Books & Pamphlets

The Massachusetts Historical Society's collection of published materials is divided into several broad categories: Books and Pamphlets (described below), Broadsides, Early Imprints, Maps, and Newspapers


The General Research Collection

The books in the General Research Collection primarily address the history of Massachusetts from the time of European settlement to the present, although not exclusively. Materials about the early history of New England and the United States in general, especially from the colonial period through the Civil War, are also available.

The MHS research collection also includes valuable primary and secondary published materials on Canadian history, religion, 19th-century popular literature, music, and education, especially Boston imprints. Records for all books in the Research Collection are available in ABIGAIL.

Family History Resources

The MHS has strong collections of published biographical, genealogical, and local history information that support research on its manuscript collections, but our holdings do not duplicate the exhaustive family and local history collections or services provided by The New England Historic Genealogical Society ( Researchers working primarily on family history should consult the collections of the NEHGS first.

Special Libraries

Over the years, the MHS has received collections of books from individual donors that have been kept intact and are referred to as "special libraries." These special libraries range from the private libraries of Henry Adams, Thomas Dowse, and Robert C. Waterston, to organizational collections of the Massachusetts Society for Promoting Agriculture, and subject-specific collections of collectors William Bentinck-Smith (U.S. history), Francis Russell Hart (Caribbeana), and Russell Knight (Shakers).

Records for most of the Society's special libraries are available in ABIGAIL. A few of our smaller special libraries are stored offsite and are available only in our internal card catalog; consult the reader services staff for more information.


The MHS holds more than 30,000 pamphlets, arranged by date of publication, from 1820 to the present. The strength of the pamphlet collection lies in the diversity of subject content: almost every facet of 19th- and early-20th-century life in Massachusetts, and to a lesser extent in New England, appears in contemporary pamphlet literature. Researchers will find the collection especially strong for the last half of the 19th century. Records for the pamphlet collection are available in ABIGAIL.


Upcoming Events

canceled History of Women and Gender Seminar

On Fantasy

20Mar 5:30PM 2018
Location: Fay House, Radcliffe Institute

This program is canceled due to illness. This paper argues that fantasies of racial and gendered mastery—seen in law, racial performance, and sexual violence&mdash ...

Author Talk

People before Highways: Boston Activists, Urban Planners, & A New Movement for City Making

20Mar 6:00PM 2018
There will be a pre-talk reception at 5:30.

In 1948, inspired by changes to federal law, Massachusetts officials started to plan highways circling and cutting through the heart of Boston. But when officials began ...

Brown Bag

From Corporate Charter to Modern Constitution: Massachusetts Transformations

21Mar 12:00PM 2018

The U.S. Constitution is not a “social contract,” but a popularly issued corporate charter.  America’s constitutional innovations&mdash ...

From our Blog

This Week @ MHS

It is the middle of the month and it appears that the lion of March is not making way for the lamb. Below is the round-up of events in the week to come, just be sure to keep an eye on our website to ...

Welcome to Our 2018-2019 MHS-NEH Fellows!

The Massachusetts Historical Society’s Research Department is pleased to announce our two 2018-2019 MHS-NEH Long-Term Fellows, Mara Caden and Brent Sirota. Mara Caden will be researching the ...

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