Library of Philadelphia. The collection dates from 1347 to 1969 and is primarily an autograph collection. Material by any one constituent is limited.
This is a collection of historical documents written or signed by notable historical figures. It covers the years 1347-1969. The bulk of the collection dates between 1775 and 1885. The collection includes American, British, and European materials; the majority of the items are American. There are typewritten transcriptions of some of the letters in the collection.
Among the American historical documents and letters include items signed by Neil Armstrong, Nicholas Biddle, John Wilkes Booth, C. W. Camac, Silas Deane, Albert Einstein, Ira Gershwin, Oliver Wendell Homes, John Paul Jones, Tadeusz Kosciuszko, Marquis de Lafayette, Benjamin Franklin, Henry Lee, Joseph Leidy, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Abbott Lawrence Lowell, Charles Mann, Gouverneur Morris, Robert Morris, William Penn, Benjamin Franklin, William T. Sherman, Bushrod Washington, William White, and Oliver Wolcott. The most recent document in the collection is a typewritten letter from Neil Armstrong to Emerson Greenaway.
In addition to the American materials, the collection includes British and European documents. These include letters of kings and queens of England (Anne, Charles I, Charles II, Edward VII, George II, George III, George IV, George V, James I, James II, Victoria, William III, and William IV); Oliver Cromwell; Horatio Nelson; Napoleon; Vicomte de Chateaubriand; and Jenny Lind. The oldest document in the collection is a fourteenth century deed concerning a parish church in Shropshire.
The nature of the collection makes the possible uses for the collection as a whole limited. However, because of the historical importance of the writers, the likelihood that any individual item could be of interest to researchers is high. The John Jay letters constitute a small but rich set of historically important documents.
Materials are arranged in alphabetical order by author, and then by chronological order.
This collection includes materials donated by Seymour Adelman, W. Atlee Burpee Jr., Richard A. Gimbel, and Kathleen M. Montgomery, among others.
Finding aid entered into the Archivists' Toolkit by Garrett Boos.
- Adams, John Quincy, 1767-1848
- Adams, John, 1735-1826
- Albemarle, George Monck, Duke of, 1608-1670
- Aldrin, Buzz
- Anne, Queen of Great Britain, 1665-1714
- Armstrong, Neil
- Baldwin, Henry, 1780-1844
- Biddle, Nicholas, 1786-1844
- Booth, John Wilkes, 1838-1865
- Boyd, John
- Bruff, Joseph Goldsborough, 1804-1889
- Buchanan, James, 1791-1868
- Burnet, Robert
- Butler, Pierce, 1744-1822
- Carroll, Daniel, 1764-1849
- Charles I, King of England, 1600-1649
- Charles II, King of England, 1630-1685
- Charles III, Duke of Savoy, 1486-1553
- Chateaubriand, François-René, vicomte de, 1768-1848
- Cromwell, Oliver, 1599-1658
- Deane, Silas, 1737-1789
- Dessalines, Jean-Jacques, 1758-1806
- Dix, John A. (John Adams), 1798-1879
- Drayton, Stephen, 1736-1810
- Eaton, William, 1764-1811
- Edward VII, King of Great Britain, 1841-1910
- Einstein, Albert, 1879-1955
- Emerson, Frederick, 1788-1857
- Fairfax, Thomas Fairfax, Lord, 1692-1782
- Fisher, George Park, 1827-1909
- Franklin, Benjamin, 1706-1790
- Gaine, Hugh, 1726-1807
- George II, King of Great Britain, 1683-1760
- George III, King of Great Britain, 1738-1820
- George IV, King of Great Britain, 1762-1830
- George V, King of Great Britain, 1865-1936
- Gershwinn, Irad, 1896-1983
- Gillmore, Quincy Adams, 1825-1888
- Gratz, Simon, 1840-1925
- Hamilton, Alexander, 1757-1804
- Hayes, Rutherford Birchard, 1822-1893
- Hopkinson, Joseph, 1770-1842
- Huntington, Samuel, 1731-1796
- James I, King of England, 1566-1625
- James II, King of England, 1633-1701
- Jefferson, Thomas, 1743-1826
- Jeffrey, Francis Jeffrey, Lord, 1773-1850
- Kosciuszko, Tadeusz, 1746-1817
- Lafayette, Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert Du Motier, marquis de, 1757-1834
- Lear, Tobias, 1762-1816
- Leidy, Joseph, 1823-1891
- Lewis , George Cornewall, Sir, 1806-1863
