Skip Navigation Links The Library of Congress >> Researchers
Manuscript Reading Room (Library of Congress)
  Home >> Publications

Manuscript Division Publications



General Catalogs and Acquisition Reports

Online Public Access Catalog

The Library’s Online Public Access Catalog (OPAC) serves as the basic guide to the division's collections. Every collection held in the Manuscript Division is represented by a record in the catalog which includes information on the following:

  • Title or creator of the collection
  • Size, dates, and type of material
  • Data about the person or organization featured in the collection
  • Brief summary of the collection's scope and content
  • Controlled listing of the principal subjects and people represented

The catalog is updated daily and may be accessed from terminals throughout the Library and from remote locations through the Internet. As with any catalog, the amount of information given for each collection is limited and touches only on the major topics and correspondents. Primarily a browsing device, the catalog is useful for locating the most likely sources on a topic and for providing an overview of the division's holdings.

Search Strategies

When searching for manuscript material in the Library's online catalog, keep in mind the following options and strategies:

  • Limit your search to manuscript records only, or search for manuscript material in conjunction with a broader search of the Library's books and other formats.
  • Become familiar with the Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH). The search strategies and subject terms used in locating manuscript records are the same as those for books and other general collections.
  • Search not only by name, title, and subject, but also keyword. Various types of keyword searches are useful for locating words and phrases in the summary scope and content notes of manuscript records, including the “natural language” version of words for which the arcane subject headings may not be readily apparent.
  • Keyword searching is also a good way of finding collections that contain certain types of manuscript material that are sometimes themselves the focus of a research project, such as diaries, ships' logs, speeches, account books, and so on.
  • Cast a wide net. For example, when researching an individual, search not only for that person's name but also for the names of family members, friends, colleagues, organizations, and anyone else with whom he or she may have corresponded.
  • Searches by occupation and subject are also helpful in identifying collections related to the individual you are researching.
  • Locating individuals by their religious or ethnic identities is often difficult, unless those aspects of people's lives so permeated their papers as to be obvious subject headings to the processing archivist or cataloger. When searching for collections by race or ethnicity of the creator, you may find it helpful to supplement your catalog search with a search of available printed guides.

Overcoming the Catalog's Limitations

Keep in mind that when doing manuscript research, you will likely need to consult collections not because of any interest per se in the creator of those materials but because the creator may have had an association with events and activities that are the real focus of your research. The catalog record, however, cannot describe the entire scope and diversity of the creator's experiences, nor can it identify all of the people, events, or subjects represented in a given collection. It distills in a few paragraphs the information contained in a multipage finding aid, which in turn is only a summary description of the documents that make up the collection. Even when a search of the catalog is unpromising, a follow-up search of collection finding aids may yield results.

Published lists and descriptions of the division's holdings include the following:

U.S. Library of Congress. Handbook of Manuscripts. Washington, 1918. 750 pp. This volume is a comprehensive, thoroughly indexed guide to those collections in the division's custody at the time of its publication. Although now much out of date, the 1918 Handbook, as it is known, provides useful descriptions of many of the collections received in the division's early decades.

________. List of Manuscript Collections in the Library of Congress to July 1931. Compiled by Curtis W. Garrison. Washington, 1932. (Reprinted by the Library from the American Historical Association, Annual Report, 1930, vol. 1, pp. 123-249.) Updates the 1918 Handbook.

________. List of Manuscript Collections Received in the Library of Congress July 1931 to July 1938. Compiled by C. Percy Powell. Washington, 1939. (Reprinted by the Library from the American Historical Association, Annual Report, 1937, vol. 1, pp. 115-45.) Updates the 1918 Handbook and the Garrison list.

________. Annual Report of the Librarian of Congress. Washington, 1897 to date. See especially those reports of manuscript acquisitions for the period from July 1938 to July 1943 to fill the gap between the Powell list and the Quarterly Journal.

________. Quarterly Journal of the Library of Congress. Washington, 1943-83. (Before 1964 titled Quarterly Journal of Current Acquisitions.) Contains lists of manuscript acquisitions and articles about specific collections.

________. Manuscript Division. Library of Congress Acquisitions: Manuscript Division. Washington, 1981 to 1995. Describes acquisitions annually beginning with the calendar year 1979.

