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About Special Collections

History and purpose

Denkmann Library
Denkmann Memorial Library, circa 1910s

Special Collections consists of Augustana's collections of rare books and manuscripts, as well as the college archives. The primary mission of Special Collections is to collect, preserve, and make available materials which serve the teaching and research needs of Augustana College and the local community. Materials in Special Collections support the Augustana College curriculum and assist in faculty teaching and student learning. Materials also further the research of Augustana students, faculty, and staff, independent researchers, and the general public. Special Collections attempts to support and foster intellectual curiosity and provides an opportunity for users to develop rhetorical and critical thinking skills, cultural stewardship, empathy and engagement with materials, and acceptance of ambiguity through interactions with primary materials.

In addition to its functions as a teaching and research facility, Special Collections hosts exhibitions on a rotating basis. These exhibitions are prepared by library staff and feature a variety of materials from the collections; visitors are welcome to view the exhibitions during open hours

Many of the materials in Special Collections were acquired over the course of developing an academic library in the 19th century, while other items were gifts or deliberate purchases by the library. The Special Collections department grew out of an awareness that the archival and rare book materials already in the library's collection needed to be better preserved. When Denkmann Memorial Library was renovated in the 1960s, the "archives room" was renamed "special collections." One of the goals of this renovation was to make these materials more open and accessible. Today, Special Collections, located on the first floor of the Thomas Tredway Library, continues to build on the legacy of the materials it has incorporated and to use its materials in support of the liberal arts and in the creation of liberally educated users.

About our book collections

Portrait of Black Hawk
Portrait of Black Hawk, from The History of the Indian Tribes of North America by Thomas McKenney and James Hall. 1836-1844

The book holdings in Special Collections cover a wide range of time periods and subjects. Among our earliest holdings are several examples of incunabula, or books printed between 1450 and 1500, including a leaf from the 42-line Gutenberg Bible, the first book printed with movable type in the West. Other early items of interest are a manuscript Book of Hours and a block book Pauper's Bible.

One of the charges of Special Collections is to preserve the history of Augustana College. The Augustana Institutions collection includes materials published by and about Augustana. Other collections are also tied to the history and heritage of Augustana. Special Collections holds a number of Reformation imprints by authors such as Luther and Melanchthon. Included are four sixteenth-century editions of the Augsburg Confession (Confessio Augustana), from which the College derives its name. In addition, Special Collections holds a number of important Bibles, including sixteenth century English translations such as the Bishops, Matthew, and Geneva Bibles, the Latin New Testament of Erasmus (1527), and a 1518 pre-Luther German translation with hand-colored woodcuts and initial letters. The Charles XV Collection represents the earliest days of the Augustana library, and is named for the Swedish king who, in 1862, gave 5,000 volumes from his personal library to help the struggling Swedish-American College. This collection includes many books about the French Revolution and Enlightenment.

The largest collection is the Upper Mississippi Valley collection, which includes works on the Upper Mississippi Valley (from St. Paul to St. Louis), the exploration and settlement of the region, and local history. Topics covered include history, geography, geology, maps and charts, boating, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reports; works of fiction and memoir are included. Quad Cities materials include local publications and local authors. The collection includes numerous books on Native American subjects, especially the Black Hawk War and the Sioux Uprising of 1862. All topics covered are represented by both historical and contemporary publications.

Das Illustrirte Mississippithal
A scene of the Mississippi River from Das Illustrirte Mississippithal...vom Wasserfalle zu St. Anthony an bis zum Golf von Mexico.

Literature holdings are an important part of Special Collections. The collections has especially strong holdings of first editions of nineteenth century British and American authors, including Sir Walter Scott; Alfred, Lord Tennyson; Charles Dickens; William Makepeace Thackeray; Ralph Waldo Emerson; Henry David Thoreau; Mark Twain; Henry Wadsworth Longfellow; John Greenleaf Whittier; Bret Harte; and Robert Louis Stevenson. Midwest authors Carl Sandburg and Susan Glaspell are also well represented, as is John Milton; the collection includes a copy of the first edition of Paradise Lost.

Books in Special Collections are often important not only for their texts, but also for their physical qualities. Special Collections includes a number of examples of fine printing by such printers as the Doves Press, fine bindings by binders such as Baytun of Bath and Riviere, and interesting illustrations. Among the most important illustration holdings are those of children's literature, including works by Arthur Rackham, Kate Greenaway, Walter Crane, and Randolph Caldecott.

About our manuscript collections

The manuscript holdings in Special Collections measure approximately 2,500 linear feet and consist of over 400 collections. Each collection can range from one small box to over 100 boxes. Many of our manuscript holdings have been described in detail by Special Collections staff. To see a list of online descriptions and finding aids, click here. In addition, some manuscript collections have finding aids that are not available online but can be consulted in the Special Collections Reading Room.

West End Settlement
A girl watering the garden at the West End Settlement in Rock Island, Illinois. From the John H. Hauberg papers.

The majority of the manuscript collections in Special Collections are related to either Augustana history, local history, or both. Collections with Augustana roots include the papers of all the former presidents of Augustana, materials from current and former student clubs, organizations and societies, papers of various faculty and alumni, and materials from campus departments and offices.

Materials with local connections include papers of prominent local families, such as the Carr family and the Hauberg family, area organizations such as the Quad City Symphony Orchestra and the Jewish Federation of the Quad Cities, and local businesses such as the Rock River Navigation and Water Power Company and the Kahlke Bros. Boatyard.

Research guides

The following research guides, created by Special Collections staff, are intended to help you get started with navigating our resources.  They are a good jumping off point, but are not intended to be comprehensive or all-inclusive:

Guide to Researching Augustana College History

Guide to Researching Local History

Guide to Researching Communities of Color in Special Collections

Gifts and donations

Special Collections gratefully accepts gifts of materials related to our collections, as well as monetary donations to support the continued preservation and use of our collections. If you are interested in making a donation, please contact us directly.

For more information about the areas in which Special Collections collects and our policies on collecting and donations, please see our collection development policy.

Special Collections gratefully acknowledges the Ernest and Mary Belle Espelie Special Collections Fund which allows us to continue to purchase materials for the collections.