- Lind, Jenny, 1820-1887
- Lowell, A. Lawrence (Abbott Lawrence), 1856-1943
- Mann, Charles
- Mary, Queen, consort of George V, King of Great Britain, 1867-1953
- Mitchell, Langdon Elwyn, 1862-1935
- Montagu, Edward, Earl of Manchester, 1602-1671
- Napoleon I, Emperor of the French, 1769-1821
- Nelson, Horatio Nelson, Viscount, 1758-1805
- Norfolk, Thomas Howard, Duke of, 1473-1554
- O’Connell, Daniel, 1775-1847
- Paulding, James Kirke, 1778-1860
- Penn, John, 1700-1746
- Penn, William, 1644-1718
- Penn, William, Sir, 1621-1670
- Perit, Pelatiah, 1785-1864
- Pierpont, John, 1785-1866
- Pike, Albert, 1809-1891
- Preble, Edward, 1761-1807
- Spain. Sovereign, Ferdinand V and Isabella I, 1479-1504
- Trumbull, Jonathan, 1740-1809
- Victoria, Queen of Great Britain, 1819-1901
- Watkins, Franklin Chenault, 1894-1972
- Wilde, Richard Henry, 1789-1847
- William III, King of England, 1650-1702
- William IV, King of Great Britain, 1765-1837
- Wister, William, 1803-1881
- Free Library of Philadelphia: Rare Book Department
- Finding Aid Date
- The creation of the electronic guide for this collection was made possible through generous funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, administered through the Council on Library and Information Resources’ “Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives” Project.
- Access Restrictions
This collection is open for research use.
- Use Restrictions
The right of access to material does not imply the right of publication. Permission for reprinting, reproduction, or extensive quotation from the rare books, manuscripts, prints, or drawings must be obtained through written application, stating the use to be made of the material. The reader bears the responsibility for any possible infringement of copyright laws in the publication of such material. A reproduction fee will be charged if the material is to be reproduced in a commercial publication.
Adams agrees to purchase books for Wilson, and writes of the report of a constitution for Massachusetts, the loss of Charlestown, the atmosphere in England and other political matters.
Cosigned by Geo. Brewster. With seals.
Cosigned by John McLean. With seals.
Cosigned by Alpheus Brewster. With seals.
On NASA letterhead.
Countersigned by Sir Charles Hedges. On vellum. Two seals removed.
Countersigned by five Commissioners of the Treasury. With embossed seals. Detached frontispiece portrait of Queen Anne laid in.
Countersigned by Dartmouth. Seal laid in.
On NASA letterhead. Dates stamped, possibly by recipient.
Another autograph document signed from John McCully to Morgan, Decr. 10. 1781, at foot, and two Autograph documents, receipts to Dr. Morgan, on verso: from William Little, Decr. 11. 1781, and from John Boyd, Decr. 15. 1781.
Sketches and watercolors in text.
Requests Schell to forward a letter to another unspecified person.
Burnett was James Alan Montgomery's sixth great grandfather, and one of the proprietors of East Jersey.
Also signed by Blaize Cenas and Hilary Baker, Mayor of Philadelphia.
Autograph letter signed to C.W. Camac from Thompson Westcott, Oct 23 1880, enclosing a list of additions to the genealogy, laid in. Autograph letter signed to C.W. Camac from P.P.G. Hall, 18 Mch 81, laid in.
Inquiring about the terms for insuring some houses in Washington.
In Latin. On vellum. Seal removed.
Countersigned with an illegible signature. On vellum. With seal.
Latin text. On vellum. Seal removed. Engraved portrait of Charles II laid in.
Countersigned by three Commissioners.
Text in Latin. Seal removed. Torn in two.
Text in French
Four autograph notes signed running down left side of document. Document printed in Philadelphia, by B. Franklin and D. Hall.
Signed "Oliver P." On vellum. With seal.
A pessimistic letter describing the unpopularity of America in France; and discusses the speculation of a truce or peace with England. A deciphered letter (said to be in James Wilson's hand by Julian P. Boyd, of the New York Historical Society, March 1937). This letter is on the recto; another deciphered letter, of 1 Dec 1780, begins on the verso. Modern transcription laid in.