________. Manuscript Division. Library of Congress Manuscripts: An Illustrated Guide. Washington, 1993. 64 pp. An introductory chapter discusses the historical and cultural significance of manuscripts, provides a brief history of the Manuscript Division, and describes the division's acquisitions, processing, and reference functions. Subsequent chapters, devoted to specific themes, describe and illustrate some of the division's many treasures.

Top of Page


Published Finding Aids for Personal Papers and Organizational Records

Since about 1950, finding aids (also known as registers) have been prepared to describe and facilitate the use of the larger collections in the Manuscript Division. More than nineteen hundred finding aids have been prepared and are available for research use in the reading room. Although finding aids occasionally vary in format according to the nature of the collection, most include information on the provenance of the collection, a scope and content note, brief biographical details about the person or family covered, a description of the various series or groups of manuscripts in the collection, and a container list. The container list normally describes the contents by folder title. A few finding aids contain partial or complete name indexes to the correspondence contained in the collection.

Between 1958 and the 1970's, a limited number of finding aids were selected for publication each year. They were printed in small editions, and single copies distributed free of charge to libraries on request. The finding aids are designed to acquaint a scholar with the nature of a collection before a research trip or to facilitate a photoduplication order. Most of the printed finding aids have been updated and over 900 are now online at http://www.loc.gov/rr/mss/f-aids/mssfa.html. Electronic versions of finding aids not online are available upon request from Manuscript Division reference staff.

Top of Page


Presidential Papers Indexes

In addition to finding aids, name indexes to the correspondence and writings in the division's twenty-three presidential collections have been published. Within each index, every item is listed by name of writer or recipient, together with the date, series number, page count, and other information as appropriate. Listings are in alphabetical order, with more than one listing for a particular name in chronological order. Each presidential index includes a provenance essay, a series description, a microfilm reel list, and when needed, a list of subject and legal case files. With the exception of the Garfield and Wilson guides, all of the presidential indexes are out of print. Copies of them, however, are available in many federal depository libraries throughout the nation and in the more than one hundred research libraries in this country and abroad which have purchased copies of the presidential microfilm. The Manuscript Division also makes available through the interlibrary loan system a microfilm edition that includes all of the presidential indexes. Listed below are the presidential collections for which indexes were published. An index was not published for the Martin Van Buren Papers, because the Library's comprehensive 1910 calendar of those papers was considered an effective finding aid to the microfilm edition.

Online finding aids have been created for each collection, which also describe material added to the collection subsequent to filming and indexing. Links are provided to page view and PDF versions of the indexes which have been digitized. Several presidential collections have been digitized and are largely available online.

Chester A. Arthur [Finding Aid] [Index, PDF] [Index, page view]
Grover Cleveland [Finding Aid] [Index, PDF] [Index, page view]
Calvin Coolidge [Finding Aid] [Index, PDF] [Index, page view]
James A. Garfield [Finding Aid] [Index, PDF] [Index, page view]
Ulysses S. Grant [Finding Aid] [Index, PDF] [Index, page view]
Benjamin Harrison [Finding Aid] [Index, PDF] [Index, page view]
William Henry Harrison [Finding Aid] [Index, PDF] [Index, page view]
Andrew Jackson [Finding Aid] [Index, PDF] [Index, page view]
Thomas Jefferson [Finding Aid] [Online Collection]
Andrew Johnson [Finding Aid]
Abraham Lincoln [Finding Aid] [Online Collection]
James Madison [Finding Aid] [Online Collection]
William McKinley [Finding Aid] [Index, PDF] [Index, page view]
James Monroe [Finding Aid] [Index, PDF] [Index, page view]
Franklin Pierce [Finding Aid] [Index, PDF] [Index, page view]
James K. Polk [Finding Aid] [Index, PDF] [Index, page view]
Theodore Roosevelt [Finding Aid] [Index, PDF volume 1, volume 2, volume 3 ] [Index, page view, volume 1, volume 2, volume 3]
William H. Taft [Finding Aid] [Index, PDF volume 1, volume 2, volume 3, volume 4, volume 5, volume 6] [Index, page view, volume 1, volume 2, volume 3, volume 4, volume 5, volume 6]
Zachary Taylor [Finding Aid]
John Tyler [Finding Aid] [Index, PDF] [Index, page view]
Martin Van Buren [Finding Aid]
George Washington [Finding Aid] [Online Collection]
Woodrow Wilson [Finding Aid]

Top of Page

Calendars

The first type of finding aid published by the Manuscript Division in the early part of this century was the calendar, which listed chronologically, and briefly described, the individual manuscript items within a collection. Most of the calendars listed below are no longer in print, but copies of them may be found in the Manuscript Division Reading Room and in academic and research libraries throughout the United States., and in some cases online at the Internat Archive or elsewhere.

