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Modern Literature Collection and Manuscripts

Washington University's collections of manuscripts contain a broad range of materials dating from the 2nd century BC through the present. The largest group of materials is the Modern Literature Collection.

George N. Meissner Collection

The George N. Meissner Collection is composed of items owned or created by important literary and historical figures, including manuscripts, correspondence, prints, and autograph signatures. The archive’s subject areas vary considerably, from United States presidents to figures of the Italian Renaissance. George Washington and Abraham Lincoln are represented by multiple items, as is Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain). Among the most notable items in the collection is a signed document in the hand of Michelangelo. A collection of illuminated manuscripts dating from the 14th and 15th centuries has proved a valuable resource to historians, artists, and students of the book.

Rare Books also holds a George N. Meissner Collection consisting of roughly 2,000 volumes. They represent fine books from the 15th century to the present, including early illuminated manuscripts and incunabula. One of the collection’s most notable volumes is Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s copy of Chapman’s Whole Works of Homer (1616). The volume includes Coleridge’s annotations and inscription to Sara Hutchinson, the object of the poet’s unrequited love.

The library and manuscript collection of St. Louis collector George N. Meissner came to the University in 1962 as a gift from his family, along with funds for the construction of Special Collections’ original reading room and storage space.