A pessimistic letter describing American affairs abroad as being in "the worst possible state". Discusses Americans visiting London being arrested as spies and England's sending 10,000 troops to America. "Mr. Dean's letters shown to the minister of France," in Wilson's hand on the verso. A deciphered letter said to be in James Wilson's hand by Julian P. Boyd, New York Historical Society, March 1937. This letter begins on the verso of a page, the recto of which is another deciphered letter, dated 9 October 1780. Modern transcription laid in.
"Copie De la lettre envoyee par un courrier extraordinaire au General du chef." -- at head. In French.
U.S. senator and secretary of the Treasury under Buchanan. Civil war general.
Bookseller's description attached.
Recipient's name effaced.
Signed by registrar at the College of Arms. Colored photograph of King Edward when Prince of Whales laid in.
Text in German. The book was the first edition at Napier's Rabdologiae; cf. Wolf, E. Rosenbach, page 380.
Western Union night letter.
On vellum. With seal.
On vellum. With seal.
On vellum. With seal.
Cosigned by Noah Porter and Thomas A. Thacher. Autograph note by Ely at head of fourth page.
On vellum. With seal.
On vellum. Seal removed. Hand-colored engraved portrait of George II laid in.
Text in German. Unidentified recipient.
Printed form. On vellum. Seal removed.
Signed by C. Jenkinson.
Text in German. Unidentified recipient.
Signed by Portland. With seal.
Text in German. Unidentified recipient. With seal. Portrait of the Prince Regent laid in.
Signed by Kenneth Alexander Howard, Deputy Earl Marshall.
Signed by George Canning. On vellum. With seal.
Signed by Edward.
Signed by Mary L. Ferguson.
Signed by Archbald M. Gilchrist. On vellum. Text surrounded by hand-colored printed historiated border.
Another exercise, signed "S.G.", laid in.
Offers criticism and corrections on Morton's book on anatomy.
Agreement relating to a partnership between James Wilson, Colonel Bird and Robert Hooper covering lands near the Falls of Lackawaxon, Pennsylvania
Refers to his speech at the 1944 Republican Convention in which he stated his desire not to participate in the campaign, unless absolutely necessary.
Written while riding circuit, which he feels impossible to continue; suggests taking a voluntary reduction in salary to obtain relief from circuit duty.
Countersigned by James Stuart with five other illegible signatures at foot. Seal removed. Engraved portrait of James I laid in.
Countersigned with an illegible signature at foot.
Countersigned by Sunderland. Transcription laid in.
In French. Signed "Jacques R." With seal. Engraved portrait of "Jacques II" laid in.
Discusses a financial matter and comments on his "enjoying in full draughts those rural scenes" along with "a great deal of active industry and exercise."
Countersigned by James Madison and David Gelston. On vellum. With seal.
Countersigned by James Madison and William R. Lee. Autograph note signed by William R. Lee, Salem, May 31, 1809, recording Samuel B. Ingersoll as new master. On vellum. Lower left corner cut away, with loss of seal and text.
Complains that progress on building him a new ship is so slow that he will see no action the remainder of the war. Quotes other authors on the tactical navy - in French and English.
Autograph note by Thomas Jefferson on verso, dating letter. Photocopy of typewritten letter signed from Julian B. Boyd, verifying letter, laid in.
In French. With seal.
Ownership stamp of Harrold E. Gillingham at foot.
Introduces his friend, Mr. Pierce, who has land he is interested in selling.
Signed by Victoria. Mourning stationery.
Signed by the witnesses Wachsmuth, Carre, Dobignee and Lelong. With seal. A printed document, certifying Lohra as a notary public, and signed by Thomas Mifflin and James Trimble, is attached with a seal.
Cut signature of William White pasted to verso.
On the stationery of Harvard University.
On the stationery of Harvard University.
On the stationery of Harvard University.
Mourning stationery. Newspaper obituary notice of Anna Parker Lowell laid in.
Acknowledges receipt of Gideon's edition of "The Federalist."
Contains copies of five letters from Charles Mann to Horace Mann, one letter from Charles Mann to Constant Guillon, three letters from W. P. Mann to Horace Mann, one letter from Richard Mann to Horace Mann, and one letter from Richard Mann to Constant Guillon. An original autograph letter signed from Charles Mann to Constant Guillon, London, July 1, 1844, is laid in.
Author Obituary: Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club, Volume 20, Number 3 (Mar. 15, 1893), pages 98-100
Signed "Victoria Mary of Teck."
Civil war general.
Civil war general.
Signed "T. Melvill," and printed thus on document. Countersigned by B. Lincoln, collector.