Clemence, Stella R., comp. The Harkness Collection in the Library of Congress. Washington, 1932-36. 2 vols. Vol. 1 Vol. 2

Feamster, Claudius N., comp. Calendar of the Papers of John Jordan Crittenden. Washington, 1913. 335 pp.

Fitzpatrick, John C., comp. Calendar of the Correspondence of George Washington, Commander in Chief of the Continental Army, with the Continental Congress. Washington, 1906. 741 pp.

________. Calendar of the Correspondence of George Washington, Commander in Chief of the Continental Army, with the Officers. Washington, 1915. 4 vols. Vol. 1 Vol. 2 Vol. 3 Vol. 4

________. List of the Washington Manuscripts from the Year 1592 to 1775, Prepared from the Original Manuscripts in the Library of Congress. Washington, 1919. 137 pp.

Ford, Worthington C., comp. List of the Benjamin Franklin Papers in the Library of Congress. Washington, 1905. 322 pp.

________. List of the Vernon-Wager Manuscripts in the Library of Congress. Washington, 1904. 148 pp.

________. Papers of James Monroe, Listed in Chronological Order from the Original Manuscripts in the Library of Congress. Washington, 1904. 114 pp.

Friedenwald, Herbert, comp. A Calendar of Washington Manuscripts in the Library of Congress. Washington, 1901. 315 pp.

Leech, W. R., comp. Calendar of the Papers of Franklin Pierce. Washington, 1917. 102 pp.

Lincoln, Charles H., comp. A Calendar of John Paul Jones Manuscripts in the Library of Congress. Washington, 1903. 316 pp.

________. Naval Records of the American Revolution, 1775-1788, Prepared from the Originals in the Library of Congress. Washington, 1906. 549 pp.

West, Elizabeth H., comp. Calendar of the Papers of Martin Van Buren. Washington, 1910. 757 pp.

Top of Page


Subject Bibliographies, Guides, and Other Publications

Although the registers, presidential indexes, and acquisition reports have constituted the bulk of the division's publication efforts, the division has periodically published or sponsored the publication of other guides and indexes, many of which are listed below. Most of these publications are available from either the Library or the Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402. Reference copies may also be found in the Manuscript Division Reading Room.

Bickel, Richard B., comp. Manuscripts on Microfilm: A Checklist of the Holdings in the Manuscript Division. Washington, 1975. 82 pp.

De Vorsey, Louis. Keys to the encounter: a Library of Congress Resource Guide for the Study of the Age of Discovery. Washington, 1992. 212 pp.

Dorosh, John, and Elizabeth Dorosh, comps. Index to Baptisms, Marriages, and Deaths in the Archives of the Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church in Alaska, 1900-1936. Washington, 1964. (A microfilm edition of this index is available for interlibrary loan from the Manuscript Division.)

Fraizer, Patrick, ed. Many Nations: a Library of Congress Resource Guide for the Study of Indian and Alaska Native Peoples of the United States. Washington, 1996. 334 pp.

Gawalt, Gerard W., ed. Justifying Jefferson: The Political Writings of John James Beckley. Washington, 1995. 281 pp.

Griffin, Grace Gardner. A Guide to Manuscripts Relating to American History in British Depositories Reproduced for the Division of Manuscripts of the Library of Congress. Washington, 1946. 313 pp.

Ham, Debra Newman, ed. The African-American Mosaic: A Library of Congress Resource Guide for the Study of Black History and Culture. Washington, 1993. 300 pp.

The Harkness Collection in the Library of Congress: Manuscripts Concerning Mexico, A Guide. Washington, 1974. 315 pp.

Harvey, Sheridan, ed. American Women: A Library of Congress Guide for the Study of Women's History and Culture in the United States. Washington, 2001. 456 pp.

Haynes, John E. "Labor History Sources in the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress." Labor History 31 (Spring/Summer 1990); and in Labor History Archives in the United States: A Guide for Researching and Teaching. Edited by Daniel J. Leab and Philip P. Mason. Detroit, 1992. 286 pp.

