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Henry David Thoreau collection

Call Number: YCAL MSS 203

Scope and Contents

The Henry David Thoreau Collection consists of letters, manuscripts, photographs, and objects documenting the life and work of Henry David Thoreau. The collection spans the years 1841-1949.

The collection is housed in two boxes and organized into three series according to provenance: Owen Franklin Aldis Gift, Henry Seidel Canby Gift, and Material from Other Sources. Box 2 contains Oversize material.

Series I, Owen Franklin Aldis Gift , consists of one letter, a brief ALS from Thoreau to the Harvard College librarian, and several holograph manuscripts. The writings include notes and drafts for poems, an article, and the concluding paragraphs to Walden. There are notes on insects for the years 1851-54 and on weather and other "general" conditions for the months of April, October, and December, with detailed charts for October and December for the years 1852-61 and 1850-61 respectively. The Aldis gift also includes the May 1852 survey Thoreau conducted for the "Noah & Joshua Brooks Farm" in Lincoln, Massachusetts.

Series II, Henry Seidel Canby Gift , consists of one holograph manuscript, photographs, and objects, and is organized into subseries for Writings and Other Material. The gift includes a heavily corrected manuscript for "General Phenomena for November" which, like the manuscripts in Series I, contains notes on weather and natural phenomena. The Other Material subseries includes photographs of a sketch of Thoreau and two sections of a stud(s), as well as two nails, from Thoreau's cabin at Walden Pond. The stud sections and nails are stored separately and reference photographs are provided in the main files.

Series III, Material from Other Sources , is organized into subseries for Writings and Other Material. Writings include a holograph manuscript for an untitled essay by Thoreau, with a typed copy, and an article on Thoreau by Francis D. Sheldon and G. Peter Shiras. The article by Sheldon and Shiras documents the history of Thoreau's "hut" on Walden Pond and includes photographs by Roland Welles Robbins and Edwin Way Teale. The Other Material subseries includes a pencil box and pencils produced by Thoreau's father's firm, J. Thoreau & Co.

Oversize material, housed in box 2, contains material from Series I and Series III.


  • 1841 - 1949


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

There are two cut film negatives corresponding to prints in the collection. The negatives are restricted and may only be seen with permission of the appropriate curator. Reference photographs have also been subsituted in the main files for material stored separately.

Conditions Governing Use

The Henry David Thoreau Collection is the physical property of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. For further information, consult the appropriate curator.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The Henry David Thoreau Collection was acquired through various gifts and purchases dating from 1911.


1.13 Linear Feet ((2 boxes) + 2 art, 1 broadside, 1 roll)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


The Thoreau collection contains correspondence, writings, photographs, and objects relating to Henry David Thoreau. There are several original manuscripts, including notes on insects, weather, and natural phenomena, and drafts of poems, an untitled essay, the article "The Discovery of America, and Researches in Central Africa," and the concluding paragraphs to Walden. There is also an essay on Thoreau by Francis Sheldon and George Shiras with photographs by Roland Wells Robbins and Edwin Way Teale. There are photographs of Thoreau's residences in Massachusetts, including his childhood home in Concord and the site of his cabin at Walden Pond. Objects include pieces of wood and nails from Thoreau's cabin and pencils manufactured by his father's company, J. Thoreau & Co.

Processing Information

This material was formerly classed as Uncat Za Thoreau.

Guide to the Henry David Thoreau Collection
by Michael L. Forstrom
April 2005
Description rules
Beinecke Manuscript Unit Archival Processing Manual
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library Repository

P. O. Box 208330
New Haven CT 06520-8330 US
(203) 432-2977


121 Wall Street
New Haven, CT 06511

Opening Hours

Access Information

The Beinecke Library is open to all Yale University students and faculty, and visiting researchers whose work requires use of its special collections. You will need to bring appropriate photo ID the first time you register. Beinecke is a non-circulating, closed stack library. Paging is done by library staff during business hours. You can request collection material online at least two business days in advance of your visit, using the request links in Archives at Yale. For more information, please see Planning Your Research Visit and consult the Reading Room Policies prior to visiting the library.