The Society's manuscript department contains rich resources for the study of American history and culture. Numbering over 2,000 collections and well over a million items, the Society's manuscripts span the years from 1613 into the twentieth century and are useful to scholars working in a wide variety of disciplines. The history of AAS's manuscript collecting is varied, although the underlying principle for the acquisitions of manuscripts has always been that material should relate to the history of America. As the Society has moved away from the role of general library and museum to that of research library, so too has the gathering of manuscripts become more specialized.

The manuscripts collection strengths include the following four areas: papers of prominent early New Englanders in the political, religious, and military spheres; New England diaries; papers and records of 18th- and 19th-century Central Massachusetts families, voluntary associations, and businesses; and American book history. The manuscripts department also houses the Society's own archives.

For questions, please contact the manuscripts department at

How to Find

General Catalog
Almost all manuscript collections have a record in the General Catalog.

Search results may be limited show only manuscript material.

Finding aids (inventories) are available online for collections larger than a singer volume or folder. If a finding aid exists a link to it will appear in the "more about this item" area on the right side bar section of the collection's online catalog record. Finding aids itemize collections at the box, folder, or volume level, providing more specific access to the information contained within collections.


Digital Access

Freely available
Abigail Kelley Foster Papers Finding Aid

American Vernacular Music Manuscripts, ca. 1730-1910

Clerk and the City

A Day In the Life of a Blacksmith

A Day in the Life of a Schoolmarm

Grant-Burr Family Papers

The Journals of Edmund Quincy Sewall Jr. 1837-1840

Mathew Carey Papers Database

Northern Visions of Race, Region & Reform

By subscription (must be at AAS or an institution that has purchased the digital product):

Civil War Primary Source Documents

Manuscript Women's Letters and Diaries from the American Antiquarian Society


The Society actively seeks additions to its manuscript holdings. Gifts are a vital source of collections, particularly of family papers and diaries. The Nancy and Randall K. Burkett Fund, endowed in 1999 for the purchase of manuscripts, has provided valuable support for expanding the collections. Several other funds, including the Henry F. DePuy Fund, the Harriette Merrifield Forbes Fund, and the John Thomas Lee Fund are designated for both book and manuscript purchases.

An excellent account of the Society's acquisition of manuscripts, by William L. Joyce, appears in the Society's Proceedings 89 (1979): 123-52.

Requesting Permission to Quote from Manuscripts

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