Hensen, Steven L., comp. Archives, Personal Papers, and Manuscripts: A Cataloging Manual for Archival Repositories, Historical Societies, and Manuscript Libraries. Washington, 1983. 51 pp.

Index to Baptisms, Marriages, and Deaths in the Archives of the Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church in Alaska, 1816-1866. Washington, 1970. 3 vols. (A microfilm edition of this index is available for interlibrary loan from the Manuscript Division.)

Index to Baptisms, Marriages, and Deaths in the Archives of the Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church in Alaska, 1867-1889. Washington, 1973. 2 vols. (A microfilm edition of this index is available for interlibrary loan from the Manuscript Division.)

Kalnins, Zuzanna Dagmara, comp. Index to Baptisms, Marriages, and Deaths in the Archives of the Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church in Alaska, 1890-1899. Washington, 1965. 258 pp. (A microfilm edition of this index is available for interlibrary loan from the Manuscript Division.)

Lund, Christopher C., and Mary Ellis Kahler, comps. The Portuguese Manuscripts Collection of the Library of Congress: A Guide. Washington, 1980. 187 pp.

McDonough, John J., comp. Members of Congress: A Checklist of Their Papers in the Manuscript Division, Library of Congress. Washington, 1980. 217 pp.

Nasatir, Abraham P., and Gary Elwyn Monell, comps. French Consuls in the United States: A Calendar of Their Correspondence in the Archives Nationales. Washington, 1967. 605 pp.

Naval Historical Foundation Manuscript Collection: A Catalog. Washington, 1974. 136 pp.

Sellers, John R., comp. Civil War Manuscripts: A Guide to Collections in the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress. Washington, 1986. 391 pp.

Sellers, John R., Gerard W. Gawalt, Paul H. Smith, and Patricia Molen van Ee, comps. Manuscript Sources in the Library of Congress for Research on the American Revolution. Washington, 1975. 372 pp.

Smith, Paul H., ed., and Gerard W. Gawalt and Ronald M. Gephart, assoc. eds. Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774-1789. Washington, 1976 to date. 24 vols.

Warren, J. Benedict, comp. Hans P. Kraus Collection of Hispanic American Manuscripts. Washington, 1974. 187 pp.

Top of Page


Brochures and Pamphlets

The following are informational brochures which are available free of charge from the Manuscript Division.

U.S. Library of Congress. Manuscript Division. The Foreign Copying Program. Washington, 1980. 4 pp. (revision of 1964 brochure)

________. Literary Papers and Manuscripts: Their Place in the National Collections. Washington, 1985. 2 pp.

________. The Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress. Washington, 2001. [8 pp.]

________. The Presidential Papers Program of the Library of Congress. Washington, 1985. 3 pp.

________. Private Papers: A Plea for Their Preservation and an Explanation of Their Importance to the National Collections. Washington, 1980 (rev. 1985). 3 pp.

________. Q & A: Questions and Answers about Personal Papers. Washington, 1977 (rev. 2001). [6 pp.]

Top of Page


Outside Publications Describing the Division's Holdings

Hinding, Andrea, ed. Women's History Sources: A Guide to Archives and Manuscript Collections in the United States. New York, 1979. 2 vols.

Kohn, Gary J., comp. The Jewish Experience: A Guide to Manuscript Sources in the Library of Congress. Cincinnati, 1986. 166 pp.

Nunn, G. Raymond, ed. Asia and Oceania: A Guide to Archival and Manuscript Sources in the United States. New York, 1985. 5 vols.

Robbins, J. Albert, ed. American Literary Manuscripts: A Checklist of Holdings in Academic, Historical, and Public Libraries, Museums, and Authors' Homes in the United States. 2d ed. Athens, Ga., 1977. 387 pp.

South, Aloha, ed. Guide to Non-Federal Archives and Manuscripts in the United States Relating to Africa. New York, 1989. 2 vols.

Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Scholars' Guide to Washington, D.C. Washington, 1977 to date. Volumes published thus far relate to Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Europe, Latin America, and Russia or the former Soviet Union.

  Top of Page Top of Page
  Home >> Publications
  The Library of Congress >> Researchers
  July 30, 2014
Legal | External Link Disclaimer

Contact Us:  
Ask a Librarian