Rare Treasures Abound at Chapin

Allegoriae Novi Testamenti by Hugh of St. Victor
Detail from a 13th-century manuscript of Allegoriae Novi Testamenti by Hugh of St. Victor

Distinct from the College’s Sawyer and Schow Science libraries, which collectively hold nearly 900,000 volumes, the Chapin Library houses some 50,000 volumes and an additional 100,000 objects, including manuscripts, prints, drawings, maps, photographs, bookplates, ephemera, and memorabilia, all in support of learning at Williams.

Among the Chapin’s rich collections are such treasures as medieval manuscripts; more than 525 books from the 15th century, known as Incunabula, including the first printed editions of Euclid and Homer; a First Folio of Shakespeare’s Plays; the great 1611 first edition of the King James Bible; and papers of sculptor Daniel Chester French, who created “The Minuteman” in Concord and the “Seated Lincoln” in Washington, D.C.

Prof. Miguel Martinez
Prof. Miguel Martinez (Romance Languages) showing his students rare Spanish Americana at the Chapin Library, Fall 2010

Currently located in the historic Southworth Schoolhouse, the Chapin Library will share space in the new Sawyer Library, which is scheduled to open in the summer of 2014. Although access to Chapin collections is temporarily limited, many important books and manuscripts are available with advance notice.

Some of the Chapin’s holdings may be seen at the Williams College Museum of Art, including one of the College’s greatest treasures, the Founding Documents of the United States of America. These original printings of the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union, the Constitution of the United States, the Bill of Rights, Washington’s copy of The Federalist Papers, and the 1783 Treaty of Paris, which concluded the Revolution, will continue to be displayed at the Museum until construction of the new Sawyer Library is complete.