Signed "T. Melvill," and printed thus on document. Countersigned with an illegible signature at foot.
Signed by T. Morris Perot, President, and Jn. H. Watt, Treasurer. Signed on verso by Geo H. Hill, Administrator of Estate of Seth Collins Brace.
Signed by John F. Lewis, President, and possibly Edmund Smyth.
Writes seeking compensation in money or land for himself and his friends for intelligence work done during the war.
Also signed by A.J. Dallas, Secretary, who was late Secretary of the Treasury under Madison.
Signed "Albemarle." Countersigned by H. Hawley.
Signed "Albemarle". Date appears as 22d. Oct. 1661, on verso.
Reports that the western Indians were uneasy and dissatisfied at the failure to make a treaty and urges that Congress cultivate their friendship and thus keep the border quiet. He also reports troop movements and asks that Congress reimburse the local committee for its heavy expenses in outfitting the troops.
Note requesting delivery of powder and lead to Captain Pegman.
"Let the Bearer have 4 quarts of Salt."
Discusses his handling of Robert Morris's finances.
Acknowledges receipt of Morris's letter; states that the Dover Estate was sold 6 weeks before and comments that while Paris may be dangerous, he feels it best to remain at present.
Page four only. Discusses in the post script the need for haste in making up the titles for Dover estate.
Integral with autograph letter (duplicate) to Morris, Sainport, 9 July 1793, (2 pages). Discusses Paine's conspiracy against him, and his hopes that he will survive and not be recalled.
Integral with Morris's autograph letter signed to Robert Morris, Sainport, 25 June 1793. Discusses finances of Robert Morris's investments abroad.
An incomplete letter stating that he has received no word from the United States in 6 months; expects to be recalled and speaks in a detached way about how it is difficult to perform his duties with no support from his country.
Advises Wilson, if he wishes to come home, to do so at night, with a companion who will take his horse to Morris's stable, so as not to attract attention arriving on horseback.
Advises Wilson that things are calmer and the military has dispersed but that he shouldn't come home yet.
Advises Wilson not to come near the city, but should go to a safe place, perhaps New Jersey.
Discusses the day's events and advises Wilson about places to hide in New Jersey.
Informs Wilson of his acceptance of the office of commissioner "for carrying into effect the ordinance respecting, the Federal Town" (District of Columbia). Also discusses the inability of the government to float its loan on a satisfactory basis.
Discusses his inability to pay his debt to Hall, due to the poor real estate market resulting from the war in Europe.
Form concerning payment of money dated 1 Aug. 1795, signed by William Nicholson.
Letter to one of his ship captains discussing freight and business.
Signed and sealed by Lascelles Metcalfe, Metcalfe Russell, William Baker and David Barclay, trustees. Signed by Juliana Penn, Hannah Penn, and Richard Penn, witnesses and relatives of John Penn and Granville Penn, the beneficiaries. Signed by the lawyer, James Seton.
Autograph note at head in unidentified hand.
Signed "Bronte Nelson."
Signed "Nelson & Bronte."
Signed "Nelson & Bronte." Envelope addressed in Nelson"s hand and signed "N & B", with seal.
Engraved portrait of O'Connell, and transcription of letter, attached.
Complaints concerning the First AME Church.
Autograph note signed from Maggie Mitchell, March 4th 1917, enclosed 57-0382.
Signed by John Penn as governor of Pennsylvania.
Signed by Charles Marshall, Charles Jones Junior, Philip Fford, Thomas Holmes and Ben. Griffith, witnesses. Autograph note signed by Pat. Robinson, 29th: 5th Mon: 1684 on verso, recording the deed in the Office of Rolls at Philadelphia, on verso. With seal.
Signed on verso by Ben Griffith, Herbert Springett, Junior and John Coxe, witness. On vellum. With seal.
Signed also by Captains John Lawson, John Mildmay, Joseph Gordon, Robert Saunders, Ben Blake, Sam Howett, and Andrew Ball. Engraved portrait of Lawson laid in.
Signed by Joseph Allen, Mord. Lewis and William Griffin. Numbered in Allen's hand as "24054." "Printed by Hall and Sellers" -- on verso.
Autograph document signed, receipt for payment by Albert Eisenhauer, signed by Charles Gleim, January 23d 1819, on verso.
Document signed by various officials, including R. T. Conrad, Mayor of Philadelphia, on 3rd. September 1855, in accepting the summons.
