Nineteenth-Century American Literature

February 22, 2013

Noted for its bibliographic strength in nineteenth-century writings, the Collection includes first and other significant editions of virtually every major work of American literature published by prominent authors of the period, often in copies of distinguished provenance, for example Henry David Thoreau’s inscribed copy of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Essays. The work of writers such as James Fenimore Cooper, Washington Irving, and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow are represented in books and manuscripts, as are mid-century greats associated with Transcendentalism and the so-called American Renaissance: Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, Mark Twain, and Harriet Beecher Stowe. The writers of the nineteenth century helped to shape a uniquely American literature, exploring a range of literary styles and considering specifically American subject matter. Important and well-loved books of the period, including Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter and Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick, have come to represent the spirit of American literature. Image: Nathaniel Hawthorne, [I have a tail like a boa- constrictor…], excerpt from The Chimera in Hawthorne’s hand, 1858 July 28.

Collection Highlights Exhibited in Multitudes: A Celebration of the Yale Collection of American Literature: First editions of Moby-Dick by Herman Melville and The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne (including Owen F. Aldis’s copy); correspondence from Melville to Hawthorne and manuscript excerpt from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Chimera,” 1858, from the Nathaniel Hawthorne Collection. Nineteenth-Century American Literature–Checklist & Object Descriptions