Signed by Mordecai Lewis. Autograph note signed by William Linton, recording entry in the Rolls Office, April 9th 1793, on verso. With two seals.
Engraved portrait of Preble attached to mount.
Transcription laid in.
Civil war general.
Cosigned by Richard Bingley and P. Buck. Modern notations in blue ink.
Discusses professional expertise of a person named Trentyn, some legal papers which he needs sent to him, and the inadequate way Pennsylvania conducts its business in the Union.
Signed by Robert Morris, 1734-1806, as president. Daniel Rundle, as treasurer, and Assheton Humphreys, as secretary. With ribbon and seal.
Signed by both Ferdinand and Isabella. Text in Spanish. With seal.
Announces the surrender of Cornwallis, this letter being the first news of the surrender to reach Philadelphia.
Abel and James Thomas, Pennsylvania Quakers, were charged with treason for having traveled into British territory, in New York and Long Island, without proper passports, while visiting Quaker meetings. They were found innocent and set free. Signed by Livingston, President of the Council of Safety, State of New Jersey.
Author unidentified. In Latin. On vellum. Seal removed but vellum tag still attached.
On vellum, with ribbon and seal. Signed by William Shippen, John Andrews, Adam Kuhn, James Davidson, Benjamin Rush, Robert Patterson, James Hutchinson, William Rogers, Caspar Wistar, Justus Henry Christian, Samuel Powel Griffitts, William Smith, Benjamin Smith Barton, James Wilson.
Cosigned by Graham with seal.
Countersigned with two illegible signatures. With seal.
Cosigned with an illegible signature. With seal.
Thanks for his law instruction, discusses his plans for legal practice in Virginia and asks Wilson to refer him business in the area.
Discusses the recovery of real estate on which taxes had not been paid and seeks a recommendation for a new Bishop of Virginia.
Discusses attempts to retrieve land of White's which had been seized for non-payment of taxes.
Integral address leaf detached with seal. Letter accompanying his gift of $250 to help the needy of the city of Philadelphia.
Pasted on board. Tells White to provide whatever explanation he sees fit concerning Washington's gift for the needy of Philadelphia.
Congratulates Wilson on the completion of the Constitution and his appointment as Chief Justice of the U.S. (actually he was an associate justice). Asks for an appointment for a friend and one for himself.
Letter full of household news to her husband in London.
Quick note to Wilson before sailing to England.
Copy of writing pasted on the back of a picture of his grandmother. Integral with biography of White's grandfather.
Copy of writing pasted on the back of a picture of his grandfather. Integral with biography of White's grandmother.
Copy of writing pasted on the back of a picture of his mother.
Copy of writing pasted on the back of a picture of his father.
Address and prayer given at laying of cornerstone for a monument to George Washington in Philadelphia. Cut signature attached to third page.
White replies to a number of questions regarding his personal and professional life.
Reply to his granddaughter's discussion of anti-slavery agitation, as well as greetings to family and friends in Baltimore.
Cut signature of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow pasted to verso.
Cosigned by William Blathwayt.
Declares his affection for her, his desire for her happiness, his pleasure in corresponding with her, and his fears that her feelings may not match his own. Laid in with 91-0118.
Declares his love for her, his desire for her happiness, and his regrets that her feelings may not match his own.
Declares his love and affection and proposes a way for her to send him a letter.
Wishing White a fond farewell before sailing for England.
Discusses acquisition of furniture in preparation for their marriage.
Informs Adams that he has been nominated Advocate General for the French Nation in the United States. Requests Adams to buy a library of history and law books for him. Comments on his pleasure in hearing of the plan for a constitution of Massachusetts.
Writes asking of her and the health of their children, asks her to send his nomination and commission to sit in Congress to him, since he has forgotten it.
Asks a business associate to act on his behalf concerning some real estate.
Gives power of attorney to Bird Wilson.
Asks Bird to deliver a letter to Mr. Thomas and ask for advice concerning real estate debts.
Asks questions and requests information concerning the status of his debt with his creditors.
Informs his friend that he is deeply in love, but has been rejected by Miss Rachel Bird. Asks White to sound out Rachel (who was a friend of White's sweetheart, Miss Harrison), on how matters stand. Typewritten transcription of letter laid in.
Grants power of attorney to Bird Wilson.
Expresses her concern since he has been gone for three weeks and she has not heard from him.
Reports on the illness of Polly and that he has a visitor from Scotland who is awaiting his return.
Declines honorary membership in The American Oriental Society.